VR, which stands for Virtual Reality, is one of the hottest new technologies that most people aren’t hearing a lot about right now. According to statista.com, in 2018, there have been just about 171 million VR users, of which about 114 million users were early adopters. Comparing this to just about 3.8 billion cell phone users in the same year, it is evident the VR isn’t as popular. This can mostly be attributed to the current applications of VR technology. Companies like Oculus and Microsoft have found success in VR by developing them for primarily gaming reasons. While this provides a phenomenal and immersive gaming experience, it has over time subverted the true capabilities of this truly fantastic technology. A young entrepreneur by the name of Matt Shumer is changing that.
Matt Shumer is a sophomore studying Entrepreneurship at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University and a Rubin Family Innovation Mentor at the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at SU Libraries. He is also the founder of Visos, which is a company most known for working towards applying VR technology for the healthcare industry.
Shumer describes Visos as a “company building the first VR headset designed specifically for healthcare and medical VR use-cases.” Shumer, who has been an entrepreneur since he was twelve, had his first VR experience a few years ago when he was in high school. “I was at the mall by my house with some friends and I tried an HTC VR headset. I was fascinated by the level of immersion, and I went home to find out that the VR industry is very primitive.”
Shumer cites this experience as the spark which led him to explore more about the VR industry. He realized that although there were quite a lot of incumbents in the industry, they were all primarily serving the gaming industry. He also realized that the current VR technology that exists is quite advanced and in all respects of the word, fascinating. However, despite the recent advances in VR technology, Shumer notes how this piece of technology is far away from being used by the average daily user due to its limited applications. After conducting some research on his own during his senior year of high school, which only fascinated him more, he decided to design a VR headset himself.
“I literally, just walked into the LaunchPad with the idea for a VR headset.” From there, he virtually lived in the LaunchPad, working on building Visos.
From the onset, Shumer’s goal was to “make something with no friction between the technology and the user” and to expand the use-cases of VR. Initially, he started off by marketing multiple use-cases to a variety of potential users, but eventually he landed on the healthcare industry. Shumer discerned the vast possibilities for this technology and its potential benefits in the healthcare industry.
One of the biggest problems that Shumer and his team have had to overcome is designing a working physical prototype. As an entrepreneur who prefers working with software, it was difficult for Shumer and his team to secure initial funding and build a working prototype with integrated software. However, at this stage, Visos is a couple of months away from having a commercial product ready for shipping. One of the reasons why building the hardware component was challenging is because the VR industry in and of itself is quite primitive. This means that there is a lack of understanding regarding the technology, particularly when it isn’t being used for gaming related content. Visos overcame this by being “very scrappy and not spending a lot of our initial capital on frills.” However, Shumer maintains that the applications for VR in the healthcare field are huge and the benefits are tremendous. The technology has scientific basis for preventing Opioid addiction, combating Alzheimer’s, and improving rehabilitation. VR can also be used to mitigate the effects of several mental health disorders and can aid in psychotherapy.
Originally from Long Island, NY, Shumer first started an online retail venture when he was twelve years old. Since then, he started various other ventures and even created online platforms to help regional suppliers organize their inventory and a marketplace for buyers and sellers of products to transact. He credits his personality for his drive and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship. He explains that he enjoys challenging the norm and reinventing existing processes.
Shumer also credits the Blackstone Launchpad powered by Techstars for the success of Visos. He says, “This company would not be here if it wasn’t for the LaunchPad.” He believes that the LaunchPad provided him with significant guidance, resources and mentorship, all of which were necessary to accelerate Visos to where it is today. The LaunchPad also helped him connect with investors and important strategic advisors.
Shumer also greatly benefitted from the LaunchPad’s partnership with Techstars. He participated in the LaunchPad Techstars Propel program last fall, as well as the LaunchPad Lift program powered by Techstars. His Techstars mentor has brought strong technical capacity to his team. Visos expects to be fully operational very soon. Within the next few years, Shumer expects to have headsets in hospitals across the nation, all of which would explore the vast untouched potential of VR technology.
Story by Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellow Krishna Pamidi ‘22