Daniel Blair, Founder and CEO of Bit Space Development is one of Winnipeg’s emerging innovators. Starting up the company within the past year, he focuses on new technologies and ideas that haven’t yet been ‘figured out.’ All it takes is having a couple interesting ideas, sharing them with people and then getting started.
But is it that simple? Watch Daniel in the below video as he talks about his company, working with virtual reality, publishing his new book and being an innovator in Winnipeg.
But wait, there’s more. Daniel talked with us further about his company and his thoughts on the industry and local tech scene.
On Bit Space Development and his brand new virtual reality product:
“Bit Space Development is an agile scrum shop. We have different teams who are working on different projects. Each day starts with stand-up meetings with each team to get updates on all of the projects.
“PanoPla is a content management system for building virtual tours and virtual reality content. You can take a picture with your cell phone, upload it to our service and add all kinds of interactivity to it. This can then be shared through a virtual reality helmet like Google Carboard, embedded on a website or browsed through our website.
“PanoPla started earlier this year when I came across spherical photography and thought about how that could be implemented into virtual reality, which is an emerging market.
“Currently there isn’t a whole lot that exists in the market for content management systems in virtual reality. So we thought, ‘How can we make it easy for a teacher to take a 360-degree panorama and upload it into virtual reality?’ It started as an idea for virtual field trips and evolved from there.”
Related: “We’re on the brink of a VR revolution”
On being an entrepreneur:
“I don’t think I ever actually became an entrepreneur, I think it’s just always how I’ve been. I’ve always had a ton of ideas. I became involved in the entrepreneurship community while I was still a student at Red River, and I’ve been attending events like Ramp Up Manitoba, where I sit on their committee.
“I’ve had the honour to work with some of the other startups in Winnipeg. Learning from their experiences and having my own ideas gave me the motivation to step out and do my own thing. I’ve been lucky to get some traction on my ideas right now and I’m excited to see where that goes.”
On setting up a remote business:
“Bit Space Development is built primarily of remote teams, and we have developers in Brazil and throughout Winnipeg. My living room is mostly my lab and full of virtual reality headsets and 3D printers, and that’s probably not normal. [laughs]
“I like working at home because it gives me the flexibility to do the things I need to do. Especially working in an international team — it means I can have meetings with my team at any hour of the day. I have meetings around the city as well with contractors, but it’s nice to have my head office at home.”
Tips to stay productive while working from home:
“It’s difficult to stay productive, but the best way is to keep yourself busy. If things slow down, your mind starts to wander. I practice “agile scrum” which means that every single day we have meetings and I get constant updates. We use tools like Slack and Trello to keep in constant communication, and I can review code they’re pushing on our source control website.
“There’s a lot that I’ve set up process-wise that allows me to stay productive without being with people in person, and that’s important to set up from the beginning.”
On finding a market and audience:
“The market was originally intended for post-secondary institutions, architects and we’ve gained a lot of interest in markets we didn’t originally expect.
“We made it completely free for people to try out in beta, and we only asked for feedback in return. The overall feedback from our users has been way better than expected.”
On his passion for open source and single-board computing:
“The main reason I’m passionate about this is that when something is open source you can get the best people to look at and work as a collective. All of my projects have an open source component to them.
“A big reason it’s so powerful is it empowers other people to build off it. Other companies can take a design and build something better and help each other at the same time.
“The great thing about single-board computing is the entire system resides on one chip. It’s extremely inexpensive, is low power usage and is easy to learn. It lets anyone, even a kid, learn about programming, whether it’s an Internet of Things device, programming/computing or part of an educational system.”
On publishing a book:
“I just published my first book “Learning Banana Pi” which is an introduction to single-board computing. The book is an introduction to Linux, programming and the hardware itself. So it’s focused on people who are interested in getting into single-board computing.”
On turning virtual into reality:
“You put any kid in virtual reality and they’re more immersed than anything else. You can send them to Mars or anywhere on Earth. All you need is a simple 360-degree picture or video. That’s why we’ve tried to make that more accessible to educators, businesses and individuals — to be able to explore. That’s what’s exciting to me. It can be as easy as putting your cellphone in a box.
“Virtual reality is going to be the next new technology. Opportunities for new apps are incredible. I think all companies that don’t currently have a virtual reality presence are going to eventually need it. In the future, you’re going to take virtual reality tours of restaurants before you decide where to go for dinner.”
On Winnipeg as an entrepreneur hub:
“Winnipeg is a great place to build a technology company. There is a plethora of meetup groups and great talent; so concentrated in one space. You can tap into expertise at any time.
“Winnipeg is unique in that we have a growing innovation and technology community, and there’s so much support with organizations like Innovation Alley, Ramp Up Manitoba, Startup Winnipeg, The Eureka Project and New Media Manitoba. Being around other people doing the same thing is so motivating and empowering.
“I encourage people to explore their ideas. But there are some precautions to take beforehand. It’s important to look into things like market research and make sure your product is viable before you jump into the market. You can mitigate your risks by spending a little bit of time planning ahead of time.
“You can also attend an event like Ramp Up Weekend or Pitchfire where you can pitch your idea and have people scrub it before you jump into the market.”
Up Next: “Get ready for a mixed-reality world“