One-On-One with Founders of CFC Media Lab’s IDEABOOST Accelerator Cohort 6

By Julian Humphreys ● March 08, 2017 11:50


The sixth cohort of CFC Media Lab’s IDEABOOST Accelerator kicked off this weekend. As the six startups begin their intensive four-month journey, we sat down with each of the founders to find out what makes them tick.



Jonathan Gagne
Brinx Software Inc. -- Brinx’s MasterpieceVR is the world's first collaborative VR platform that dramatically simplifies 3D sculpting and painting.

What led you to become a startup founder?

I’ve always liked to innovate and do my own things. I could create excellent novel things as one person, but great things are never created by one person alone. So instead I wanted to build a team of great people to come together and really change the way things are done.

How do you handle the uncertainty of being a founder?

It's an emotional roller coaster. Two or three times a week I’ll get something that puts me on this high and shows me that this can be a billion-dollar company. That makes you feel great. Then it can be literally 10 minutes later and everything’s crashing down, and it appears that unless you solve the problem in the next two days, you’ll be bankrupt. So after going through this multiple times a week and being so stressed, you really have to emotionally find ways to manage that, to disconnect from that rollercoaster and just observe it. Spending half a dozen times a day being conscious of this helps me stay grounded. Because ultimately if that emotional factor takes over, then that prevents my rational thinking from making good judgements for the company.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded?

There is no final success – there’s only success at each milestone along the way. But if I had to put it on one thing, success would be to enable people to easily create 3D content and to permanently change how the majority of these people do it. That’s a goal in terms of creating the product, but if you want to talk financial success, then being able to do that will provide financial success as well.

We talk a lot about product-market fit. Talk to me about founder-product fit.

There are three components. Do you have the skills to build that product, both in terms of technology and business side, and is this something that you want to do? I think for really great success, these components must align. The passion must be there to create that product, you need to have the skills to create that product, and the product needs to fit the market.



Thomas Wallner
DEEP Inc. -- DEEP's Liquid Cinema utilizes cutting-edge technologies to create highly immersive stories.

What led you to become a startup founder?

When I realized we could actually play a role in innovating the grammar of a new medium.

How do you handle the uncertainty of being a founder?

I don’t want to say I thrive on uncertainty, but I like the unknown. I get very impatient doing the same thing over and over. I feel that I have such a strong vision about how this medium should go that I just don’t think about the uncertainties. When you’re driven by passion and figuring something out, it makes it easier to deal with the uncertainty. But you have to have the stomach for it, for sure.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded?

I’m of the mentality that you ultimately never come to the point where you feel you’ve succeeded because there’s always more to do. From a practical point of view, though, I will feel we’ve succeeded when one, we are making money because we’ve created a product that people use, and two, when we’ve made an indelible and permanent contribution to the grammar of a new medium. In fact there are two things we’ve invented that I actually believe will become a permanent part of this vocabulary. That to me is success on another level that I’m very proud of.

We talk a lot about product-market fit. Talk to me about founder-product fit.

I believe that any medium that uses moving pictures – that literally depicts reality – is going to be held to task to tell a story. If it can’t do that, then it’s not going to be used by people, because that’s what people want. So as a technologist and filmmaker of several decades, it was important for me to figure out how to transfer the discipline of storytelling to this new medium. The product we’ve created is the outcome of that desire.


Pete Forde, itsme3D -- Itsme creates animated, photo-realistic full-body 3D avatars.

What led you to become a startup founder?

I’ve been entrepreneurial since I was a kid. My grandfather was an inventor and I saw my dad start many businesses and release many shareware software products in the 80s. I consider myself fundamentally unemployable, and frankly I have more ideas than I will ever be able to execute.

How do you handle the uncertainty of being a founder?

I keep working. I surround myself with amazing people. I hire people I’d want to go on long road trips with.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded?

Success for this company requires several market conditions to shift, and for several behaviors to shift in the consumer public at large. What excites me is that we might be one of the instrumental technologies in helping VR be adopted. We make VR less lonely, and it turns out there’s a lot of people who would like to see that happen.

We talk a lot about product-market fit. Talk to me about founder-product fit.

For me, you start with your passions. You have a keen understanding of where you fit in to the larger story, and then you have to diligently say no to an awful lot of really interesting opportunities so that you can actually jump in to something and have a fighting chance of making a difference.



Mark Argo
Little Robot Friends -- LRF creates connected toys and apps for learning code and electronics, designed for age seven and up.

What led you to become a startup founder?

I’ve always been more visionary, as opposed to someone who works to support someone else’s vision. So I have the attitudes and personality of a startup founder.

How do you handle the uncertainty of being a founder?

I know I have a very rich skill-set. I’ve been working at the top of my industry for a long time, so if anything blows up, I have strong things to fall back on.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded?

I feel like I’m constantly succeeding, at least on the small goals that I'm setting out for myself and our company. But in terms of the larger goal of how I will know when the company has succeeded, we’ve already had situations where kids have come up to us and told us they’re inspired and they’ve done really cool things with our products. That to me is success.

We talk a lot about product-market fit. Talk to me about founder-product fit.

Gadgets are not necessarily essential to our lives, but they’re charming and they brighten our lives. As we got feedback from people who were buying the product, though, it really started to kickstart this thought process of “How are we preparing kids for this digital world where literacy and technology are going to be a really important part of finding your place?”

Ann PoochareonLittle Robot Friends

What led you to become a startup founder?

Three years ago, we launched a Kickstarter project that we thought was a cute idea. Then it kind of blew up in our faces and we successfully raised money. So then we had a product on our hands. For the past two years after that, we were just treating it as a side project. Then the side project got bigger and bigger and we wanted to see where it would go, so late last year we decided to go full-time on this product business, and these days, a product business leads to having a startup.

How do you handle the uncertainty of being a founder?

We just tackle problems one thing at a time. We compartmentalize. We break down big problems into chunks of little problems. A lot of it is like computer programming.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded?

One metric of success is that I don’t have to worry about my bank account running out any more. That’s not the only one, but that’s a big one. I think the success of this current company would be that I can go to stores and see my products, and go to a school and they tell me they’re using Little Robot Friends.

We talk a lot about product-market fit. Talk to me about founder-product fit.

Passion is kind of where it’s at. If you don’t believe in the product, then I think you give up too quickly and you’re not willing to see it through. I believe kids need to learn how to code, girls need to get in to tech. We want to help facilitate that.



Adam Adelman
Mighty Cast (The Nex Band) -- Mighty Cast’s The Nex Band is the world's first programmable smart band with a focus on the gaming industry.

What led you to become a startup founder?

I used to be a hedge fund portfolio manager and I was evaluating emerging tech and new media. I’d been doing it for many, many years and I started to tire of evaluating other people’s dreams. I wanted to do something on my own. I always had a creative itch, so my wife and I jumped into the startup scene in 2003.

How do you handle the uncertainty of being a founder?

I surround myself with great advisors, great directors and a great team, where we can communicate very easily and openly.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded?

We have very, very big dreams, so I'm not sure we’ll ever know if we’ve succeeded. The obvious ones are when we’ve IPO-ed or when we’ve sold our business to a Google or a Snapchat, something like that – when there’s a final liquidity event. But we‘re thinking about building a brand, so I don’t know that we’ll ever say this is the moment when we’ve succeeded.

We talk a lot about product-market fit. Talk to me about founder-product fit.

This company started as a content company. The product started as a fictitious product in a story world we created. We realized we had something unique when, after several focus groups, everyone was focused on this one fictitious product. Because we come from more of a creative and storytelling background, we think about the product in a very different way than our competitors, which I think is an interesting advantage.



Jim Rand
, Synervoz-- Synervoz builds audio and voice communications software and its flagship app, turnmeup, allows anyone to listen to music and talk at the same time using headphones.

What led you to become a startup founder?

It’s based in my personality from birth, I think. My dad was an entrepreneur.

How do you handle the uncertainty of being a founder?

It’s a matter of managing it to a point where the risk is acceptable. It’s managed to the downside so the downside is not unthinkable.

How will you know when you’ve succeeded?

I already feel like we’ve come a long way and learned so much. We introduced a product that hadn’t existed before that actually works. We’ve been taken seriously by a lot of the most serious players in the game right now, so we’ve already achieved some level of success. I’m always going to look back at this as a success in one way or another.

We talk a lot about product-market fit. Talk to me about founder-product fit.

If you’re excited about the thing you’re building, you’ve got fit. I think I’ve found it. I took a whole bunch of ideas that were in my mind for a long, long time and brought them all together into what I think can be a really awesome product. Independent of the ability to make money, I’d want to build this thing.


The interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.


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