Neil Patel

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In the heart of Essex, a young mind named Tom Carter was nurtured in a family where hard work and determination were not just values but a way of life. Born to a mother working in a school and a father who delved into the world of chemistry, Tom’s upbringing laid the foundation for his future endeavors.

In this detailed blog, we unravel the inspiring journey of Tom Carter, from a curious child fascinated by building things to the co-founder and CEO of Ultraleap, a company at the forefront of revolutionizing human-computer interaction in the extended reality (XR) space.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here

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    Early Years and Ethos of Hard Work

    Tom reminisces about his relatively normal childhood, marked by the strong work ethic instilled by his parents. Hard work, independence, and a commitment to learning beyond the classroom were values he and his sister absorbed, setting the stage for their future endeavors.

    Tom’s sister, too, followed the entrepreneurial path, founding a company that aimed to change the way people learn, highlighting the influence of their upbringing on their entrepreneurial spirit.

    Passion for Building and Creating Joyful Experiences

    Driven by a deep-seated passion for building things, Tom found immense satisfaction in creating products that brought joy to users. His early forays into website development allowed him to explore the nuances of crafting a good interface that enhances user experience.

    The realization that technology could either be a joy to use or a source of frustration fueled Tom’s drive to create products that delighted users rather than leaving them exasperated.

    Academic Pursuits and the Journey to Entrepreneurship

    Tom pursued a computer science degree at the University of Bristol. He later decided to delve into a Ph.D. program to gain a deeper understanding of the kind of company he wanted to build. His research project focused on haptic feedback, exploring ways to bring back the sense of touch to virtual experiences.

    Though the initial technology didn’t pan out as expected, Tom’s determination led him to continue refining it during his Ph.D. journey. He has an interesting story to tell about the entire experience.

    Tom recalls looking for a big research project as part of the degree program. Students also had to write a business plan project, and Tom had always been interested in the human-computer interface.

    He watched his friends playing games on the Xbox Connect, jumping up and down and dodging things on screen. Tom realized that as soon as users came to the menu screen, they had just two buttons, which they struggled to do.

    That’s because they had no tactile feedback to direct them where to put their hands. Tom decided to work on technology to bring a sense of touch with low friction to these experiences. That’s how he developed haptics technology, and he would have loved to have turned it into a company at the end of his degree.

    Tom ended up using the technology to make a game of pong where the paddles were virtual and the ball was real. Users could play ping pong on an echo on a computer screen. Although that was fun, the application wasn’t exactly what Tom had envisioned.

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    Doing a Ph.D. and Building a Company Simultaneously

    Determined to develop the technology further, Tom enrolled to do his Ph.D. and finally got the tech ready. Along the line, the interest from customers, media, and journalists prompted him to pause his Ph.D. training and build a company.

    However, the university objected and insisted that Tom finish his Ph.D. thesis or leave the program. His response was to complete the paper in 18 days. Tom admits it wasn’t the best thesis since he worked on it over the weekends while running the company simultaneously.

    The CES Turning Point

    Tom looks back to the time when they didn’t have any funding and entered a business plan competition at the university to win the First Prize. A couple of other co-founders also pooled their savings, putting a few tens of thousands into the company and hiring their first employee.

    Tom’s bold move to showcase his technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas marked a turning point. Despite not officially being part of CES, Tom and his team set up in a nearby hotel, securing meetings with CEOs through resourceful email strategies.

    The positive reception at CES, winning awards and attracting investor interest, validated the potential of his technology and spurred the creation of Ultraleap. Tom remembers how the demo worked for the first time 45 minutes before the first meeting.

    That’s how Tom and his co-founders snagged their first investment check. Today, the company is a B2B firm and licenses technologies, haptic, and handracking to companies to integrate into their products. They charge a licensing fee and a per-unit royalty as they ship their products.

    Tom and his co-founders ended up raising $30M for the company.

    Storytelling is everything, which is something that Tom Carter was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

    Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

    Funding and Investor Mix

    Ultraleap’s journey through funding rounds reflects a diverse investor profile. From initial investments by IP Group and Woodford in seed and Series A rounds to strategic investments by Tencent in Series D, the company navigated a blend of family offices. venture capital, private equity, and strategic partnerships.

    A Japanese technology partner also joined hands, and their latest series of C and D rounds had Mayfair Equity Partners investing capital. Each investor type brought unique perspectives and objectives, shaping the company’s trajectory.

    The Acquisition of Leap Motion

    Recognizing the need to own both input and output in the XR space, Ultraleap strategically acquired Leap Motion, a company known for its consumer-facing hand-tracking technology. This acquisition led to a rebranding effort, combining elements of both companies’ brand identities to form Ultraleap—a name that seamlessly fused their legacies.

    Tom refers to the two companies as pieces of the same puzzle that they brought together to create a stronger, more attractive proposition.

    Challenges of Rebranding

    The rebranding process wasn’t without its challenges, considering the brand equity both Ultrahaptics and Leap Motion held. Balancing the transition from a primarily B2B-focused Ultrahaptics to the more consumer-oriented Leap Motion required careful consideration.

    Leap Motion had products available at Best Buy and Walmart, and it was a known brand with customer awareness and a bigger profile. Tom and his team were very conscious of the brand value and that they did not want to damage it during the transition to a new name.

    The Vision for XR Interaction

    Looking ahead, Tom envisions a future where interacting with virtual content mirrors the natural way we interact with the physical world. The ultimate goal is the seamless integration of XR into our daily lives, where virtual and real objects coexist.

    The ability to use hands for interacting with virtual content not only simplifies the user experience but also enhances the computer’s understanding of user intent through gestures and body language.

    Words of Wisdom and Continuous Growth

    Reflecting on his journey, Tom shares valuable advice for his younger self and aspiring entrepreneurs. Emphasizing the importance of seeking external guidance and coaching, he encourages leaders to invest in mentors who can facilitate better decision-making and enhance problem-solving skills.

    The blog concludes with Tom’s acknowledgment of the ongoing evolution in the XR space and his commitment to pushing the boundaries of innovation.

    In Conclusion

    Tom Carter’s journey from a childhood in Essex to the helm of Ultraleap showcases the transformative power of passion, perseverance, and innovation.

    As Ultraleap continues to shape the future of XR interaction, Tom’s story serves as an inspiration for those navigating the dynamic landscape of entrepreneurship, technology, and human-computer interaction.

    Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

    • Tom Carter’s journey from a normal upbringing in Essex to co-founding Ultraleap reflects the transformative influence of hard work and a commitment to learning beyond the classroom.
    • The pivotal moment at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) marked a turning point for Ultraleap, showcasing the potential of its technology and attracting diverse investors.
    • Ultraleap’s funding journey, from seed rounds to strategic investments by Tencent, highlights the company’s ability to navigate a mix of venture capital, private equity, and strategic partnerships.
    • The acquisition of Leap Motion strategically positioned Ultraleap to own both input and output in the XR space, leading to a thoughtful rebranding effort that combined the strengths of both companies.
    • Tom envisions a future where XR seamlessly integrates into daily life, allowing users to interact with virtual content using their hands, mirroring natural interactions in the physical world.
    • Reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey, Tom emphasizes the importance of seeking coaching early on, acknowledging the role of external guidance in improving decision-making and problem-solving.
    • Ultraleap’s commitment to continuous innovation in the XR space underscores the company’s role in pushing the boundaries of technology, fostering a vision where virtual and real objects coexist seamlessly.


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    Neil Patel

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