Jamieson Christmas has been inspired to make holographic displays a reality since his youth. After starting out bootstrapping his first company, he has since raised over $100M to put his augmented reality technology into the next generation of vehicles. His venture, Envisics, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Arcadia Investment, Hyundai Mobis, GM Ventures, and Stellantis Ventures.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Augmented reality in the car
- The future of mobility
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About Jamieson Christmas:
Dr. Jamieson Christmas is the Founder & CEO of Envisics, a world-leading developer of holographic technologies for the mobility & automotive markets.
Headquartered in Milton Keynes, Envisics is a fast-growing deep technology company pioneering the use of holography for augmented reality displays in vehicles and helping OEMs realize the full potential of the software-defined vehicle.
Jamieson earned his 1st Class honors degree in electronics before going on to earn his Ph.D. in Holographic Display Technologies at Cambridge University.
Inventor of over 500 patents, Jamieson won the prestigious SID Ben Sturgeon Award in 2013 for his significant contribution to the field of displays.
Applying his university research to a first-generation of holographic heads-up displays for automotive use, Jamieson founded his first company – Two Trees Photonics – in 2010.
That company was acquired by California-based Daqri, an augmented reality company, where he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer.
In 2018 Jamieson founded Envisics, which today employs over 85 people and is continuing to pioneer the application of advanced digital holography.
In 2020, the company completed its Series B funding round, receiving strategic investments from GM Ventures, Hyundai-Mobis, and SAIC.
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Connect with Jamieson Christmas:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So today today were were. We’re Goingnna have not only a very inspiring guest but also the battle of accents you know, obviously the spanglish the british you know you name it but the but the building scaling financing the exiting. They rebuying you know. Also the Ip and the team you know of a what you had you know, got an acquire for you know previously. We’re going to cover all of this stuff and I think that you are all going to find this episode super inspiring so without further ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest today. Jamison christmas welcome to the show.
Jamieson Christmas: Yes, good afternoon delighted to be with you.
Alejandro Cremades: So born there in the U K So give us a little of a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up.
Jamieson Christmas: Well look the uk is a very interesting place to be um, you know I I grew up. Ah just a regular kid decided that technology was the place for me and so I left school at the age of 16 would you believe and undertook an apprenticeship here in the u k. Which is ah is quite an unusual thing. Actually you you get to spend time at at college and university and you spend some days of the week at work and so you get a very grounded view of technology the challenges of technology and implementation. So did that for a few years. Made some really significant progress in my career then undertook ah an undergraduate degree in ah, electronic engineering I came out with a first class honors degree and then found myself at Cambridge University with the opportunity to pursue a ph d. And so being a child of the 70 s you know, grown up, you know, surrounded by science fiction star wars and you know the vision that the likes of George Lucas really created for us I went into the university and I asked. Really most ludicrously simple question which was why hasn’t holography and 3 d really happened yet and the answer was because it’s ridiculously hard and so you know undertook the ph d and fed off on ah on a mission to try and realize.
Jamieson Christmas: Holographic displays as Science fiction tells us they should be.
Alejandro Cremades: And we’ll talk about you know what? you’ve done to on your entrepreneurial career. But 1 thing you know really stands out here. 1 is leaving school at 16 I mean that’s quite a bold a move so why? why.
Jamieson Christmas: I guess I know at the age of 16 I just felt that you know the traditional academic route was not the route for me, you know my my dad is an engineer and you know my other family members have been in engineering there their whole lives and having experienced it. First hand haven’t seen it I just knew that I wanted to get hands on with the technology and you know studying for you know 4 5 6 ix more years before you really get into the tech that wasn’t attractive for me I wanted to get in there and so that’s exactly what I did.
Alejandro Cremades: So getting back into into studies. I mean you’re leaving studies and then you get back into them. You know with Cambridge. So I mean why was this the case because maybe you were bored. You know with the academic you know experience that you were getting at 16 and then all of a sudden you found that. You could tailor made you know a little bit more the experience to your passion and to your likings or or what was that.
Jamieson Christmas: It was more about an opportunity to spend time with some of the brightest minds on the planet really and you know you go into some of these these really incredible academic institutions and you realize that they’re they’re working on on technologies and problems that. Won’t see the light of day for you know sometimes 101520 years and and that was really you know it was such an amazing opportunity and it was really also fulfilling a lifelong dream to you know to undertake a ph d in ah in an amazing institution like that.
Alejandro Cremades: So at what point do you realize that the holographic technologies were the path you wanted to follow.
Jamieson Christmas: Well like said really it all started with this idea of you know why hadn’t science fiction happened yet and you know I happen to spend some time with just the most amazing professor. Um professor William Crosland and he was doing some some work where they were utilizing holographic techniques to yeah enhance telecommunications and you know he and I got talking about well you know shortly you can use this same technology for displays and and lo and behold absolutely was the answer. and and yeah frankly given that opportunity it was it was too good an opportunity to to turn down.
Alejandro Cremades: So then in this case, you know after you got that exposure you got you know so passionate about holographic technologies you decide to take a stop at it. You know on the entrepreneurial journey and you go for it So walk us through what happened there.
Jamieson Christmas: Well, it really all started with with the ph d work in Cambridge. So you know, frankly made a number of important breakthroughs in terms of the device and material science that you need to make callography viable for the first time and also made some breakthroughs in terms of the mathematics. Can deliver really high quality imagery within the constraints of available compute solutions and so you know actually at the end of my ph d I built a full color holographic pico projector as ah as a demonstrator of what might be possible. So having realized that this thing really was tangible then decide. You know what I want to continue this journey and so in 3rd January 2010 my my co-founder a gentleman by the name of Peter Woodland and and I decided that we would start a company to. Continue this journey now of course 2010 January 2010 you know in the wake of the lehman was a shock not a great time to start a company um an even worse time to start a true. Deep technology company that’s developing custom hardware for a revolutionary technology because nobody is interested in investing in hardware at that point and so we elect to bootstrap the company ourselves directly and we go for it.
Alejandro Cremades: So obviously now you’ve you’ve raised money now for your next company and and we’ll talk about it. Ah, but you know in this case, you know what were some of the challenges that you were experiencing. You know when bootstrapping the company because most guests that come on the show they talk about.
Jamieson Christmas: Now Of course.
Jamieson Christmas: 4 2
Alejandro Cremades: Raising a bunch of money and having that support having that oxygen but what happens when you don’t have that.
Jamieson Christmas: It’s really tough is the simple answer so you know effectively for about the first six months Peter and I we didn’t pay ourselves. We only paid our staff and you know you invest in the tech to try and demonstrate the viability and in this case, you know we we decided that. We’d focus upon trying to take the tech into the automotive market because we knew for well that the car companies are happy to invest in technology that won’t come to fruition for four or five years and more importantly, they’re willing to support the development of that technology and so we configured the company to be. Cash flow positive. You know that’s to say you know we would demonstrate technology and then we would earn a revenue as we progress it towards maturity and that’s exactly what happened so you know having sort of done the base research work in Cambridge then decided that. I would convert it across to a head-up display like technology for the automotive world did so promoted it to different car companies and ultimately won business with Jaguar Lam rover and that really became our runway for the future.
Alejandro Cremades: So then in this case, you know like what what ended up being the business model of the company for the people that are listening to really get it.
Jamieson Christmas: So in the early days. It was about paid development work paid research work. So Sometimes we did research for the government Sometimes we did research work for other companies but essentially it was you know about ensuring that at the end of each year we walked away with a ah small profit. And you know every pound that we made we invested in ip.
Alejandro Cremades: So so what does that you know investment in I p What did that look like.
Jamieson Christmas: So in the early days. We were very selective in terms of the number of patents that we filed and more particularly in the areas in which we file patents those which we believed that would be the most important and yeah, just to explain how that’s played out well you know here we are you know. Approaching you know ten plus years down the line and today we’re setting on over 800 patterns in the core technology.
Alejandro Cremades: So so I guess for the people that are listening to really you know, get it. You know, clearly what ended up being the business model of two trees photonics. How were you guys making money.
Jamieson Christmas: So ultimately, you know given that we were a very small company. We start off with just 4 people and ultimately grew out to about 11 people. Um the automotive world would never accept us as being part of the supply chain. So what we did was we partnered with some tier ones and. They became our manufacturing partner and we received a royalty on on you know every product that was made you know in respect of the core technologies that we had developed.
Alejandro Cremades: So so tell us about going through the you know you say bootstrapping you know it’d say it’s pretty nervefracking as as we were alluding to and how you guys were investing in technology to at what point do you guys realize hey I think that we’re into something here.
Jamieson Christmas: Actually very early on you know when when we first demonstrated our holographic headup display to jaguar Lam Rover They were absolutely blown away that this brand new technology could compete with you know, incumbent Technologies. You know, straight off the bat and the very fact that you had such a large prestigious company recognizing the potential of the technology told us that we had something special. It was still full of risk at that point but the view was do we believe we can make this happen. We believe we can demonstrate the maturity. Yes, absolutely And and that’s exactly what we set out to do. It was very much. You know we got a real gem of an opportunity and it was an absolute focus on execution to realize that opportunity.
Alejandro Cremades: And they were like some moments that were breathtaking like for example, going through earthquakes so how did the great earthquake. Let’s say in 2011 or 2014 Joe paradise you know what you guys were up to.
Jamieson Christmas: Yeah I mean that was absolutely nervewracking and well what I can tell you is our tian partner was based in Northern Japan in Furakkawa and so I was there in Japan regularly working with them on. You know how you mature the technology how we solve some of the challenges that we were experiencing at the time and indeed I actually flew out of Japan the day before the the great earthquake. So narrowly I missed it personally. But of course the Sendai region was devastated. And for a long time of course in Northern Japan was simply inaccessible and for a while we really thought this might end the program entirely because you know everything had to stop and you know the amazing people in Japan you know turned turned around what was an absolute disaster in. You know, an incredibly short period of time when you saw the sheer devastation. It was quite remarkable to see the resilience and the adaptiveness with which they overcame but overcame they did and we reengaged and we continued then to you know, go. Continue the journey and and you know very fortunate that they were able to do so so quickly.
Alejandro Cremades: So so shifting gears here you know, obviously after close to 7 years the company got acquired. So what was it like you know going through that acquisition process.
Jamieson Christmas: So it wasn’t seven years it was it was 5 years so effectively what happened was we started the company in 2010 in 2014. Our first product went to mass production and we shipped in the first vehicles in in 152 and you know. Jagu Lam Rover got to announce that the world they had the world’s first laser base headup display and the world’s first holographic display of any kind. Um and that created a huge amount of interest in the company and ultimately we ended up agreeing terms with a west coast startup. Um. Called dackery and dackerry were groundbreaking they they were developing augmented reality wearable technology in the form of you know, a hard hat or smart glasses and the idea was you know to take this into the industrial domain. They had incredible software and sensing technologies. Um, and we had amazing display technologies and and so to be acquired was was the most amazing experience. Perhaps more importantly, you know we moved out of ah of a scenario whereby we were.
Alejandro Cremades: Um, so.
Jamieson Christmas: Cash constrained and and and growing organically into one where it was venture backed and suddenly the Quantum of investment changes dramatically overnight.
Alejandro Cremades: And you were there for a couple of years after the acquisition. But then you realize that there is an opportunity to buy back. The team buy back the I p I mean that’s a pretty amazing opportunity.
Jamieson Christmas: Well so what happened was that you know while we were working away on wearable technologies. The automotive companies that we’d previously been working with came back to us and said you know we genuinely believe the future of displays in cars is going to be holographic. And we’d like you to work with us and so we started do some some work in this area. You know under the daqui umbrella but it became very clear that you know deploying augmented reality into a vehicle and deploying augmented reality on the person very different problems and so. The opportunity arose and so I ah approached the the investors and said you know I’d like to buy out all my ip and the and the previous company and the team and go back into the automotive world and and that’s exactly what happened and so on the first of January Twenty Eighteen in physics was reborn. And we set off on a mission to to bring augmented reality to the car.
Alejandro Cremades: Now How does augmented reality in the car look like what does that look like.
Jamieson Christmas: Um, so headup displays you know already exist in the car. It makes your speedo appear to float. You know a couple of meters out in front of you augmented reality takes that and enhances the experience quite dramatically.
Jamieson Christmas: I think the important thing to understand is well. What’s the rationale for all of this in the first place the rationale is you know, currently you know, very big displays in cars. But each time you need to look into the vehicle to actually obtain information. You’re looking away from the road your situational awareness decreases dramatically. And where you have touch screens then you know the time you spend looking into the car increases. Dramatically what what old what augmented reality and headup displays desire is designed to do is to keep your eyes looking out at the road but to supplement your view of that. The road and the world around you with information which is pertinent for driving and so head up displays that shows you your instrument cluster that should just speed and warning symbols and then what augmented reality does is it goes that much further and it overlays information upon reality it could be. Navigation information and the way that we implement that is we paint the rope with light so you have this very intuitive experience of you know which lane you should be in which direction you should turn you you don’t have to look away from the row into the car say is it next left next right? The car. Illustrates that to you directly. The other thing it does is it allow enables us to draw your eyes to hazards in the urban environment so pedestrians walking along the street or vehicles that look like they cross into your lane. We can actually overlay those objects.
Jamieson Christmas: With lights that draw your attention very precisely to where you need them to be and you know what we’re seeing is as a result of that it really does enhance your awareness of your of your environment and therefore makes you that much safer in the vehicle.
Alejandro Cremades: Now for this for this time around you guys have raised money. So why did you decide to raise money and how much have you guys raised to date.
Jamieson Christmas: So um, in 2020 we raised $50,000,000 at a two hundred and fifty million dollars valuation and that was our series b funding round and we have just announced our series c where. We’ve raised another $50,000,000 this time we’re approaching a $500.000.000 valuation.
Alejandro Cremades: So all in all to do the math how much over 100000000 now why did you decide to raise money this time around.
Jamieson Christmas: Um, so over 100,000,000
Jamieson Christmas: It’s it’s really about the the progressive scaling of the technology and the business for execution reasons. So it’s in the public domain I can tell you that the Cadillac lyric will be the first. Vehicle carrying our generation 2 technology. That’s our augmented reality headup display and that will be deploying later on this year we have many many other oems car companies that are interested in our technology and so we have got to scale the company in response to the interest that we’re seeing. The other thing is you know we’re not putting down our pencils. We have a very clear roadmac of technology development and so we’re continuing to invest very heavily in the the mathematics the the processing and you know of course the the overarching product roadmap that goes with that.
Alejandro Cremades: And as you guys are now um, you know, really building this and executing why the automotif industry is so hard to compete.
Jamieson Christmas: So it’s a really tough environment. You know people think about their their off-the-shellf consumer products like a telephone but these things are pretty straightforward. You know we’re we are a new technology pretty much every other technology in the car that you see today. Is based upon incumbent. Well-established technologies ours is is very new and yet we have to survive the full rigors of automosis automotive testing which means that we have to demonstrate the technology will work seamlessly from °C all the way through to °C and you have to have the ability to store the device out to one hundred and twenty five Degrees c you know this is way beyond the bounds of you know expectations you might find for a consumer technology and yeah, that’s really aggressive.
Alejandro Cremades: So so as you’re building to the company. You know in terms of people. How many how many employees do you guys have now and how have you guys thought about the distribution because I believe you guys have employees everywhere and and what does that look like you know when it comes to the to the culture.
Jamieson Christmas: Well look I mean we’ve got an amazing team of people here. Um, we are just crossing through a hundred employees right now. Um I would say the majority of them are based here at our headquarters in the United Kingdom but we have a satellite office in Detroit a satellite office. We’ve just opened in Frankfurt. And indeed we’ve just placed our first person into Asia in Tokyo um, and you know we are yeah very much driven by you know, intellectual capital so over a quarter of the company have ph d you know, just an incredible workforce and yeah. The team here love working on the cutting edge of science and that’s something we very much reward.
Alejandro Cremades: So If you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of the company. You know is fully realized Obviously it will be a beautiful world. But what would that world look like when the vision of physics is. Out there.
Jamieson Christmas: So of of course I mean let’s start start with the obvious which is we’d find our technology deployed on on many many millions of vehicles. But really, you know what we’re what we’re talking about here is what does the future of Mobility look like. And we genuinely believe that our holographic technology is going to transform the way you experience your Journeys you know quite when an autonomous journey will come to Fruition. It’s not clear to me. But what we do know is that. When we think about the future of the market I see a bifurcation. Yes, there will be these autonomous pods that you know you can call up on demand that will take you from a to B and your experiencing that pod will be. You know, really quite different from anything. You can think of now. You know you can watch movies on the windows around you you can have videoconferences. You can have your journey augmented with you know landmarks being pointed out to you know history sites advertisements for you know, discounts or shops or you you name it. It’s It’s very much. Going to transform the way you perceive your journey but equally I don’t believe that you know the future is entirely autonomous people enjoy driving for the sake of driving and I think that market will continue in which case.
Jamieson Christmas: The idea that you know you have an augmented reality headup display enhancing your driving experience. You know you might drive from your home to a you know a racetrack in which case your headup display is showing you the racing line to really you know knock those tenths of a second off of off of your personal best you know. That’s the future but that only speaks to the application of this technology to headup displays and it really is not limited to just that application.
Alejandro Cremades: So what? what? what other applications you know are we probably going to be encountering as we are seeing the future of Automotive unfold because it sounds like now things are moving so quickly so rapidly.
Jamieson Christmas: Well look the holographic technology technology. We’re developing truly is holographic in the sense that science fiction tells us it should be volumetric and truly three-dimensional and of course if you’ve got that you know how you deploy that within a mobility experience. Can be really transformative. You know it could be that you’re playing 3 d movies inside the vehicle and each person sat around the car is experiencing a different perspective. That’s just 1 potential for the technology and you know many others can be realized way beyond that.
Alejandro Cremades: And what about safety you know how are you seeing safety and and perhaps this technology is contributing to safety as well.
Jamieson Christmas: So You know, very much is is kind of as I mentioned earlier really which is you know when you’re responsible for a vehicle. Your situational awareness is absolutely paramount If you’re looking away from the road If you’re trying to touch buttons on a screen inside the car. You’re not looking where you’re going. And sometimes that can be for seconds at a time. You know we have ah a strong belief that we’re going to take that pertinent driving information from inside the car and overlay it upon reality in a way that means that you’re always aware of your of your surroundings. And certainly in the in the studies that we’ve undertaking. Yeah, that really does improve safety.
Alejandro Cremades: So imagine if I was to put you into a time machine Jamie and and I bring you back in time you know perhaps to that moment where you were still doing your ph d in Cambridge and you were wondering about you know, doing something you know with holographic technologies and. Bringing them so that you could solve a problem that you were seeing there happening in the future and you had the opportunity of having a chat with your younger self and being able to give that younger self one piece of advice before launching a company. What would that be and why given why you know now.
Jamieson Christmas: Um, you know that’s an interesting question because actually the journey we’re on is the vision I had during that Ph D I think they. The element of it which is become an enormous shock is just how hard it is. You know people say that being you know, creating a technology company is hard. That’s absolutely right, developing a deep technology. Company is really Hard. Do not underestimate the challenges you’ll come across developing hardware that works in the automotive environment based on radical newer theories and solutions. Will test you in ways that you cannot imagine and it will test your family in ways that you cannot imagine and if you’re not up for It. Don’t do it but I have this drive and determination to realize this technology I Genuinely believe that it will be transformative and beneficial. For humanity and so that’s very much the mission I’m on is to try and enhance safety to try and enhance your journey experiences and you know I’m delighted that you know we’ve seen enormous support from investors got amazing support from the team here.
Jamieson Christmas: And across the world and you know we’re very much succeeding in that mission.
Alejandro Cremades: I love it so Jamie for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Jamieson Christmas: Please do go to our website. It’s wwwwwdotvissicx.com and there’s a contact us page. You know, please feel free to contact us ask any questions and we’ll do our very best to get back to you.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing. Well Jamie thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been on on earth to have you with us.
Jamieson Christmas: Thank you so much. It’s been amazing to talk to you.
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