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.
On the Dealmakers Show Christmas talked about being inspired by science fiction, getting into Cambridge after dropping out of school at 16 years old, bootstrapping a startup, starting up in the wake of a financial crisis, patents and investing in IP, getting your company acquired, the future of mobility, and augmented reality in the car.
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Making Science Fiction A Reality
Jamieson Christmas was born and grew up in the UK. Where he still lives and has headquartered his latest tech company.
His father and other family members were engineers. Born in the 70s, he was captivated by technology, science fiction, and the visions of the future that George Lucas brought to screens.
Even though he originally ditched school at 16, he went on to take part in an apprenticeship. One which allowed him both hands on work experience in technology and its implementation, along with being able to continue his studies.
That took him back to college. First for an undergraduate degree in electronic engineering. Then attending Cambridge University to pursue a Phd. Where he loved working alongside some of the smartest people he could find, who were working on problems and solutions that would be the future in another decade or two.
All of this was driven by one question he had, “why hasn’t holography and 3D really happened yet?”
One of his professors was doing some work on utilizing holographic techniques to enhance telecommunications. There he says that they made a number of important breakthroughs in terms of the devices and material science that you need to make holography viable for the first time. As well as some breakthroughs in terms of mathematics that can deliver really high quality imagery within the constraints of available compute solutions.
At the end of his Phd he actually had built a demonstration of a holographic projector. Which inspired him and his cofounder Peter to make the leap into launching a tech startup of their own.
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Bootstrapping & Starting Up In The Wake Of A Crisis
Christmas and his cofounder decided to launch their company in 2010; right in the wake of the Great Recession. Not exactly the ideal or easiest time to raise a lot of investment capital. Especially for brand new technology, with a long time frame, and the hardware it would need.
So, they set out to bootstrap the company anyway. That meant not paying themselves as cofounders for the first six months. They designed the business to be cash flow positive. Earning revenues as they would demonstrate the technology, and progress it towards maturity. Then they just kept reinvesting in their IP. Winding up with over 800 patents.
They saw automotive manufacturers as being happy to invest in technology that would take several years to be implemented in their products. So, they focused on a heads up display for cars, and pitched it to automotive companies. Ultimately landing Jaguar Land Rover as a customer. One which could help extend their financial runway.
With a small team, they didn’t have the strength or credibility to be a major part of the automotive supply chain on their own. So, they partnered with those that did, and earned royalties on their IP.
While they dealt with more challenges and crises, like the major earthquake in Japan, they kept pushing forward. Launching the first laser based holographic heads up display in Jaguar vehicles around 2014.
Within five years they had been acquired by another startup working on wearable augmented reality technology. A pivotal moment which removed cash constraints from their progress.
Eventually they found these technologies not to be the perfect match, so Jamieson ended up raising money and buying back his IP to launch a new venture.
The Future Of Mobility
According to Crunchbase, Jamieson’s current company Envisics has already raised more than $100M through different rounds of funding.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Jamieson 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.
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Their main focus in bringing augmented reality to the car. Which is being launched in new Cadillac vehicles soon.
Their holographic projection technology is designed to make driving safer and more intuitive.
He says that while transportation may well change in the near future to fully autonomous pod vehicles, in which riders can watch 3D holographic movies, and more, people will always love the driving experience. Which they are continuing to augment with their developments.
They now have a team of around 100. Spread between the UK, Asia, the US, and Germany.
For others considering launching a startup of their own he warns of the shock of how enormously hard it is to create a tech company. Especially one involving deep tech, hardware, and the automotive industry.
He says that it will test you and your family in ways that you cannot even imagine. Be sure that you are ready and willing to embrace that and stick it out, or don’t attempt it.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Augmented reality in the car
- The future of mobility