This week in our Startup Spotlight blog series is our 2023 XTC @ CES Web3 Category Winner –echo3D!
Six Questions for Alon Grinshpoon, CEO and Co-Founder, echo3D of NYC
Alon received degrees in Computer Science from Columbia University (MSc) and Tel Aviv University (BSc)with specialties in networks, security, graphics, VR/AR and human-computer interaction. Alon is a former Mellanox engineer, graduate researcher at the Computer Graphics and User Interfaces Laboratory of Columbia University, and research and teaching assistant in the fields of computer networks and distributed cloud networks. He is an alumnus of Techstars and NYC Media Lab, a Fellow of the Startup Leadership Program and a Member of the Virtual World Society. After several years’ work in software engineering, he founded echo3D five years ago in New York City.
1. What problem is echo3D solving and how?
We are among the first to shine light on the importance of backend infrastructure in a frontend-heavy ecosystem such as 3D/AR/VR & Metaverse. While many are trying to find the best horse to bet on, whether it be some AR/VR client-side SDK (ARKit vs. ARCore, etc) or AR/VR display (mobile vs. Oculus/MagicLeap, etc), we say: don’t bet on a horse, bet on the track – empower developers & content creators to build better and more scalable AR apps for ANY and across ALL of these client-side technologies.
Historically what has taken I.T. breakthroughs from pilots & prototypes to exponential growth has been DEVELOPERS TOOLS – think Visual Basic in the 1980s or NVIDIA CUDA in the 2010s and all the cloud tools that simplify launching web and mobile apps today. From our work at Columbia University and by observing many AR/VR projects in development, we noticed that developers struggle to create scalable and dynamic AR/VR apps. Today’s AR/VR apps are single-user experiences with static and hard-to-update content. It’s difficult to update across multiple platform-specific specifications. Developers struggle to onboard clients since any change in the app results in endless development cycles. That is – THEY DON’T SCALE.
We conducted interviews with developers who validated which key tools are missing, so we decided to build them for the developers; a cross-platform backend infrastructure somewhat akin to being “the AWS of AR/VR”.
There are real benefits to AR/VR as, as with earlier breakthroughs, our platform will allow the benefits to reach a wider demographic at lower costs, and will allow a more diverse community of developers to participate and quickly commercialize their unique visions, so this is very much about access and opportunity to this next generation of empowering services.
2. What is your background that led you to founding echo3D?
Well, first, I’m a life-long computer geek and studied software engineering right out of our secondary school and got degrees in both Israel and the USA and that led me to experience these gaps in functionality I mentioned. As to why entrepreneurship and not academia? Well, I guess I’ve always been strong-minded and wanted to “do it myself” whatever it was. We were an immigrant family and immigrants always want and need to build for themselves. My mother was a dentist who ran her own clinic, so I grew up in that environment of technical and business combined.
Also, I have to mention my identical twin brother Koren who is a co-founder and also Ben Pedazur who is kind of like a brother-from-a-different-mother, and both are an essential part of our story. A good Founder needs to be a hustler with strong technical chops and sound business skills which is often hard to find in one person, so fortunately there are three of us. Koren is the COO and so is my back-end platform complementing my strategic and promotional front-end and Ben is our CTO who makes the product work. I really can’t say if I would have “struck out on my own” to start a business, but having grown up with one and met the other early in college, I felt like when the concept of echo3D became more clear, it was this uniquely tight 3-headed consciousness that gave us mutually the confidence to “go for it”.
3. What is unique about your technology and what is the validation status?
Our cloud platform is specially built to handle, convert, and compress 3D models, interactive content, and animations while providing interaction analytics & usage metrics. Our cross-platform system supports any AR/VR client-side SDK developers may choose, such as Oculus SDK, ARCore, ARKit, Vuforia, WebXR, AR.js, Unity-based SDKs, MagicLeap, and more. With echo3D, content creators don’t need technical knowledge to use the system as they are able to manage AR content anywhere using our web app and can quickly go from development, to testing, and to production.
echo3D has received grants from Y Combinator, Verizon, and NYC Media Lab. We were named among LG’s First 50 and named AR/VR finalists for SXSW 2020. And of course it was also very validating that we were able to more than double our funding with a $5.5-million round closed last summer with major players like Qualcomm, Techstars, Konvoy, Remagine and Space Capital. This brings our tota funding to $9.5-millon; I think that really spoke to the merit of our focus on back-office tools as a real growth vector. And now we’ve won the Web3 category of Extreme Tech Challenge’s competition at CES 2023!
4. What are your Go-To-Market ideas and traction received so far?
We target developers in their natural habitat: (1) we sponsored hackathons and coding events, (2) formed collaborations with 3D graphics research labs, (3) partnered with 3D-focused companies like Unity and Ready Player Me, and (4) showcased our tech at in-person/virtual conferences and events (CES, SXSW, Developer Week, AWE, and more).
There is also online marketing, direct marketing, and content marketing: (1) we run ad campaigns targeted at developers and technical team leaders, (2) organically post content and answer questions on (Stackoverflow, GitHub, Slack channels of 3D/game devs, HackerRank, etc.), and (3) constantly write and post SEO-optimized articles on use cases of 3D/AR/VR on our blog, medium page, and social media.
And we also do drip campaigns: we automatically scraped LinkedIn and dev/gaming/3D-focused Slack/Discord channels for any person with 3D/Gaming/AR/VR/XR in their title/bio and sent them direct custom registration emails.
Today we serve over 40,000 developers using our SDKs to create real-time 3D experiences for gaming, AR/VR, entertainment, eCommerce, retail, training, and more. echo3D has also deployed AR+5G projects with both Verizon and AT&T.
5. What’s next?
Our vision is to become the #1 supplier of server-side services for 3D apps and games.
The 3D/AR/VR & Metaverse industry is shaping up to be a Trillion dollar market. With games-changers like the Meta Quest that made VR a mobile medium and the astonishing efforts to build the Metaverse in AR, one component is missing: a cloud solution that connects them all.
Looking at the golden age of the Internet, one could notice that web & mobile services were able to easily and quickly scale once key server-side cloud-based technologies, such as CMS & CDN, were introduced to web/mobile developers. By fully translating these concepts to AR /VR development, AR/VR apps will be able to scale too, and so will echo3D!
6. Tell us about your experience with XTC and what were the benefits/takeaways?
Competing at XTC has been an incredible experience! XTC allowed us to join an amazing community of innovators and entrepreneurs, extend our company’s reach, connect with leading investors and partners, and showcase our work at CES- the leading technology conference in the world. XTC’s dedication to support global innovation and startup founders inspires companies like us to reach for the stars – foster corporate partnerships and push the limits of technology. We are grateful for the XTC team for their hard work and honored to win the Web3 Award at CES 2023!
Interviewed and edited by John Martin
Together We Can Empower Global Innovation!
Enter the XTC competition
Join us to excite and impact
Help shape a better future