By Astoria Luzzi
The Eyeopener: Can you tell us a bit about ARB Labs?
Adrian Bulzacki: It stands for Advanced Research Business. It actually is my initials, but for official reasons, we call it the Advanced Research Business. [It] became a business for me and through pitching and explaining the technology I was able to find a niche for my business.
It let me separate my academic work from my business work. I’m used to managing large teams. I worked in the private sector for a long time but in the academic world, you tend to work for one person, usually. All of your work is done by you. I started taking on co-op students and it was a populated database of gestures because my research is in predictive gesture recognition, so I took that academic styled algorithm and brought it to the consumer sector.
I had access to knowledge that wasn’t available to the mainstream, but with access to businesses and partners, it helped me make it happen faster. We started licensing it to different events. Our big one was the PanAm Games.
We’re getting our software out into the hands of game studios so that we can focus on the enterprise clients, so that’s like oil industries, security companies, airports, casinos, banks, and using our gesture recognition software to maybe save lives in terms of being able to see aggressive or dangerous scenarios and act on them before they occur. It seems strange, but that’s one of the strengths of our software.
Eye: When did you first realize that you wanted to go after this as your business?
A.B.: It was actually through struggling through my PhD. I had run several businesses before, and they’d all been reasonably successful, which is actually how I paid for my undergrad, how I paid for my masters, and then it’s how I saved money. And just one Christmas holiday I realized that if I came up with a software like the game Charades, I would be able to crowd source a massive amount of gestures and test our software to its limits because at the time there was no database on gestures for academics to test on, so if I was able to release a public game that would be simple and fun, unique, we would be able to collect a massive amount of data and we could resell that data.
Eye: At the beginning, did you run into any big challenges?
A.B.: Yeah, there were a few. I think in the beginning we were seen more as a 3D company, the reason was because we were so closely associated with the academic 3D research and it wasn’t our business focus. So the difference was that a 3D TV or monitor makes things pop out and we came up with a software that makes things pop in, kind of like you get the depth and we used that mostly for marketing, we’re trying to get that in the condominium space. So the idea is, if you have a terrible view in your window you can have an alternate view that’s convincing.
Eye: What kind of advice would you give for hopeful entrepreneurs?
A.B.: I was overly cautious at the beginning. I didn’t want to spend too much money until I was sure I had a solid idea, because the first few ideas weren’t viable businesses. I would be very careful or very calculating and I guess really working hard for those first clients, because we were able to take our first project, which was very small, and take the profits of that and re-invest in the company, and grow exponentially. So, it’s being careful with your money; not throwing money into it, not taking up debt.
Eye: Do you find it difficult to balance being a student and having your own company?
A.B.: I do, but I had to, it was a major challenge of mine to make that work. I think as time goes on Ryerson is going to kind of re-tool the concept of the classroom and what defines a classroom and I think it would get easier for students to do this more in the future. So we’re kind of like a case study of that, to some degree, of what it’s like to juggle a business and finish your education at the same time.
I’ve already got a successful high quality company so whenever I do graduate I’ve just become stronger, the business becomes stronger, and it’s more beneficial for the university in terms of having a successful company that’s already hiring students and creating jobs already, rather than be starting from scratch.
Eye: You’re working towards your PhD, you’re commercializing your business in the mean time and you’re also making money that you get to put back towards your PhD. What a win-win.
A.B.: Yeah, it’s a huge win-win. It’s the best part of all this, that I satisfy all these things. And that’s huge.
Eye: How many hours do you put towards your company in a week?
A.B.: My business is my life. So it’s like I don’t think of it from an hour perspective, I think of it as my entire life revolves around it, so I don’t have an hour number. It’s just whenever it kicks in. It could be two in the morning when I suddenly start thinking about work and I count that as work time. So I don’t have a good answer for that, it’s just 24 hours. It’s my career, so it never shuts off – it’s not a nine-to-five job. I’m anti nine-to-five.
Eye: You’ve said that you’ve been an entrepreneur before, and you clearly have done this for a few years. What are qualities in a person, that you think, make a great entrepreneur?
A.B.: I think being able to really think towards the future. If I think of big picture ideas, I don’t have to stress about it every day but I know that’s where I’m going, it makes it easier. I think it’s also not giving up. I think you really – I know it’s a cliché thing to say— but if you force yourself to do this all the time and you don’t accept failure and you keep trying to make yourself better everyday that’s a critical thing.
Eye: What are your hopes for the future of ARB Labs?
A.B.: We want to be the leader in gesture recognition in the world and bring applications that no ones ever seen before. So our slogan right now is we’re simplifying gestures into language, and the reason is because we really think that the whole gesture recognition idea has so many different potentials as a type of communication that that’s what we want to dedicate all our efforts to and that brings on tons of new product ideas that only exist in science-fiction right now, but we think we can make them plausible really soon.