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Voices From the Crisis: When pitching virtually, adjust your approach

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James Massaquoi (left) and Suryansh Gupta (right) have started a company that maps buildings in 360 degrees | Photo c/o VR360

For Sury Gupta and James Massaquoi, the former UD students who founded 360VR Technology, the coronavirus has provided an opportunity to return to their roots while also giving them a chance to demonstrate the value of their technology to prospects for their current focus – using virtual reality technology to create 3D building maps for emergency first responders.

The partners are working on ways to merge their two capabilities – making the technology available to the public while keeping sensitive information secure.  They’ve also reached out in recent weeks to universities that might be interested in creating virtual campus and admission tours during a time when high schoolers can’t travel to some of their target schools. In addition to seeing a spike in demand for their virtual tours of residential properties, they’re also working on virtual tours for nursing homes over the past six months.

“College tours are kind of a new line for us,” Gupta said. “They provide additional value back to the university and it’s a lot easier right now because buildings are empty. They’re more receptive to listening to us now and it’s a nice segue into what we can do for them on the safety and security side. This allows us to take the time to understand their needs.”

The big news for Gupta and Massaquoi came March 26, when they took home the $75,000 grand prize in the 20thannual Tulane Business Model Competition. It was the biggest payday yet for the company in competitions like this. Previous wins included $50,000 at the Salisbury University Shore Hatchery Startup Competition and $20,000 at UD’s own Hen Hatch 2019.

“We were actually scheduled to do three competitions like that over a short period of time,” Gupta said. “But South by Southwest [in Austin, Texas) got cancelled, Baylor University in Waco postponed its event and then Tulane went virtual with its competition because it saw it as an opportunity to keep its entrepreneurship program going.”

Gupta said he and Massaquoi had never done their pitch virtually, and what they learned from that experience also applies to people working from home who are asked to do a virtual presentation.

“Making sure your technology works well is critical, and preparation is really important,” Gupta said, “You have to take the same amount of time to prepare and practice as you would for an in-person presentation. “You can read the room in person. But with virtual presentations, half the people don’t have their cameras on and are more likely to get distracted. You also have to pay a lot of attention to your tone and body language and energy. That’s what many of them are looking at, so you have to adjust for [the constraints of] the virtual space.”

–Peter Osborne

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