We caught up with Kourosh Atefipour from Valkyrie Industries to tell us more about their business.
Valkyrie Industries is currently based at Eagle Labs Stratford (Plexal) which focuses on DeepTech and hardware but have been a long-time member of Eagle Labs.
Can you tell us a little bit about Valkyrie and how it started?
Valkyrie Industries is developing haptic technology to enable users to touch, feel and hold objects naturally in virtual simulations. Our patented wearable haptic technology allows natural interaction, sensations of touch, weight, and resistance. Our technology can be applied to multiple industries, our initial applications are in Telerobotics/operations for heavy industries, including chemical, automotive, space/aerospace, and construction.
Valkyrie started in 2017 at an incubator called Deep Science Ventures. The program taught postgraduates from Science-led backgrounds how to build ventures from ideas leveraging each person’s specialty and expertise. I met Ivan in the first week and we have been working on Valkyrie ever since.
Given that we both came from research within augmenting technology, we saw the VR and AR market as a great area to explore innovation. Interestingly enough, we ultimately were not selected by Deep Science Ventures as a start-up worth investing and so we applied for multiple grants where we received an Innovate UK grant which gave us the starting capital we needed and Barclays was there to provide us with the facilities for us to build.
How long have you been an Eagle Labs member and how has Eagle Labs supported you and your business?
One of our first ever pitches at the Imperial College of London’s Enterprise lab saw us network with now Eagle Lab Manager, Alistair Drew-Yeates, who understood that as two founders who are at the start of our journey, we are going to have an incredible set of challenges ahead of us and much to our surprise, he offered us a working space for our start-up with state-of-the-art VR equipment and maker space. We didn’t believe that Barclays Bank supported start-ups this way and through all our ups and downs, Eagle Labs has been there through every step in these last four years to support us.
What's been your biggest highlight in your business journey so far?
Being granted a patent in the UK and the US has for sure been one of our major highlights. After a year of survival in 2020, we managed to pull all our resources together to build a brand new ‘software-only' sculpting app on Steam where we hope to start growing out a community of natural sculptors and creators who wish to use haptics in the near future. You can check our ‘Argil’ on Steam now.
What's been your biggest challenge?
Trying to grow a hardware business in the UK after being constantly rejected by investors who are super risk-averse. A lot of the ‘VR’ funds out there do not like hardware and it’s tough to grow a credible business on small grants which have their own scale of the competition. We have always been a team of founders and without the capital to back us, we struggle to grow the business to the scale we need.
What’s next for Valkyrie?
To grow and scale! We are currently looking to close our first-ever crowdfunding campaign and from there we will look to hire a small team with whom together we can create a fully modular haptic wearable device for Teleoperations and Telerobotics. As our sculpting app also grows in numbers, we will look into either spinning out a studio or developing both products simultaneously under the Valkyrie banner.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting out?
To make sure you have a strong product-market fit. One of the best practices are to ensure that before you start building anything and spending money, that you have customers who are willing to pay for your solution, create pragmatic cash flow models and ensure you remain hyper-focused on the market.