In this Deal Spotlight session, Propel(x) had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Barmak Heshmat, the CEO and founder of Brelyon. Barmak spoke about Brelyon’s mission and vision to bring an innovative new display technology to market, his experience raising capital with Propel(x), lessons learned and Brelyon’s future plans. The summary below has been edited for context and clarity.
Who is Brelyon?
Founded in 2019 and headquartered in San Mateo CA, Brelyon is a deep tech startup which is developing an innovative virtual reality technology that will allow companies to bring their clients/customers to the Metaverse and experience immersive virtual worlds without the need for physical headsets.
Looking at the history of people working with computers and different devices, we started with bidirectional communication channels that gave us cell phones, radio, and TV. Then we went to guided attention, which was basically the world of databases and two-dimensional maps and trying to guide people’s attention on a two-dimensional screen. Today, even though most of our time is spent looking at mobile devices or computer screens, the technological progress in the screen industry has been very slow. For example, there is a missing element of an immersive experience on desktop computers.
Barmak believes that Brelyon’s proprietary technology will change the way people experience desktop computing and open a new chapter where a user can go in-depth and increase the field of view by introducing new parameters to the visual experience of computers. In Barmak’s own words, Brelyon is the first company to look at depth from the wavefront perspective, as opposed to the parallax perspective. In summary, Brelyon’s displays aim to bring more range and depth to the visual experience to present the light field in a much richer way and that too without a physical headset.
You can find out more about the company on Brelyon’s website.
The Metaverse Angle
Barmak explains the Metaverse as a vision of experiencing the internet and the computer in a much more immersive way than how we experience it today. He says it has different elements to it, including:
i) Immersion, which provides a higher bandwidth and a three-dimensional experience of the virtual world.
ii) Economy, utilizing technologies such as blockchain which enable encryption and real time verification of on-demand payments if applicable
The Propel(x) connection with Brelyon came via a recommendation from the MIT E14 Fund, which invests in startups involving key contributors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. Brelyon raised money through Propel(x) via a Seed Round in early 2020.
During the Seed Round, Brelyon was seeking to raise $1.5m. The company had approximately $1.2m already committed from other investors outside of Propel(x). Propel(x) investors helped to close the funding gap by contributing to the remaining funds. The Seed Round was structured as Preferred Equity.
All the investors were organized inside a single Limited Partnership via a Special Purpose Vehicle. This way, Brelyon only saw the syndicate as a single investor and did not have multiple small investors showing up on the cap table, which is not desirable for a startup seeking funding in later rounds.
Barmak shared that the Propel(x) investment was template-based and the same template was being used across the board for other companies which were fundraising too. This made him feel that the fundraising process through Propel(x) was both streamlined and transparent.*
Being involved with Propel(x) helped Brelyon connect with value-add deep tech investors without them having to commit to a large check size upfront, and that was also a great way to get more traction for Brelyon.
Barmak noted that his experience with Propel(x) was straightforward, the team was helpful, and did not require a great deal of work from him as a founder. He said it helped him get connected with enthusiastic investors who he otherwise probably would not have worked with or known.*
How the startup investment was used
Barmak explained that the funding from the Seed Round helped them take their idea from the lab to the market, and now to a position where they have shipped approximately 30 of their displays around the world. The company has started generating revenue and is now looking forward to scaling up its production to a few thousand units.
After the capital raise
Barmak noted that Brelyon has experienced strong growth since the Seed Round (which included Propel(x) investors. Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance.
Brelyon is now focusing its attention and working hard to scale up and to get the necessary industry certifications in place. The company is also working to market its product for applications such as gaming and other potential applications such as enterprise adopters for use cases such as flight simulators, training, and control center operations.
Words of wisdom from a deep tech startup founder
Barmak shared the following lessons he has learned from his entrepreneurship journey so far:
* It is better to have a product which a small number of people love rather than having a product that a lot of people just like, but nobody loves.
* Brelyon could have considered a product-led focused approach in the beginning itself instead of spending time developing multiple random prototypes in the lab.
* Instead of being highly focused on hiring from top schools, there is also a benefit in considering the relevance of the applicant’s experience to what a founder is trying to accomplish.
Brelyon has enjoyed strong growth since its Seed Round funding that included investors from the Propel(x) platform. The company is progressing to the next stage of growth as it prepares to scale its product development and adoption.
If you are interested in expanding your portfolio with startup investments, you can find more information here on how to get started in venture capital and how to find opportunities for venture capital investing on the Propel(x) platform.
Private placements are a high-risk investment. An investment in such an offering is speculative and an investor could experience an entire loss of principal. Private investments are highly illiquid and risky and are not suitable for all investors. Investments in early-stage private companies should only be a part of your overall investment portfolio.
* This testimonial may not be representative of other customers and is no guarantee of future performance or success.
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