Q&A: CEO Shares Why He Made a First-Of-Its-Kind VR/AR Company
Based in New York City, The Glimpse Group is redefining how to be a successful startup in the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality scene. Over the last three years The Glimpse Group has generated millions in revenue while working on immersive projects for Fortune 1000 companies, leading universities, hospitals, major brands, and smaller organizations. Their diversified platform includes 10 subsidiary companies that are developing VR/AR software and services across multiple industries — such as healthcare, marketing, K-12 education, corporate training, and more.
The “secret sauce” behind Glimpse lies within its unique structure. The Glimpse model cherry picks the best elements of incubators, accelerators, venture capital, and integrated holding companies. Glimpse’s strength comes from its internal ecosystem. Glimpse fosters an innovative environment that encourages collaboration amongst its subsidiaries. The origin of Glimpse stems from an idea by Lyron Bentovim, the CEO and President of the VR/AR company.
The Glimpse Group’s Marketing Manager, Elena Piech, sat down with Bentovim to talk about entrepreneurship, lessons learned from the start-up world, and the path to forming The Glimpse Group.
Elena Piech: Before we get into The Glimpse Group, let’s look at the start of your career on a more macro-level. What drew you to the tech space?
Lyron Bentovim: Well, I’ve been in tech all my life. It started with my first computer. I think I was 11. I lived in England at the time and they had ads for the ZX81, which was the first time I saw a personal computer, and it had 1K of memory. It was this small, little black thing. I immediately decided I wanted to get one and I started campaigning with my parents to get one. By the time I was successful in my campaigning, the technology has continued to evolve and I got a brand new Dragon computer with a mind blowing 32K of memory. Once I had my computer I needed to figure out what I could get it to do. I started reading anything I could find about programming and self taught myself multiple computer languages.
That was my first introduction to computers. I used to buy all these computer magazines that had computer code in them, I would copy the code by typing it into my computer and then I would try and change it and see if I could make different things happen. Once I felt comfortable enough with these, I started writing my own code throughout middle and high school. Towards the end of High school I started getting more serious about it and ended up writing a computer program that was used by the Israeli Ministry of Education for teaching middle schoolers French.
EP: You’re a talented, self-taught programmer who majored in Chemistry and Computer Science in high school. Despite this background in STEAM, you went to law school. Why?
LB: The system in Israel is not like the one we have here in the US, Law school is an undergrad degree. And as I was looking at degrees, I figured I’m going to end up in business and get my MBA, so I didn’t need a business undergrad degree, so I figured law school gave me a lot of practical training and taught me a way of thinking — I never intended to be a lawyer. I have used much of this training throughout my career and it’s definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made.
EP: After law school you went to the Yale School of Management for your MBA and you were a Summer Associate for McKinsey & Company. Since then, you’ve led numerous tech startups and public companies. With your 25+ year career, how did you decide when it was time to leave a company?
LB: As usual with me, I start from the gut and try to rationalize it. But usually, at some point, you feel like you’ve kind of done everything that you can for that organization. And you get a feeling that you’re no longer excited about what you’re doing. When both of these combine, that’s usually time to leave.
EP: In terms of following your gut, how are you feeling about The Glimpse Group?
LB: Super excited. We’re building it. You see all the steps you have to take to get where you want to go. Building the company and helping build the industry is very rewarding. I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had in my career and this is only the beginning.
EP: You’re leading a company with a funding model and a structure that has never been done before. Why form The Glimpse Group? Why not try to just lead one regular standalone VR or AR company?
LB: My first thought was why don’t I just find a company that needs a CEO or kind of start a one-off company? But then over time, as I was thinking about this, I realized that in early stage industries, it’s very hard for a one-off company to succeed. Then I started thinking about all the different models that I tried to play around with over my career. Models that dealt with some of the challenges of having a startup and some efficiencies of running a company. I pulled all these [models] together and thought that this would be a great way to tackle this emerging industry.
“At the end of the day, we’re really trying to invent something that has never been done. It’s a different model of doing startups.” — Glimpse Group CEO Lyron Bentovim
EP: In terms of leading a company with this unique model, there’s not necessarily a rule book that you can learn from. The Glimpse Group is a first of its kind. How do you go about making decisions and analyzing what’s going to be the most effective next step?
LB: It’s taking things that I’ve learned from my experiences and rationalizing them, but it’s a lot of trial and error. At the end of the day, we’re really trying to invent something that has never been done. It’s a different model of doing startups. I talked to someone last week, and he wanted to take our model and build it into his own industry. He was doing robotics and he said, “Would you mind advising me on how to do this in my industry?” That’s pretty cool.
EP: As Glimpse continues to grow, I’m sure more people will turn to you and ask for advice. If younger version of yourself asked for advice, what would you say?
LB: The first piece of advice is “never say no to money.” That’s a big, big deal, you want to raise money when you don’t need it because when you need it, raising it is very difficult. The second piece of advice is to make it real. The way to succeed as a startup is to have an impact on the world, which means dealing with real live customers and partners and building things. It’s not about just dreaming, it’s about executing. And the last piece of advice is, have fun. Just bring people that you enjoy being with. Don’t allow yourself to cut corners when it comes to bringing the right people in.
EP: Looking toward the future, what would you want the legacy for Glimpse to be?
LB: There’s two pieces of legacy: One for Glimpse as a company. I want Glimpse to be remembered as a leading Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality software and services company. As for the Glimpse model: I want to have this as a new way of doing things. Just like you have venture capitalists, and incubators, and accelerators, I want there to be more Glimpse models out there. That will be a pretty good legacy for Glimpse.
EP: Thank you for your time. We’re almost at the end of the interview and I always like my last question to be a bit more of an oddball question. If you could get any former CEO, former developer, former creative, former designer, ecterera, to join Glimpse who sticks out and why?
LB: That’s a weird one. Usually people say who would you want to have dinner with or something. Who would I want to join Glimpse and what would I want to do with them? No one comes to mind actually. I am very happy with the team we have at The Glimpse Group but we are always looking to add talented individuals that believe in our dream and want to join us in making it a reality.