"It's so amazing and it's so wonderful how things happen exactly when you need them to," says Jackie Carroll, founder of Genie in a Headset (GIAH), a visualisation tool which marries the practice of visualisation with the technology of virtual reality (VR).
“One of the things that coaches and mentors say to people is you have to visualise your perfect day, your perfect outcome, essentially – what does that look like? That was one thing that I really struggled with. I could daydream, which is like visualising, but when you really need to get crystal clear on all the deals I found it really hard and I thought to myself: ‘I obviously am not the only person that struggles,’” she says.
"I was watching BBC news one day and they were talking about Oculus being bought by Facebook and that was when the idea struck me. I was like: 'Frick it, that's genius, you could do everything in virtual reality.' Why can we not build, why can we not create our visions in virtual reality and actually experience them?"
This eureka moment led to the concept of Genie in a Headset, software that is used through a VR headset enabling the user to clearly see and feel the situation that they want experience in.
Initially the software will carry four scenarios used in visualisation techniques, for example, a crowed room for those who struggle with public speaking. “It’s as if you are actually there with real people in front of you.”
Experiences will be unlocked after a series of tasks such as meditation exercises. Future versions of the software will allow the user to customise the experiences to what their own “perfect day” or “perfect life” would look like.
“As we keep on developing this product you’ll be able to go into your Genie menu and select a particular house, a meadow and 10 horses and they will put all those aspects together into an environment that you can walk around and experience as if it was real.”
Carroll is very clear on one thing, the ethos behind her product, which is something she has maintained since her mother sadly passed away from ovarian cancer 20 years ago. A late diagnosis meant it was a short-lived illness and she was gone within a month.
“I want to give people hope and direction in their life and where this comes from was my Mum. She was like a honey pot, the bees always used to fly around her, she made people feel so amazing. She was always like an agony aunt. It was really sad because she died really unhappy. For somebody who had given so much happiness and joy to other people it was just really sad to see her die having lost that happiness and having lost hope and the dreams.
We are going to licence the software to the likes of big companies that have coaches or even the coaches and mentors themselves
“I don’t want people to land up like that. If there is a way that people can live with hope and have some direction in building the lives they want, you only get one life so you might at well live it to 100 per cent. I just think people don’t understand how much control they actually have of their life. This is why I got the idea for GIAH: this is what’s going to help people get that hope and dream, and get real direction to move forward in life.”
Being the only self-development company in the VR space at last year’s Web Summit opened up a lot of conversations with potential investors and tech specialists looking to join the growing team of five. It also gave GIAH a chance to hone in on its target market.
“I got first-round investment last year, which was a small enough investment for me to start up the company, pay the legal costs, do the branding, market research and market validation, and a very basic prototype. I knew that when I was looking to raise money that would be the first step and once I got to basic prototype it then took me to the Web Summit.
“Now I’m looking for second-round funding and then going from prototype to MVP [minimum viable product]. That’s where we are at the moment but it’s just incredible, I’ve just loved every single moment of every conversation I’ve had with people I’ve met from the Web Summit and that’s led on to different relationships – it’s been amazing, absolutely amazing.”
Seeking second-round funding is taking GIAH to pitch even further a field, at the Founders Games as part of Webit Festival Europe in Sofia, Bulgaria in May. With the latest market research proving that GIAH is a more valuable commodity if the licence is sold B2B, not only selling the product directly to the consumer, the company has finally set itself on the right track to tap into the double-digit billion-dollar industry.
“Instead of selling the product to consumers directly we are going to licence the software to the likes of big companies that have coaches or even the coaches and mentors themselves. They can then licence the software and use it as a tool for their clients. That makes more sense as they have a bigger reach; they’ve really built up that infrastructure.”
You'd be forgiven for thinking with such a positive outlook on life, and business, that Carroll herself has always had the "perfect" experience she wishes for her customers but GIAH is being built on experiences from the past. Once having tasted success in the property market in Ireland and Abu Dhabi, she lost everything in a bad investment in South Africa just as the bubble burst. Carroll knows what it feels like to fail, giving her the tools to learn fast and grow.
“Even in business you’ve got to fail your way to success, essentially, and nothing comes easy-peasy because otherwise you wouldn’t grow. It’s in the stretching that we grow. I believe there is a journey for everything, we go on a journey for a very specific reason and yeah, if my story could help others, I think it could be amazing.”