2017 Virtual Umbrella Summary!
It’s the time of year where we like to take a moment to sit down with a cup of tea and look back over the year. It’s so important to reflect and take note of what you’ve achieved, especially when you’re working in such a fast-paced industry.
But before we have a look at our highlights of 2017, we want to say a personal thank you to everyone who has supported us in the past year. We can’t wait to share 2018 with you all!
We’ve had an incredible year. There has been a lot of changes and we have seen real growth in the company, which we are so proud of. There will always be highs and lows in any company but we are looking forward to ending 2017 in one the best positions we have ever been in. Financially and personally.
When it comes to business growth…
A huge change that happened this year was deciding to move our life and business down to Brighton. We had always loved the idea of running the company by the sea and wanted to be somewhere that had the right buzz for us. Brighton was it. The city has a fantastic gaming and VR scene so we feel right at home. We’re closer to London too, which means there should be less 3am arrivals back home after evening events!
Although we leave Southampton behind, we are proud of the impact that we made there. We ran VR events, networking events, worked closely with the council, and of course Solent University (Bertie’s University, where we both had the chance to lecture). We also had two fantastic student interns from Solent. Sephi, James, you two were great. Thank you for all your hard work.
We hope that in 2018, we have the opportunity to introduce Virtual Umbrella to Brighton.
We can’t reflect on the year without mentioning the fantastic projects, companies and individuals who we have worked with over the last twelve months, including new clients, and old friends – all of whom have been really impacted by the power of VR.
These are just a few of our favourites:
BBC Worldwide Showcase
Having the opportunity to work with the BBC was great! We had been keen to work with them since we started back in 2015 and this was the first larger project that they had brought us in for. We got to spend four days in Liverpool working at the Worldwide Showcase and meeting interesting people from BBC Worldwide and their client base.
It was honour to look after the Kaleidoscope brand for London. We held a great event in March at The Old Truman Brewery and we were so proud of how it turned out. We had over 200 people turn out to try some of the very best of VR from across the globe. To René, Selena and Jill at Kaleidoscope, thank you for opportunity.
In April, VU went on tour! We went to Cannes to run a virtual reality theatre for Reed Midem: the organisers of MIPTV. As our first overseas project, this was a challenge and we really felt we stepped up to make this one happen.
Our work takes us to exciting places. This one time we were sent to Portaventura, a theme park near Barcelona. The job itself was a six hour setup, demo, and takedown. We arrived a day early and managed to enjoy some roller coasters too.
VR World with Generic Robotics
This year we met the amazing team from Generic Robotics. We went to visit their office in Reading and were blown away by the technology they had developed. We instantly knew we had to work with them! Fortunately, the team found an opportunity and we were able to provide them with demo and PR support at VR World in London.
Open City Documentary Festival
Over September we helped the Open City Documentary Festival to run a VR exhibition. Our latest addition to the team, James Williams, really stepped up and managed the whole project with minimal intervention from VU management. Very impressive work, James!
We launched our VR Safari series! An in-depth workshop on immersive technology designed to get any company up to date on the latest technology in a day. We’ve had some great clients so far but they’re mainly corporate so we’re not allowed to tell you who they are. 👼
Imperial War Museum
In September we were fortunate to be contacted by previous clients, IWM. They required assistance running a virtual reality experience involving a WWII dogfight at the Duxford Air Show.
We always love working with the fantastic Ravensbourne team to bring VRUK to London. It has a special place in our heart because let’s face it, we love the event. Did you join us this year?
This year we continued our running partnership with FUSE UK. We worked with the agency on virtual reality activations as part their larger experiential marketing campaign for San Miguel. The FUSE team have been great to work with and we look forward to doing more together into 2018 and beyond!
Over the last quarter, we worked with Curiscope on the launch of their latest project, Operation Apex. This was a virtual reality adventure designed to raise awareness of the impact of pollution on our oceans whilst providing an enjoyable gameplay experience. It was fantastic to work so closely with another Brighton-based company, as well as with founders, Ben and Ed, who we’ve known since the beginning. We also learned a lot about the environment on this project and were really made to feel like part of the team.
Unrest VR was the companion piece to Unrest, a documentary about ME (Chronic Fatigue). A passion project for Bertie, the Unrest VR UK tour was a challenging and exciting project. Using funding provided by the BFI, our job was to work with Together Films to tour Unrest VR across 16 cinemas, art-spaces, and festivals in England & Ireland. The most exciting part of all is that the Unrest documentary has now been nominated for an Oscar!
Sheffield Doc/Fest & Realidades Alternativas
This year we developed a very close partnership with the team at Sheffield Doc/Fest. It began with our team lending VR support at the documentary festival in July. We helped the team setup and manage the VR equipment and we very lucky to work alongside the visionary Jess Brillhart.
Following the festival, we were also invited to help with the Realidades Alternativas Tour: a tour of South America organised by Doc/Fest and funded by the British Council. We began by providing remote support for the Uruguay leg of the tour. Later, Bertie flew out to provide support and run a number of workshops for the Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires dates.
We are immensely proud to have been selected as mentors for Digital Catapult’s Augmentor programme. As part of our roles, we met some amazing VR startups that are working on some phenomenal stuff. We hope we can support them as they continue their business growth journeys.
Bertie’s Personal Look-Back
For me, this year feels like it’s flown by, but at the same time, looking back, I realised just how much we have accomplished and built during this time. We’ve extended our reach overseas, we’ve worked with global brands, institutions, and for some really amazing causes like Unrest. We’re so, so, so lucky to have these opportunities and to work in the sector that we do.
It’s been hard. There has been a lot of stress, a lot of arguments and times where I have wanted to just walk away from it all. But I guess that’s part of the experience. Who said running a business would be easy right?
Since beginning Virtual Umbrella when I was 20, I have received a lot of stick and comments from people about my age. It’s great to be at a point where we can simply point to our track record and pleased clients to demonstrate the value of our company and our work, regardless of the age of its founding members.
I have to give a special thanks to the people who have been around me and supported me over the past year.
Thank you Sammy, James, Lily, Violet – you’re the best team to work with.
Thank you to my family for the support you’ve given me, be it personally or professionally.
Thank you to our clients, you’re the reason I get out of bed in the morning.
Thank you to my brother Sam, I roped you into helping me on a job in Northern Spain.
Thank you to people like Jon Hibbins, Gellan Watt, Matt Desmier, Kevin Molloy who have given me advice or just made themselves available when I needed it.
And finally, a special thank you Greggs. Your pasties kept me going for a whole month whilst working at the Edinburgh Fringe. 10/10.
Sammy’s Personal Look-Back
For me, 2017 has probably been one of the biggest year for Virtual Umbrella. It really is only when you look back and stop that you realise how much has been achieved in 12 months. I have to say the biggest thank you to Bertie and my team; we rock as a team and I look forward to growing it next year. There has been some big highlights for me this year. Of course, as ever, I have done many talks on a range of topics. I think I have got this stage fright nearly under control and I am starting to enjoy knowing that I will be talking to an audience. In the beginning of the year I was flown out to New York, my first ever visit, to run a two hour talk on everything VR, which was one of my biggest challenges. But I did it and can’t thank you the team who sent me out there. I was asked to be on the advisory board at University of Winchester (my old uni) which was a huge deal for me, and which allowed me to give back. I was featured in The Drum’s 50 women under 30 and most recently as part of the Progress 1000, where I got to meet the mayor of London, Sadiq, and speak to him about Virtual Umbrella. I cried most of that night due to shock and honour.
On a personal level, I have been dealing with my own stress and mental health. I know that we are still not in a place where people feel comfortable talking about it in the workplace. I hope that whatever I have shared this year on mental health may have helped other people, and of course myself. Here’s to a much healthier 2018!
Wow. What a year! So much has happened, but how about 2018? We have much more to look forward to.
We will be running several events in Brighton for our official launch. We are looking forward to meeting more people and companies in the area, so keep an eye out soon for those events.
One of our biggest milestones is coming up in March 2018. Virtual Umbrella’s turns 3. Don’t worry – you’ll be invited to the party!
I think that is everything, so we want to wish you all a fantastic Christmas and New Year.
Bertie & Sammy
Virtual Umbrella Co-Founders