First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Leo Tsimmer: Thank you. I am doing fine and cautiously optimistic.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded VR World.
Leo Tsimmer: I tried virtual reality for the first time in 2017. A minute later, I have put down the headset and said: “Going forward, mankind will live, learn and have fun in VR and related technologies.” Given my operational and real estate background, I intuitively felt the opportunity – unlike our grandparents, who would go bowling or shoot darts at the bar. This is the time to leverage emerging mixed reality (MR) tech to create a new form of consumer entertainment in retail and at home.
How does VR World innovate?
Leo Tsimmer: We innovate by putting people first, technology second. It’s all about user experience and an emotional journey that is complex and fascinating. We think of MR as the most immersive medium known to man, and this puts us in a position to entertain our audiences with mixed reality in new and complex ways. We transcend the boundaries between gaming, music, and art, creating one seamless experience.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Leo Tsimmer: Operating at 25% capacity and other NYC restrictions are extremely challenging. Luckily, we are one of the very few surviving entertainment companies in the industry. As for the workflow changes, there wasn’t much to adjust. VR World’s been a leader in the hygienic LBE segment from inception. Our multilevel design layout with partitioned spaces is conducive to social distancing. From the pilot opening in 2017, we have been the only company with mandatory masks for the headset. Add to this futuristic design with chemical-lab like epoxy flooring, the UV cleaning chamber, and antibacterial cleaning supplies – all of these elements are part of our DNA pre-COVID. More on what we are doing is here.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Leo Tsimmer: Downsizing and letting go of the people you really care for is never easy.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and VR World in the future?
Leo Tsimmer: I am fortunate to have a loving wife and super-kids. Other than that: I am concentrating on our digital platform, polishing my sourdough baking skills and beekeeping to meditate and restore.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Leo Tsimmer: COVID-19 is a great catalyst for the entertainment industry, further accelerating movement to all things digital. Our competitors are companies focusing on consumers at home. We believe life is larger than being stuck at the house glued to the screen or inside the headset. On the other hand, the days for any physical retail brand without a digital twin are numbered. Our goal is to connect digital and real-life entertainment into one seamless continuum where the story never ends. We are working on this digital twin, massively exciting and emotionally rewarding, just like fun in real life should be.
Your final thoughts?
Leo Tsimmer: A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. (Winston Churchill)