We talked to Olivier Pierre of Immersive Factory about solutions that allow employees to improve their skills and behaviours, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Olivier Pierre: We are coping well! Thank you for asking.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Immersive Factory.
Olivier Pierre: After graduating from ISC Business School in 1989, I held a number of executive positions during my career path, including Export Director at Servant Soft (Cegid Group), Export Director at Cryo (video game publisher), Joint Chief Director of Wanadoo Edition (Orange Group), CEO of Dreamcatcher (Canadian video game publisher) and Founding President of Bulkypix (developer of mobile games and serious games).
I co-founded Immersive Factory in 2016 with three other associates. I believe in the progress that new technologies bring for people. As I have always been interested in them, I wanted to offer solutions that allow employees to improve their skills and behaviours through the use of new immersive technologies and thus to contribute to lower the number of accidents at work. This issue is still a major one; there are, on average, 2.2 M fatal accidents per year worldwide. Occupational injuries and diseases are equivalent to 4% of the PIB! It is important to act in this field.
How does Immersive Factory innovate?
Olivier Pierre: Since 2016, Immersive Factory has been using virtual reality (VR) in its workshops and courses in order to increase the efficiency of EHS (Environment, Health and Safety) training provided by companies. Our model consists of the involvement of the apprentice in the process of his training so that he can virtually experience his mistakes, face their consequences, and improve. Such technology has a dual positive impact on both memorization and behaviours.
In addition, we are innovating by offering a broader and more inclusive online platform, accessible through multiple devices: VR headset, PC, Mac (and soon tablet and mobile). On this platform, we offer not only our range of training workshops but also online events such as training, safety days, conferences, challenges. The platform is also collaborative and interactive with features such as a personalized avatar, social hub, chat, calendar of events, etc.
We also encourage R&D through the work of our specialists working with well-known labs (CNRS, IMT Albi, Georgia Tech, …) to continue our innovation and be a reference in immersive technologies (especially VR, AR, MR, XR), serious gaming and ludo pedagogy.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finance and money?
Olivier Pierre: This worldwide pandemic has forced us to accelerate our R&D and the development of an updated version of our platform. Indeed, previous to this pandemic, all our workshops and exercises were mostly used by our large clients on-site during safety events or training. During lockdowns but also because of social distances, they have difficulties in organizing on-site these events, which are nevertheless an absolute necessity if they want to keep on reducing accidents at work. With their inputs, we decided the following pivot: transform our in-person services into full online ones, and thus created a “real” virtual campus allowing our clients to organize their events as if they were on-site but remotely.
So pandemic has affected us in two ways, we lost a significant part of our revenue and decided to invest a lot of money during the period of time on R&D in order to adapt our offer, which currently demonstrates promising traction.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Olivier Pierre: Well, fortunately, I have not needed to take drastic measures because of the decision to invest in this virtual campus. The entire company has remained employed and fully dedicated to the updated version or our platform. That could appear as a risky bet, future will tell.
Altogether, we have learned that fixed office was not an absolute necessity, despite what I honestly thought before this pandemic appeared. Such a technological pivot might even not have been possible if we were not all working from home, fully dedicated to this project, far away from day-to-day office work. We were much closer from each other in this tough period than just a few days before, working at the office.
How did your customer relation management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Olivier Pierre: We’ve been working very closely with some of our clients to create the specifications of our updated platform and in parallel sales and customer success have been completely transforming the way they interact with their contacts: no physical appointment anymore, Zoom meetings or even better meetings held within our brand new virtual campus are now the norm.
Did you benefit from any government grants and did that help keep your business afloat?
Olivier Pierre: Yes, we did. We received bank loans covered by a government guarantee. These loans shall be paid back within 4 years starting mid-22.
Your final thoughts?
Olivier Pierre: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” Nietzsche.