Podcast Transcript – Series TWO, Episode 42
Isaac Lymon, raxplay September 2021
[00:00:00] And it’s funny. I got an internship at this popular studio in Detroit and at the time I wanted to get into music production when I started like, you know, like working with a few artists, they’re like, you know, I booked some shows for them and I would set up music videos for them and you know, all this other stuff. And I’m like, oh, like, this is more so my speed. Like, I like this, you know, it’s behind the scenes. I like the pace of it. And you know, all this other stuff and the more I got deeper into it, It’s tough being an artist, you can put your everything, and then some is still no guarantee. And so it’s like, you know, you obviously have to cause you’re, you’re passionate about it.
[00:00:39] And that’s kind of what really got me thinking about it as far as, in the world like, you know, tech can play with helping artists. It’s one of the big things, especially now that I’m really big on it’s the whole idea of as far as increasing artists, earning power,
[00:00:55] What’s up Unfound Nation. Dan Kihanya here. We are back after a couple of [00:01:00] weeks off to end the summer.
[00:01:01] Thanks so much for checking out another episode of Founders Unfound. That was Isaac Lymon, Founder and CEO of Raxplay. Which enables music artists to perform live real-time concerts via virtual reality. This VR platform lets fans be front row in the VIP or backstage, all in the comfort of their own home.
[00:01:21] As the song goes, Isaac was born and raised in south Detroit. At an early stage he was called to music. It was then that he really came to appreciate the power that technology can have on the industry. And like many famous tech entrepreneurs before him, he made the tough call to pursue his startup dream instead of focusing on college. A hustled-for internship, a hackathon and a call from Google startups followed. And so Raxplay was off and running. Isaac has a great story. You’ll want to listen in.
[00:01:50] Our episode is sponsored by Aperture Venture Capital, a seed stage fund re-imagining startup investing for the multicultural mainstream. Founding partners William and Garnette [00:02:00] recently announced their inaugural $75 million first fund focused on diverse and female founders.
[00:02:06] But Aperture is double-clicking on changing the VC narrative. They also want to showcase the voices and stories of diverse entrepreneurs. Do you feel like you have a great story to tell? They want to share it aperturevc.com/founders, head over to their site, or look for a link in the show notes.
[00:02:23] And please make sure to subscribe to the podcast we’re available anywhere you get your podcasts, even YouTube. And if you like what you hear, please drop us a five-star review on Apple or at podchaser.com. It makes such a difference as we try to grow our podcast. And while you’re at it, why not tell a friend about us.
[00:02:39] Now on with the episode, stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:02:52] Hello and welcome to Founders unfound, spotlighting, the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented and [00:03:00] underestimated backgrounds. This is the latest episode in our continuing series on founders of African descent. I’m your host, Dan Kihanya. Let’s get on it.
[00:03:08] Today we have Isaac Lyman, founder and CEO of Raxplay, which enables music artists to perform live real-time concerts via virtual reality. The platform lets fans be front row, VIP, backstage, all in the comfort of their own homes. Welcome to the show isaac. We’re super excited to have you on. Thanks for making the time.
[00:03:26] Thanks, Dan. I’m super excited. Awesome.
[00:03:28] So I gave it a shot, but just in case the listeners didn’t quite get it. Why don’t you tell the listeners what is Raxplay? Exactly.
[00:03:35] So Raxplay’s an immersive music company. We enable music artists to perform live for real-time concerts in VR. The pretty cool thing about it is, you know, you’re in a virtual environment.
[00:03:46] And, you know, as a fan, you have an avatar, you can be front row backstage, VIP, rather you’re at home or friends or whatever, but it’s pretty cool. Cause you know, we’re what we’re building is a world within itself. [00:04:00]
[00:04:00] It’s so amazing to think about what the future is going to be for things like this. So we’ll dig more into what Raxplay is in a little bit, but let’s hear first a little bit about you.
[00:04:09] Where’d you grow up? Where are you from?
[00:04:15] I grew up by like 20 minutes south of, uh, the Detroit. So born and raised there, I recently moved out to LA about six months ago is plenty, uh, you know, with COVID and everything going on. The day that I went, it was the day that they issued locked down in order here in a new city, new place. And nothing is open.
[00:04:37] So, you know, you’ve spent a lot of time walking around the block and like, oh, that’s a CVS. Like, that’s cool. You know? So
[00:04:47] there, wasn’t a lot of exploring in the first two months, but yeah, born and raised in Detroit and, you know, with the recent growth in tragedy with Raxlpay it makes sense, Moving out here being that we are a, [00:05:00] we are a tech company, we’re a music tech company. So, so it made a lot of sense to be out here being that a lot of the partners, a lot of our partners, customers and investors, we’re all out here.
[00:05:11] So let me ask you, did you grow up down river?
[00:05:13] So I actually grew up in Bellville. Which is not too far from Ann Arbor. And if you’re a Michigan fan or a U of M fan, then, then you’re familiar with Ann Arbor. But I grew up not too far from Ann Arbor. It was a small lake town, like whatever you imagined, you know, your small Midwest town, that was pretty much Bellville.
[00:05:33] So it was pretty cool though. You know, I enjoy my time.
[00:05:37] I actually lived in Michigan for several years. I worked for Ford. And so I lived in Ann Arbor and went to work in Dearborn. So I go by Bellville every day. Well, that’s great. So tell us a little bit more though. Do you have brothers and sisters? So
[00:05:50] I am actually the second child. I have an older sister. I have a older sister, Alexis, he three years voted, uh, older than I am a younger brother who was 15 months. [00:06:00] We we’re pitting months apart. And then, uh, I have a babysitter who. Uh, there’s four of us. We’re all pretty close. Uh, it’s funny. Um, the other day, my older sister just got engaged and it was, you know, this whole big ordeal because, you know, we come from a really big family, like on my mother’s side.
[00:06:18] Now my mother is ninth child. So. It’s a whole army of aunties.
[00:06:26] So you can only imagine what, like the last two days has been since, you know, since they all found out that she shot him engaged, I was talking to her fiance. I’m like, man, I hope you’re ready because this a wedding man.
[00:06:38] Um, so they were all like, you know, this is not a drill. This is not a drill. Let’s go into wedding mode. That’s funny. So growing up, did you have any, yeah, we also explore. Did you feel like entrepreneurship was something, even if you didn’t know what that word was, did entrepreneurship appeal to you or what did you think that you wanted to do as you were growing up?
[00:06:59] So [00:07:00] that’s a really good question. So I like to say I have a non-traditional background, you know, working in tech, but it’s funny for me, like going a whole like entrepreneurial route was a no brainer.
[00:07:12] My father actually ran a cleaning service. You know, at night, go out and, you know, clean restaurants and all that stuff. And you know, that was how he was able to put food on the table. And he instilled in my brother and I like, Hey, like, do you want something you’re going to have to work for it. So that was like a new pair of shoes or, you know, whatever it, whatever it may be is, you know, you have to work for them.
[00:07:33] I remember vividly over the summer, my brother and I will always go to work with our dad and try to traveling across the state. Once winter hit my brother and I, we really enjoy winter the winter time because they need snow and snow me snow days and snow days need money because we have a God and we have several snow.
[00:07:53] And it is funny. It is. That’s kind of like where my, I guess you could say like Mirabai entrepreneurial [00:08:00] drive came from it, which is super cool. And like, at the time I was like, man, I don’t want to do this. You know, uh, when, you know, it’s like it’s two in the morning and you’re like scrubbing forward and squeegeeing and mopping and all that other fun stuff.
[00:08:12] But, uh, it instilled in me what I needed to do it instilled in me. What was necessary for me to do what I’m doing right now, as I got older, started looking at different things that I wanted to do. And, you know, for me, it was a no brainer because I always loved music, music, business. I’m gonna get into the music business.
[00:08:35] So tell us a little bit about that. Tell us how did music become a passion?
[00:08:40] You know, the young 13, 14 year old, uh, music’s my life super passive, but you know, that, that was me. And it, it was funny growing up, I was on the wrestling team, believe it or not. So I was on the wrestling team and you know, that was pretty much what I did, you know, day in and day out.
[00:08:57] And we had a keyboard. I [00:09:00] started messing around with that. I’m like, oh, this is cool. Then I got a guitar. I started playing around with. A couple of my press Ned had a bass or a drum set. Yeah. And I’m like, I want to go into music and test for like, you know, four or five years later, I’m in school. I’m an adult.
[00:09:17] Now. It’s funny. I got an internship at this popular studio in Chile and time I wanted to get into a music product. And when I started, like, you know, like working with a few artists, they’re like, you know, I booked some shows for them and I have a set of music, videos for them and you know, all this other stuff.
[00:09:36] And I’m like, oh, this is more so my feet, like, I like this, you know, it was behind the scenes. I like the pace of it. And you know, all this other stuff and the more I got deeper into it, I’m like, it’s tough being a nurse Watson. You can put your everything, and then some is still no guarantee. And so it’s like, you know, you obviously have to cause you’re, you’re passionate about [00:10:00] it.
[00:10:00] And that’s kind of what really got me thinking about it as far as in the world that like, you know, tech can play with helping artists is one of the big things, especially now that I’m really. Is the whole idea of, as far as creasing artists, earning power nowadays, there’s a lot of focus on as an artist.
[00:10:18] You can make money here. You can make money here. You can make money there. You can also make money, you know, like over there, which is cool and all, but what’s going on with the actual earning power, you know, when it comes down to the revenue per stream, We can break into that, or as far as, you know, branding dollars or merchandising dollars and you know, all these other opportunities for artists to monetize, but I think there should be a better focus on actual earning power and increasing that earning power is one of the big things that I’m keen on.
[00:10:49] And I think one of the best ways to do so, which led to the problem of, ofRaxplay’s through new technology and new experience.
[00:10:59] It makes a [00:11:00] lot of sense in that. And I’m sure that the exposure to the industry helped, you know, kind of reveal like, Hey, this there’s some opportunities to do some new things there. I’m curious though, like how did you get this internship? I think a lot of people are always curious sort of how. You know, it sounds like it was a very big event, you know, ultimately in your sort of career trajectory and your, and the origins of Raxplay, but like, did you apply for it?
[00:11:24] Were you selected for it? Like how did it come about that you ended up at this, uh, high cache studio?
[00:11:31] Yeah. So it’s actually funny. I remember a friend telling you about the studio. I’m like, oh man, like this sounds really cool, you know? And I’m like, you know, I’m going to go ahead and apply. I applied, I didn’t hear anything back.
[00:11:45] So I called and a guy there named Lamar, you know, he picked up the phone like, no, who is this? I’m like, Hey, this is, you know, I think when I’m in Philly, Application, you know, for the internship and you know, this, that, and third. And I was like, all right, man, like, you know, forgot the day of the time that they [00:12:00] told me to come through for the interview, but I did.
[00:12:02] And it went well when they initially had you doing great work, which is cool. So, I mean, you were cleaning. Like the first four months, you had to earn your keep. So, oh, it’s brought you back to the days that I was, you know, working with our dad or what I was working with my dad and, you know, we are, we are cleaning and stuff like that.
[00:12:20] So it was cool. But eventually they started showing me like the roads and started meeting, like the who’s who’s and you know, the Detroit music scene. And I started to pick up, but like, oh, so like, this is how. No, I’ll even, you know, ease drought, you know, some of the conversations that we’ll be hearing and, you know, all that other stuff.
[00:12:37] So that’s pretty much how I was able to learn that. But you’re right though. Like it really did serve as, yeah. It really did serve as a launch pad part of where I’m at now and pretty much put me on the path that I’m currently on right now.
[00:12:51] I’m hearing definitely this, basically this entrepreneurial hustle, like picking up the phone and I’ll be honest. I think my kids would [00:13:00] be like, oh, well I didn’t get the job. Or somebody else got the job. I mean, to be proactive and say, let me call and see what’s going on and get the job and then to come in and be humble and hungry enough to be sort of like, okay, I’ll just keep doing things. Keep. Take in what I can take in and look for opportunities to do more to me. That’s, they’re all part of the start up recipes to have sort of those hustle genes, where your parents encouraging about music and our business. Did they want you to like go to school and become a doctor or anything? Or did they say do what you want?
[00:13:36] So it’s funny. Both of my parents, they were both super supportive of me doing what I’m doing and, you know, a positive, like a real old school guy, you know, he refers to me as bull headache, bullheaded.
[00:13:49] And so it was just like, oh yeah, I know you want to do what you want to do when it’s all said and done. So make sure that like you cover your bases. [00:14:00] And so they knew I was passionate about rags play and with what I was doing. And I mean, it was one thing to be passionate and it’s another thing to actually put in the work.
[00:14:10] So they saw I was putting in the work and I’m like, all right, like we’re serious about this. There was a point in time when I was in school and I had a whole career plan and all this other stuff, and I’m like, oh, I want to do music. I know it sounds crazy, but not a good idea. Like I’ve looked up, you know, don’t get me wrong.
[00:14:29] I’ve worked hard, but I’ve definitely looked up as well. I believe everybody’s situation is different. And you know, like when I was looking at the pros and cons at the time, the pros made sense. And like now the, you know, like it’s definitely paying off. But one of the things I personally know by dropping out of college and thinking like everything is going to be like, Rainbows and sunshine, but by I’m thankful for like the path that I am on and all the stuff that, you know, you’re able to accomplish, you know, the
[00:14:59] That’s great. [00:15:00] And we’re going to hear more about that path for sure, but we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back with Isaac Lymon from Raxplay.
[00:15:07] I love that I’m building something most importantly, that really matters, and that can change the world in a very relevant and necessary way.
[00:15:15] By being able to run my own business and be able to write my own checks as a lot of Americans would like to be able to do. I want to be able to be a bright shining example of exactly how to make that happen.
[00:15:27] Hi we’re William and Garnet. Founding partners of Aperture Venture Capital, VC for the multicultural mainstream. Aperture is a $75 million seed stage fund, re-imagining the startup landscape for diverse and female founders. If you’re listening to this amazing podcast, you already know diverse and female founders have largely been ignored by the VC industry. Aperture’s making it our mission. We want to elevate those voices. So if you’re a diverse founder, we want to showcase your story. Come share your voice, and your founder’s journey at aperturevc.com/founders. [00:16:00] That’s A P E R T U R E V C dotcom forward slash founders. Thank you very much.
[00:16:08] So we’re back with Isaac, from Raxplay. So, Isaac, I want to delve a little bit before we get interacts play, you mentioned this idea of going to school and have a career plan.
[00:16:18] Like what was that? And when was the deciding moment when you said, okay, I’m just going to go do Raxplay. Instead of that career plan?
[00:16:26] So I was going to school and you didn’t agree in finance. I wanted to get into this part as like the whole like baking world at the Tai. I feel like it’s weird. Cause uh, you know, Like people like, oh, I have a passion for finance the second and third, I’m like, no, I want to make a lot of money, which is funny.
[00:16:45] Cause you know, I was 19 at the time. I’m 23. Now I’ll be 24 this year. But I was thinking I’m like, I don’t feel comfortable with living with the wood is hanging over my head and my rationale at the time, I’m like, Hey, [00:17:00] the amount of time is going to take me to like build rags play. It’s like the same amount of time.
[00:17:06] Going to school working your way up, you know, working your way up, got a job for me. I’m like, it is going to take like the same amount of time. So if I’m like, you know, putting in the word, putting the word as something that I really do love and enjoy, which was the music business, really yummy, deep into the music.
[00:17:25] Yeah, I’m a keen believer in building what you’re passionate about, even though like, you know, super cliche, I’m a very purpose oriented person. And, you know, I, I feel this was more in line with like my overall purpose, but that’s pretty much how it happened. You know, again, my whole rationale was like, well, I was to probably think the same amount of time.
[00:17:45] So tell us when was the moment when you said, okay, I’m gonna make this a business and I’m going to go for it.
[00:17:51] So it’s funny. I spent a lot of time tinkering around summer 2018, all the way to summer 2019 summer 2019 is [00:18:00] when Raxplay was actually founded. Or I got into an accelerator specifically for college age students at the time and the accelerator focused on the whole lean startup model.
[00:18:11] So the accelerator is specifically for the customer discovery process interviewing potential customers. Right. Deal customer and finding out are you even solving real problems before you establish your value proposition? And when I got into that accelerator, that’s actually, when I met my co-founder Carlos, Carlos Shields Davis. At the time, you know, I was tinkering around with like a music streaming music, networking needed community media with I’m happy it didn’t go through looking back because it wouldn’t lead to where we’re at right now. Carlos is focusing on this whole like VR social lab and like instantly like Carlos and I, we just clicked because we’re weird. Like we’re two different people. Uh, it’s funny. [00:19:00] Cause I, Carlos is like, you’re like stoic and you know, all this other stuff and YAG like, Hey, how you doing?
[00:19:05] And personality wise, you just clicked like work styles. Like we just clicked. And when he and I got together, we were like, okay, like, it’s time for us to like really double down, we got something here.
[00:19:18] That’s so important. I mean, when you find a, you know, a partner, I mean, startups can be, it’s kind of a team sport. Right. And having somebody who’s like, oh yeah, I get it too. And we can make this big can definitely be energizing and catalyzing to taking that big step.
[00:19:35] Yeah. I actually remember the date June 2nd, 2019. And it was funny shout out to Techtown Detroit because Techtown Detroit are the ones behind that accelerator program. I like to consider Techtown as our home base and if they gave us space to work and all this other stuff, and there’s a lot to do, there’s a lot of mentoring.
[00:19:56] That we still work with to this day, all the guys TechTown, but [00:20:00] Carlos and I, we meet pretty much this hammering ate out every day. They’re over there at tech town and we had just get on a whiteboard. There there’s a lot of room for opportunity when it comes to music and VR, you know, live concerts is just one segment of that.
[00:20:15] So pretty much we were hammering out as far as, you know, what rack foot would be a few weeks later. Uh, uh, there was this hackathon, uh, sponsored by Bose and Capitol Records, which is really cool, Carlos. And I were like, oh, this is perfect. Cause you know, being a VR or music tech company, I mean, they were doing AR, but like, Hey, like, you know, immersive technology and music, like, Hey, you need to check this out. And we went ahead and did it. And that was probably the most stressful, uh, cause you still joke about it to this day, but that was probably the most stressful 48 hours of our life, that particular weekend. I mean that whole process, we actually ended up meeting our CTO, Norvell, Norvell Robinson. You ended up joining our team after the hackathon, because me and a placing in third place.
[00:20:59] But [00:21:00] it’s funny because we didn’t really have the best hardware mind. You were about like 80, 90% done with the build. You know, somebody walks over it and the laptop get some plugged and the laptop completely restart. I mean, like clean slate now we got to start over. It was terrible. When one of the guys, you know, walked around.
[00:21:23] And. What have you guys been doing all the time? You guys are supposed to be prepared and probably put it bluntly. It was pretty rude. I, it was funny that like, there is still teams to the day or people from these till the day light and how you saw the, to you guys like that. Wasn’t right. Cause like we were the.
[00:21:42] You’re like the old group of young black dudes there. Hey, you know, just the way he was talking through like, yo, this isn’t cool. And I remember that experience, you know, I was trying to be a good sport, so I took it on the chin and it’s funny. Cause you know, like Carlos, Carlos, Carlos is not [00:22:00] talking to me.
[00:22:00] Hey Carlos. Carlos is just going about his business,
[00:22:05] I’m keen on treating people with respect. So it was like when you got to be literally people. I don’t think that’s cool. There’s always a better way to communicate or solve problems, but ultimately we’re working through it. And which, I mean by that, like, oh, you spent that entire night working until three in the morning and getting the project back together.
[00:22:21] And then that morning, that Sunday morning we got back together and up taking third place. And then you continue working with the most AR team for like about six months, all of a sudden, like prototyping stuff and things of that nature before that six months that accelerated program finish. And we ended up winning a 15 K grant, did a pitch competition.
[00:22:43] So we ended up placing in first place, 15 K grant, and they came along the whole like G beta music, tech accelerator, and backed by Capitol records. The whole capital in both things was in partnership with the G beta music tech accelerator. The whole purpose of that [00:23:00] hackathon was pretty much to like identify teams that they can get in their accelerator.
[00:23:04] And so two months later we, you know, continue working with both on the AR project. And then we also started working with capital, did a few live activations, tidying up our business model. The rarely got it inside. One as far as in like how the industry really works and the nuts and bolts.
[00:23:23] So that’s a great story. That’s a great arc. And I, I hear a lot of building conscientiously and trying to ensure, you know, that, like you said, the discoveries there, the product, the tech, it’s all aligning and creating momentum as a team, which is an awesome, awesome story. But tell us a little more detailed about how Raxplay works, like what does it actually do? And give us a kind of a use case of how does the, uh, out there in the world
[00:23:49] Pretty much. if you are a person who owns the VR headset, pretty much, you go like the breakfast, popcorn, and CA’s Fargo, whatever mailable [00:24:00] shelters out there, you are made aware of a like ahead of time. So really what it looks like, oh, like this artist it’s time when you put on this headset, watch this show on the artist side, which is really cool.
[00:24:16] Like we’re working through all the tech writing. Well on the artist’s side, you know, nearest competitors in this space, that’s also operating mode. One of the things that we really pride ourselves on with that line, we are operating in real time and you’re operating . So the artist has a full-on motion capturing suits, where you capture the movements, facial expressions, liberating hand tracking the whole nine yards.
[00:24:44] And pretty much we, we track all of that. And so all of that information goes to the artist avatar or the mocap system is great for the artists that we are. And as artists and singing and dancing the fans pretty much, they’re just watching that happen in [00:25:00] real time. One of the things that I personally think is really cool about.
[00:25:03] This is the whole idea that when you’re in the environment, you know, you can be. 2,500 miles away from, you know, one of your best friends and you guys are in your avatars right next to each other. You can take a photo NVR and they’re like posting it on why? Like, Hey, I’m at so-and-so concert. And I think that idea is like this crazy.
[00:25:26] We live in a world already where, you know, We exist on the internet, but I think that just kind of takes it to a new level. And so from the user standpoint, you know, as you mentioned, there’s actually like a VIP, like area where you can get into this also a backstage area that we’re currently working through, where you can actually meet the artists.
[00:25:47] And I think it was like really cool when you can go and take a photo with a 30 foot, whoever the artists may be. I was like, Hey, like this is me. And so-so like, see, [00:26:00] like check it out. I think that whole idea is cool. One of the big things that we’re really doubling down on, no, the idea of, you know, virtual goods and, you know, the value that virtual good pretty much like, you know, there can be value for virtual goods in the virtual world, but really we want people to realize these values of virtual goods in the real world.
[00:26:22] And that’s one of the things that we’re really working. Well, that’s pretty much how it works, where you put on the headset, you watch the show live with friends, there’s little activities you can do before the show. The effect can be, she can do after the show, we’re working on archiving, all our shows. So after the fact, you can only go back to these particular content and there’s some things that we’re looking to do in that particular print.
[00:26:45] That’s pretty much direct book concert experience you put on the headset, you know, you watch your favorite artists.
[00:26:51] And the business model is basically parallels to the in-person experience, right? With tickets and merchandise and [00:27:00] experiences that are for sale.
[00:27:01] So to speak, you know, long-term pretty much seeing a virtual concerts, you know, being our bookstore, you know, where, you know, Amazon, they started out with books and then eventually they moved on to it.
[00:27:13] As far as areas that that kind of complimented what they already do. And long-term, we’re looking to do something similar. The road is opening back up when we hear it all the time. Oh, so the roads opening back up, like, what does this mean? Corrects play. And, you know, our seed round would be closed out of had a dollar for how many times I’ve heard that.
[00:27:34] But it’s funny when we look at our market positioning, we don’t really see ourselves competing with, uh, you know, in-person concerts. If you look at the overall experience that we’re looking to do. But I say that to say it’s concepts, it’s simply our first step, but really the long-term play is where we’re exploit is a platform that just holds pretty much, you know, artists experiences.
[00:27:54] So rather that is concerts. And if Ts particular like pop points, you know, within your career, like [00:28:00] you go into a specific artists gallery and you can find it all there. And that’s the long-term play of practice.
[00:28:08] Uh, it makes sense. And, uh, it’s a great vision and I think you’re right, right. I think sometimes people just have this knee jerk before COVID or when COVID was happening.
[00:28:16] Like all those things are going to disappear. So if you have a company in travel or events, you’re dead. Right. And then post COVID people are saying, well, if you were in the VR, virtual and digital world, that’s all going to go away and neither is true. Right. I mean, we’re living in a hybrid world. Yeah.
[00:28:34] There’s going to be opportunities for all of that. So that’s. Well, we’re going to take another short break and we’ll be right back with Isaac lemon from Rex.
[00:28:41] I love that I’m building something most importantly, that really matters, and that can change the world in a very relevant and necessary way.
[00:28:50] Being able to run my own business and be able to write my own checks as a lot of Americans would like to be able to do. I want to be able to be a bright shining example of exactly [00:29:00] how to make that happen.
[00:29:01] Hi, we’re William and Garnet, founding partners of Aperture Venture Capital, VC for the multicultural mainstream. Aperture’s a $75 million seed stage fund, re-imagining the startup landscape for diverse and female founders. If you’re listening to this amazing podcast, you already know diverse and female founders have largely been ignored by the VC industry. Aperture’s making it our mission. We want to elevate those voices. So if you’re a diverse founder, we want to showcase your story. Come share your voice and your founder’s journey at aperturevc.com/founders. That’s A P E R T U R E V C dotcom forward slash founders. Thank you very much.
[00:29:42] Okay, so we’re back with Isaac Lyman from Raxplay. So Isaac, tell me, what’s the big hurdle for a business like this?
[00:29:49] Is it getting the artists? Is it getting the fans? Is it the technology? What has been sort of the biggest challenge? If you can say that one is bigger than others, but what’s [00:30:00] been some of the biggest challenges for this so far?
[00:30:02] Yes. I think what’s the biggest challenge here is thinking, as far as all of the hurdles, all the little hurdles are interlinked with each other, so you can’t really have one without the other.
[00:30:11] And so navigating that is a challenge in itself. And I think that’s the biggest thing. So far we’re we’re, we’re doing pretty good in regards to like, navigating that, like to give you an example, VRA like mainstream, roughly around 2015. And there’s a lot of VCs. I got burned initially when, you know, VR companies first got into the scene.
[00:30:33] Right. And so, you know, we’ve asked for now, you know, five years later, the market looks a lot different than what it did back then. So I think that. It is a challenge. It can be a challenge at times, but you know, I’m more so along the philosophy of like, if you’re not a believer, I’m not really in the business of converting you either.
[00:30:53] You’re a mind or you’re not. So I’ll leave you are you. And in time you’ll come around, but [00:31:00] I’m going to go where the believers are. And so that within itself is not a major challenge, but getting artists is not really that hard. People may think it’s a pretty interesting process. I will say that I think the biggest challenge is as far as all of these particular hurdles are all interlinked to each other.
[00:31:18] So navigating it can be hard.
[00:31:21] Interesting. And I’m curious your thoughts since you’re deep in this industry, if you had to guess, you know, are we two or three years, five years, 10 years. How far away we from VR without a headset?
[00:31:34] We definitely got some time, sorry that we are without a heads or we’re looking at it at least, you know, late 2020s, early 2030s. Because, I mean, we look at farther like VR headsets. I mean, you know, a lot of companies are still working through it as far as how to make the headsets comfortable and, you know, figuring out is hard and how you can get more bandwidth, you know, out of the 10 sets and, you know, making them smaller and, you know, things of that nature.
[00:31:59] So a [00:32:00] lot of companies are still working in those particular sets of problems. So we got a nice eight or nine years for that to come into coalition. But in the meantime, You know what we’re going to really start thinking that VR and AR technologies is really going to become like a lot more comfortable.
[00:32:16] So people look at the quest headset right out in the market. If I remember correctly, it’s like a little over 3 million units that start really circling in the market right now. Uh, it launched in October of 2020, which is not bad. So we are seeing these updates happen in real time and the progress being made.
[00:32:36] Yeah. That’s helpful. And you know, I think about my journey around mobile and there was this gradual adoption. Right. And then the iPhone came out and it kind of took another leap. So VR’s still in that early stage.
[00:32:50] Yeah. It’s actually crazy that you brought that up. I remember. No. It was like early on. I was pretty started riding to, but reading this analyst [00:33:00] and it made a comparison to mobile devices and VR devices.
[00:33:03] One of the crazy things for me, like, you know, you definitely do have your naysayers about VR and again, I’m not really in the business of converting non-believers into believers but if you look at the hard numbers year over year, and it tells a very clear story, as far as the, what is happening here in the market.
[00:33:24] And you’re not as entirely what I believe in, regardless of what you may believe, these numbers tell a very clear story that VR has not only the growing market is growing and sustainable. And you know, this is a market where you need to pay attention to it is here to stay. And I think what we’re seeing right now, we’re seeing all these bits and pieces, popping. Like, you know, popping up and within the next few years are really going to start coming together. But you know, like again, the hard numbers paint a very clear story in regard to this part in the growth of VR hardware and overall the [00:34:00] adoption of VR technology. And I mean, this specifically in regards to just even outside of, you know, use cases outside of gaming, but I think one of the big initiatives more, well, one of the big push, as far as affordable VR. No, you’re building use cases outside of gaming, you know, to go ahead and, you know, reach mass adoption and, you know yeah. You know, go ahead and, you know, reach mass adoption. And
[00:34:25] That makes sense. Wow. You really know this business. That’s great. Thanks for sharing that. I want to switch gears a little bit. I want to hear a little bit about Google and how all that came together.
[00:34:37] Uh, they emailed me like a week before we actually sat down and they reached out to you. Yeah. Saying like, Hey, like you made it to the final round for this grant. And I remember getting an email. I’m like, no, I don’t remember doing an application, but I’m gonna take this phone. So, [00:35:00] no, I was confused. So like, I’m like, Hey, I didn’t do an application.
[00:35:06] I made it to the final round. So I’m going to take the call at least to just see what they’re talking about. And, you know, they were asking me questions, uh, you know, about Raxplay and what were the next steps? So the funds for, and they say, Hey, we already made our decision. Like here’s $50,000. I’m like, oh, wow. So it really caught me off guard. Cause I was not expecting that.
[00:35:28] So wait a minute, Isaac, a bunch of people going to listen to this and say, It’s like you found a wallet in the street full of money. Like you just got lucky and this avenue it’s gotta be some connections. Like somebody nominated you or that, or Jewel was your neighbor or something, or like, there’s gotta be some story behind the story.
[00:35:47] It’s funny, I’m pretty sure somebody nominated us. I mean somebody had nominated it. I’m pretty sure it had to be somebody at TechTown or, or another organization direct play was affiliated with. I [00:36:00] wish I actually knew who nominated us. I wanted to thank you. Unfortunately, I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll find out. And so it was a surprise. It was a good surprise.
[00:36:10] Yeah. Yeah, it was like a surprise. And one of the reasons being, you know, be a young black teen from Detroit non-traditional backgrounds, you know, it’s a different ball game that you’re playing when it comes to the whole fundraising process. So, you know, with Google head, it was pretty much the money’s one thing, but.
[00:36:30] Really what it did. Was it pretty much validated that, Hey, these guys are legit with the building on is legit. Like this is something that you need to pay attention to. And it really opened up doors for us to, you know, hit some of the goals that we’ve been looking to hit within the last six months. So, you know, the planning and self, you know, really enabled us to do so.
[00:36:50] And it’s something that I’m super, super, super, like thankful for. If I’m being honest, I do feel like that there’s like a lot of lip service when it comes down to. Oh, we want to help [00:37:00] black founders. You know, what percent of venture capital goes to well, black founders, we need to do something about it.
[00:37:06] Let’s do something about it and then like nothing I’ve done. So it’s really cool to see like jewel and like Joey and like goodie nation and Google, like know really step in and we want to step in and we’re going to actually make something happen. And so I very much appreciate it. And I think even now, like we’re starting to see like, Like, you know, emerging managers, you know, started to come up and we’re starting to see different funds.
[00:37:34] Maybe it’s my lack of experience. But as far as I’m concerned, I, I know the whole venture industry is built on the idea of this part of an outlier results. And I mean, The whole method behind it is pattern matching. If we’re really trying to get into the nitty gritty of it, it’s pretty much like, Hey, we’re homeboys come up with your company and we’ll see what’s going to happen.
[00:37:55] And, you know, I just don’t, I just don’t see that being a good method. And [00:38:00] so which I’m sure we go dive into that, but you know, that’s just my 2 cents.
[00:38:06] How do you think about fundraising? Like in terms of timing, in terms of what kind of investors you’re looking for? Like you said, you moved to LA, which makes a lot of sense.
[00:38:14] That’s entertainment, you know, sort of Mecca and some of the venture folks or investors are affiliated in those spaces, but how do you think about fundraising kind of philosophically, I guess.
[00:38:26] So there’s definitely a few thoughts that I have. So like again, someone like myself that kind of goes for like a non traditional background, I realized really this whole idea of storytelling and need a strong narrative, this then third.
[00:38:39] And, you know, that’s nice to have, but like we have to show, or I take a team like ours, we have to. You can actually execute on a product. They get teach yourself in your national game. Really good people on our team. I mean, really good people. Hey, we can, you know, we can get, you know, [00:39:00] LOI from, you know, this company, you know, that company.
[00:39:02] And, you know, we really have to like double down on that. And so, which is cool. Cause I mean, I bet in a day, like eight is about, can this company generate outside return for my fun. I mean, that is a ball game at the end of the day. But to be honest, I really do feel as if it’s a lot of, you know, or the whole idea of like it’s a dark time.
[00:39:23] There’s a, like a lot of that when it comes to like this fund raising and stuff like that, I mean, I’ve heard people say, you know, the best founders, you know, they don’t need a pitch decorate slide. I sit on that statement and I was like, huh, it must be nice. So here’s the thing, right? I’m not one to complain.
[00:39:39] Like I, wasn’t the one like, Hey, like I’m always going to get in on my own and I’m going to do what I have to do to get from point a to point B. So like I’m not really complaining. I mean, you can get it how you live, but on the flip side, I’ll be lying. If there wasn’t a sentence. Where I’m like, clearly, like the same metrics should be applied all around.
[00:39:57] You know, if I’ll give you like, like a brutally [00:40:00] honest example, you know, I remember like in 2019 we were looking to raise and we missed a lot of time trying to, you know, try to raise more funds a lot of time trying to raise for funds. And pretty much was like, Hey, you guys are too early. Come back to us.
[00:40:14] Even though we had like, you know, like Layla’s in index, like, Hey, like we’re looking to shift our whole marketing budget to like this specific area. You know, all this other stuff. And you know, here we are two years later, you know, you have like clients that’ll look, you dead in your eye. Hey, it’s been like two years.
[00:40:29] So why go have a product? Cause we’ve been told we were too early last week. And then you go back and look through your eyes until you’re too early. It’s like, I don’t sit too well with me, but that’s another conversation or another moment in time. I don’t know. I do believe there’s a lot of good inventor industry.
[00:40:46] I do believe there’s a lot of good people working in the venture industry, and I believe there’s a lot of good change happening in the venture industry, which we’re all seeing right now, right now in real time, the whole idea of signaling, you know, I think that’s [00:41:00] just crap either. You know, you’re building a really good company and there’s a really good team behind it, all that other stuff.
[00:41:06] Keeping it real. I like it. So one of the questions we like to ask is, you know, sort of the go back in time and let’s say the version of Isaac that was kind of maybe before your internship. So you like just before a year, like trying to enter into this world and eventually become an entrepreneur. If this Isaac could go back and talk to that, Isaac, what advice would you give him?
[00:41:30] What to look out for? What to do, what not to do.
[00:41:33] Oh, I think first and foremost, you know, I was just like, Hey man, like stay the course, whatever you do, stay the course, you know, like, hold the line. But I’m putting before I met Carlos, I actually did try like the whole music tape idea with another team and actually learned a lot, you know, full transparency just through that whole experience.
[00:41:55] Hey, like, you know, when you build a team that these are the things that you want to [00:42:00] look for. Build a team with people that, you know, that compliment your skillset. I’m always being like keen on the whole, like ideas as part of and where you double down on something and you know, you bring other specialists there.
[00:42:14] I think it’s relevant to like an early team. Cause I know like these people it’s like, oh, everybody should be like a generalist, but you know, to each his own, I really drive in that whole. Keep your head low and just keep doing what you’re doing. Like I’m pretty keen on that. Like just staying under the radar, which is funny.
[00:42:28] Cause like now this day and you’re like sweating, cause everybody’s like, oh, I found this, build an audience on Twitter and yeah.
[00:42:36] Yeah, the social media, right? Yeah. It was a pressure to, to have a, like he said, like, it’s kind of like do your day to day out loud on Twitter and Instagram.
[00:42:45] If you know me in real life things, that’s always been my philosophy, but I would tell myself, yeah, like just stick to that and just stay the course and stay humble. Stay hungry, stay focused. I definitely [00:43:00] bumped my head a few times. I definitely like that. When you get on, you know, this corner right here, slow down, check and approach it like this, you know, hopefully he’ll listen. I think he would, I don’t know.
[00:43:13] Yeah. It’s hard to say, isn’t it. Although if you came and talked to me, I would be listening cause you’ve done some things.
[00:43:19] So tell us how Unfound Nation, our audience, how can we give us a call to action? How can we be helpful to you or to Raxplay.
[00:43:27] So we are within the next 90 days, our pers VR concert will be going live, which is pretty, pretty exciting. A lot of hardware to get here. We we’ve done like a lot of the building are ready now.
[00:43:39] It’s just more so artists sign and you know, other stuff. So be on the lookout for that. Uh, you could follow myself on Twitter @Isaaclymon, pretty straight forward. I S A A C L Y M O N, then most importantly, follow Raxplay on Twitter as well [00:44:00] for any and all dates. And that is raxplayxr, and then just being able to look up for Raxplay. Our whole mission, and it’s cliche because I feel as if it’s cliche, right? Cause like a lot of companies, our mission is to, you know, change the world and this, that, and third, and you know, and it’s not really changing the world. Our mission for excellent mission is to empower the digital artists. And, you know, that’s the core of that.
[00:44:28] Like we believe in our higher level of creativity, you know? And so we think immersive technology is really gonna open up the door of a new way to tell stories and new way to share our new way to experience art. And we want to provide the tools. For this high level creativity, I think it will be a really, really cool conversation.
[00:44:49] It can get pretty, left-field like really started diving into as hard as some of these ideas, but I mean, there’s just some really sick VR artists out there. That’s yeah. Just be on the lookout for Raxplay.
[00:44:59] I love it. [00:45:00] And I can’t believe we’re already at the end of our time. This has been so awesome. Isaac, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.
[00:45:06] This was a super, super cool, so very excited that you had the chance to do this. Yeah, this is pretty cool. I really did enjoy it.
[00:45:13] Good. Good. Well, that’s what we aim to do, right? This is conversation and, you know, it’s allows you to showcase all the greatness.
[00:45:19] So thank you again. We really appreciate it.
[00:45:24] We’d like to thank our guests, Isaac Lymon, and our sponsor Aperture Venture Capital.
[00:45:29] This podcast was produced by yours truly Dan Kihanya.
[00:45:32] Additional audio editing and production by We Edit Podcasts.
[00:45:36] Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento. That’s listened T-O. And follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn @foundersunfound.
[00:45:49] Thanks so much for tuning in.
[00:45:51] I am Dan Kihanyaand you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.[00:46:00]