One year of overcoming boundaries with WeAre
WeAre was founded as a project in the Innovation Hub of innogy and was spun off in October 2017 as an independent GmbH. At the time, the founders – Maximilian Noelle and Marvin Tekautschitz – dealt with the question of what the mobility concepts of the future would look like. Their insight: the most desirable form of mobility is not traveling in order to get in touch with other people. This thinking is how the idea of the Virtual Reality conference system crystallized.
Virtual Reality – Who needs the Hyperloop?
The Innovation Hub staff also faced the challenge of collaborating across multiple locations around the world, taking expensive and time-consuming business trips. Because existing solutions – such as telephone or video conferences – have a very limited field of application. During a video conference, you can see your conversation partners, but the participants quickly adopt a passive attitude. Already, after a short time, the thoughts wander off, and fatigue occurs.
The solution to this problem consisted of the numerous interaction possibilities offered by Virtual Reality. People come together in a virtual space and feel as if they are really there. In WeAre’s software, they can work with interactive whiteboards, virtual stickers, and 3D drawings. The functions for viewing and editing three-dimensional CAD objects are particularly interesting for product development teams. In many cases, the production of physical prototypes can be unnecessary, which saves a great deal of time and money.
Gaming experts developed the prototype for WeAre
Unconventional is not only WeAre’s model of business but also the development of the software prototype. Since Virtual Reality is a relatively new technology, specialists who can program on the so-called Unity engine are rare. Therefore, the first prototype was created in 2017 in cooperation with Trotzkind – a Berlin-based company that deals primarily with Virtual Reality gaming. Quite a stroke of luck for WeAre, because the user guidance in the VR conference is so intuitive because it was inspired by from VR gaming.
The prototype and the market analysis finally convinced the decision-making bodies of the Innovation Hub, so the first stone was laid for the foundation of WeAre GmbH. With two developers, the software was initially brought to market, sales and marketing were built up, partnerships were formed, and the strategy was fine-tuned. WeAre now has fifteen permanent employees, about half of whom work in software development.
The Berlin-Bochum connection
The two founders of WeAre got to know each other at the Innovation Hub in Essen and are connected to the Ruhr area. But since they didn’t find the right software developers here, and the prototype was created in Berlin anyway, they had briefly thought about relocating WeAre entirely to Berlin. But the proximity to potential industrial customers is simply unbeatable in North Rhine-Westphalia. Therefore, with the Bochum location, they are still present in the Ruhr area.
There is a clear division of labor between the locations: software development is carried out under the direction of Maximilian Noelle in Berlin, while Marvin Tekautschitz manages the operational business with sales, marketing, and business development in Bochum.
In October 2018, the Berlin and Bochum colleagues met for a joint team event and celebrated their first anniversary. The personal meetings take place at WeAre at least twice a year because even those who work together over great distances should at least see each other personally from time to time. This personal connection strengthens the relationship, which is an essential foundation for a decentralized team.
New version in November 2018
A new version of WeAre will be released soon. The feedback from customers was systematically incorporated, and the user interface was significantly further developed. The next big development step will be the introduction of an internal server solution. A connection to Siemens PLM is also planned. WeAre wants to grow vigorously in the coming year and aims hire even more qualified employees that are geared to our customers’ needs. In addition, WeAre participates in selected projects that link science and industry. The exploration of future ways of working is an essential basis for the development of digital tools that help to overcome both spatial and mental boundaries.