Welcome to a new episode of the VR Fitness Insider Podcast!
Join us as we welcome Cix Liv of LIV, YUR and REK. He is a digital fitness pioneer using XR technologies to improve the world of sports and fitness.
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Episode 4 – Cix Liv
Preston Lewis: [00:00:00] Welcome to the VR Fitness Insiders podcast, for the creators who are building the future of the VR and AR sports and fitness industries that will revolutionize the way the world will play sports, work out and get fit with your hosts. Preston Lewis and Ryan DeLuca, the founders of Black Box vr, who are building the world’s first full fitness VR gym and bring decades of experience from creating some of the largest fitness technology companies in the world.
They’re bringing together the best and brightest minds to help you and your company succeed in the VR fitness revolution.
Alright. Welcome to the VR Fitness Insider podcast. We have a VR, AR, XR guru and pioneer here with us today, Cix Liv. Cix, thanks for being here.
Cix Liv: Thank you. Thank you so much.
Preston Lewis: So why don’t we start off, with you just giving our audience a quick intro into who you are and your background.
Cix Liv: The story of San Francisco, why I came up here is actually a funny one. I’ll tell it real quickly. When I originally came to the West coast, I was originally from the Midwest. I was from Minnesota, [00:01:00] Colorado, Minnesota.
And what brought me to the West Coast is I was selling computer hardware, and I kept shipping it back to a place called City of Industry. I heard that name and I was, like, “wow.” You know, like, City of Industry, right? I was just so fucking tired of how cold the Midwest was, and I would always joke with my friends that someday I’m gonna get in a car, I’m gonna drive to the West Coast and you’re never gonna see my ass again. And I did that. I did that one day, and I showed up in City of Industry, which is outside of Los Angeles, and it’s just, the warehouses, right?
Yeah, I showed up there and I was like living in a fucking warehouse. Definitely not like a warm beginning to California. But actually that’s when I started calling myself Cix. So, it is not my birth name. My birth name is different. I think a lot of people, when they make huge life decisions, they sometimes want to change themselves and who they were and everything. And Cix was my online [00:02:00] identity.
But yeah, a short story about why I came up to San Francisco is I was working in technology, in a rudimentary sense. I didn’t understand all the tech lingo and all this VC nonsense that we have up here. But I was in California at the time and I heard about this app called Yo. And it was a push notification app, and all the app did was when you press your friend’s name and it would do a push notification and said, “yo”. And that raised millions of dollars. And I was like, “I don’t know what the fuck they are smoking in San Francisco.”
Preston Lewis: Like a Silicon Valley, a Silicon Valley episode.
Cix Liv: They are out of their fucking minds. Yeah, so that’s why came up to San Francisco, and now I’ve been stuck here for eight years. But, that’s the story of how I made up here “I was like, wow, these guys are nuts.” And I want be part of that because…
Ryan DeLuca: That’s right. That’s awesome.
Preston Lewis: I love it was like City of Industry. I could just imagine what you were like envisioning was just like [00:03:00] this Utopia of businesses and stuff and then just to show up at a warehouse is hilarious.
Cix Liv: Skyrises and I showed up and it’s literally just warehouses. It’s called City of Industry, it’s the Industrial District. So definitely not a rosy entrance to California, let’s put it that way.
Preston Lewis: Sounds like you’ve had some really experiences in California, with the Yo app, and the road trip, and leaving all your friends behind and moving to the City of Industry. But, tell our audience how you got interested in VR. Uh, why’d you get interested in it? What first drew you to it?
Cix Liv: Yeah, so the first jobs I had in San Francisco were IT jobs. So, I was basically fixing shit for people; whether it was companies or high net worth people. I fixed one of the co-founders of Google’s, like personal Wi-Fi.
I set up Justin Kahn’s Wi-Fi. He probably doesn’t know that I was that Taskrabbit dude setting up his fucking Wi-Fi, but you know, someday, [00:04:00] someday I’ll tell that story.
Ryan DeLuca: Still have his password?
Cix Liv: Humble first, uh, beginnings here. So, but my background was very different than a lot of tech people in San Francisco. A lot of tech people in San Francisco were working on mobile applications, and SaaS products and things like that. They were very deep on that end. I was working in IT stuff my whole life, either on the hardware side, or just fixing stuff all the time.
So I had that unique perspective. I got into VR, because I was working as an IT guy and I got access to the DK2. So I wasn’t OG enough to say DK1. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that early into VR. So I got the DK2 and I was trying it out and I was like, “this is really fucking cool”, but it wasn’t quite enough to get me to commit my life to it.
I tried some of the experiences where I was sitting down using a controller and I was moving my head around. I was like, “yeah, this is pretty cool.” The racing stuff, I really got into. But then I got access to the Vive Pre, you know, the dev kit before the VIVE came out. I got the Vive [00:05:00] Pre and I had an early build of a Space Pirate Trainer, and I was playing it in the living room.
So when I moved to San Francisco, I was living with fifty people in this co-living, kind of hippie-ish thing where like people would come together to try to survive the outrageous costs of living in San Francisco. They would cook each other food and stuff. So I lived with fifty fucking people when I came to San Francisco.
Ryan DeLuca: And it wasn’t a bunch of homeless tents. It was actually a place
Cix Liv: Definitely very humble beginnings when I came to San Francisco. But I had the Vive Pre and I set it up in the living room there, and I played Space Pirate Trainer. And I remember a moment where I was shooting out the drones. And a drone shot at me, and the laser was coming towards me, and every single moment in my gaming life prior to this… I’ve been obsessed with video games my entire life. I like to tell people that video games raised me more than my parents did. Which, I don’t know if they’re gonna appreciate me saying that publicly, but Zelda raised me more than my dad. [00:06:00] We’re not gonna get too far into that.
But, I had this moment. The laser’s coming towards me, and every single part of my gamer brain is thinking, press down on the thumbs stick and this is how you’re gonna dodge it. But then I was like, wait a second, my body is the controller. And I did one of these Matrix moves, I went like back like this and the laser went over me, and I came back and it was like, fuck.
That is the future of gaming. I am the controller now. Holy shit, you know? And it was like the convergence of everything that I believed in as a human being, about personifying your own new identity, about physicality and about video games all coming together.
That perfect connection of who I was. And that’s what got me into the space.
Ryan DeLuca: I think we all have that moment, right in VR, of course everyone does like Richie’s Plank Experience and “oh, I actually feel like I was falling.”
And like, when you really [00:07:00] realize that you actually feel like you’re there. And I think it makes total sense that video games always have been a controller or keypad where you’re thinking that you are actually in that world and pretending that you’re that character.
You’re obviously fully removed from it on a flat screen. And it’s the dream that we always wanted. We always pretended we were that thing and then all of a sudden VR , now you are in there, like you said. Like the first time you actually have to move and you don’t wanna move, because you’re not really sure where you’re at in real space, but then once you do it, it’s pretty magical.
Preston Lewis: Space Pirate trainer was amazing for its time. It was one of the earlier titles and I still think they have some of the best graphics and mechanics in there.
Cix Liv: Yeah, it was incredible. I think the first game that can get the crown for the first fitness game in VR, I would say is probably Audio Shield.
Audio Shield was something that our CTO at Liv absolutely loved. It wasn’t seen as like a very obvious use case in the beginning of virtual reality.
You’re wearing this thing on your face, why do you wanna run around, too? Like, even Carmack, even John Carmack, the CTO of Oculus at the time, he wasn’t convinced at all on [00:08:00] active movement in VR. He’s like, “why the fuck would I put on a headset and run around”, you know?
Ryan DeLuca: People are gonna wanna sit down. And even the first experience with the Oculus, it was like an Xbox controller and it was the two cameras in front, if you only had two. You couldn’t even move all the way, uh, in a circle. And so it did seem to make sense. And we have the same story, like, we heard him say that.
And then now of course he’s talking about exercising in VR all the time with Beat Saber.
Cix Liv: The last time I see him, he’s got the forearms and everything’s, like, these are Beat Saber arms, you know?
Preston Lewis: “These are Beat Saber arms”, that’s awesome.
Ryan DeLuca: So that then led you into starting companies in the XR space. First one being Liv. You wanna tell us a little bit about co-founding that and how that went and what you learned from that?
Cix Liv: You know, I was super interested in VR, and then there was this co-working space in San Francisco called Upload, which it was a great place for people to come together.
I know there’s been controversy about Upload, but I had a lot of positive experiences there. [00:09:00] Especially with some members of the team. The guy who approved me to be part of this co-living space was a guy named Oz. Oz ran all the mixed reality stuff at the location.
And when I met Oz, he had this green screen room and he was doing mixed reality where he was putting people in the game and showing everybody outside of VR what it was like to be in VR. And when I saw him doing that, it answered one of the biggest fundamental problems that we had in our space, which was , “what the fuck are you doing?” Right? If you see someone in a headset and they’re sitting down and they’re just like, going like this, like the first inclination a lot of people had is “are they watching porn?” Like, what the fuck are they doing in that headset? You know? Um…
Ryan DeLuca: And it turned out fifty percent of the time, that was true.
Cix Liv: For your VR. I would say that was probably true. Let’s be honest. But you know, when we moved to like full body tracking, if you were to look at someone playing Beat Saber and not have any context at all, right?
You’d be like, “what?” Like, “is this person tripping balls or [00:10:00] something?” ” What the hell are they doing?” But then when you took the virtual world and you, and you showed people the context of what was happening, it went from dorky to cool.
And I am a strong believer that technology shifts happen when you make something dorky, cool. It’s as simple as that. And so, if you look at the evolution of electric cars, Elon Musk literally called his line “sexy”. Right? Because, electric cars up to that were like smart cars and stuff like that, where everybody thought electric cars were fucking dorky. Right?
And so one of the big things that I always look at in this space is, how do we make this cool? And then Zuckerberg comes in there and makes it the most dorky shit in the world? Anyway. Little bit of a tangent, but Liv was able to communicate something that was inherently dorky and make it cool. And also allow people a window into VR, so you could see what the person was doing in real time.
And so, Oz was doing this. I was like, “this is amazing.” [00:11:00] And then how do we create a product out of this? And so that became the big question. Some of the people that I used to live with in this fifty person co-op had moved into their own apartment. Their names were AJ and Pierre.
So they were my two friends. I like went to them and I basically co-oped their living room into a big mixed reality green screen. And I was sleeping on the couch and like setting this up in their living room. And we just got obsessed with it. I like to think of it kind of like, you know, as kids you would record yourself in a cassette player and pretend you were radio jockeys or something?
I feel like we were kind of having that moment where we had this green screen and then AJ went in there with a super saiyan hat on, and there was this game where you could have mini guns. It was called Sirius Sam. And he had this video where he would go in and he had mini guns in his arm and he had a super saiyan thing.
It was just us doing ridiculous stuff. And AJ had [00:12:00] experience in the startups, more directly and how to speak to investors and whatever. And we got into Techstars from there. And, Liv is doing pretty well right now. I think they just raised eight and a half million, and that’s the story of Liv.
Ryan DeLuca: That’s so true what you’re saying though, it’s so difficult to understand what people are doing inside the headset. And if you see it even on a flat screen, it can even really be difficult. We struggle with that a lot of Black Box. Like how do you show people? We still do, how do you show people what you’re doing?
And we create some different kind of green screen type of environments, but it’s just so difficult and such a big problem that Liv with solving, which is still a problem and people still struggle with that, but just how great it’s been to see what Liv has done to, to help with that.
Cix Liv: I wish they would make like a one click mixed reality partner with a camera company, and just press the button and go for it. But, uh…
Ryan DeLuca: It’s coming, it’ll come out eventually.
Preston Lewis: Yeah, to piggyback on that, one of the cool things that we really appreciate you doing throughout your career so far has been taking this platform approach to building your projects and products. And yeah, the whole industry has massively [00:13:00] benefited from those efforts. I probably venture to guess that Liv is maybe the number one piece of software used for mixed reality videos. And I’d probably say it’s most, if not all, of the viral VR videos were probably made with Liv software as well.
Black Box VR, when we first used your software, we saw people finally understand, like “oh, wait a minute, you’re in an arena” and “oh, wait a minute, you’re interacting with a machine and you’re doing fitness movements?” And so, honestly huge thanks to you and your team for doing that, because I think it’s been awesome for the industry.
Cix Liv: Yeah. The Beat Saber stuff was a crazy story.
We were working with someone who is a fire spinner, her name was Swan. So the story of the viral event with Beat Saber, I don’t know if I’ll ever have an event like that before, like, some people say “viral” when they have like a million views or something. This shit hit a billion views, like globally across everything. There was one video on Facebook that hit two hundred million by itself. That level of virality I have never seen before, and it happened to me. [00:14:00] We were just creating videos and it was usually just me, or just some people I know, and I definitely amp it up, but, you know, men in video games and stuff, nothing super novel about that.
So I had a friend named Swan and she went in there and she was just like recording videos of herself. And we were not even thinking a whole lot about it, we were just like recording these videos and then posted it to YouTube. The first one she had where she had like a Jedi outfit on, and then the video that went viral was the second one that we posted on YouTube. And it started taking off a little bit, but nothing like outrageous. I fell asleep, and I woke up and I looked down my phone, it was like 300 notifications and I was like, “what the fuck is going on?” And I opened it up, it was like, you’re on Game Stop, and you’re on the front of that and all over the place.
They had taken our fucking video, and we had a watermark on the bottom right, and they had just like, blurred it out. I would call that moment the [00:15:00] consumer event of VR. Before then we were like early adopters that thought this geeky stuff was cool, but at that moment it broke out of that limited market that we had, because videos can reach everyone. I’ll always remember that moment. It was definitely a combination of a bunch of things. And you know, the biggest learning that I had from Liv, that I take to the next companies after, which is important for this podcast, was that physicality was so essential to communicating to people why VR was interesting. Because anytime that we had mixed reality or a video of someone like sitting there doing something, no one gave a shit. But when you had added physicality and people were like dancing and involved in the content, it would, it would perform like a hundred times better.
The way that I like to think about that is the difference between a movie and a play. So in a play, you’re not necessarily seeing the facial movements of someone. You’re kind of like removed and farther [00:16:00] away. Um, so you have to be loud and expressive. And because our face is covered and you’re not like communicating, you know, the nuances of your face, you have to use body language.
And it’s the same thing that happens in sports, right? Like when you watch a sport, you’re not looking at their face, you’re looking at their body, right? And so the biggest learning from Liv that got me into understanding the importance of physicality beyond my own passion with it, was no one gave a shit about the content if people weren’t active, they just didn’t care. They were like, okay, someone’s being dorky in a headset. No. You know, I don’t care.
Ryan DeLuca: It’s such a good point. Yeah. I mean, just the way you put it, the physicality. And people like to watch people doing physical movements, right? And sports and fitness. And so it’s just this perfect mix of that Beat Saber video came out. I think we all were a little bit shocked. “What is this thing with, like, it’s something to do with lightsabers and music?” Yeah, it was just everywhere. And then that’s when we had our non- early adopter or non- VR like expert [00:17:00] friends asking us about it. Like, “oh, that’s like game with the lightsabers”, you know? And it’s like everybody knew about it.
Cix Liv: Yeah.
Preston Lewis: I think Beat Saber owes you some royalties.
Cix Liv: I was in there helping them a lot with marketing in the early days. I think that the success of Beat Saber, was not necessarily just Beat Saber itself. It released with only a few songs, six to seven songs. It was the content that made it interesting, and then there was a very large modding group that came out of it of about four hundred thousand people. And that modding group made it, so they basically took the base fundamentals of Beat Saber and allowed you to put whatever song you wanted in there. And I think realistically, if it weren’t for those videos, and then subsequently that modding Discord to maintain its relevance.
And then the final piece of that was that it became the flagship for the Quest. I think those were the three big, like, moments that you could say that connected to the success of Beat Saber. Every, six to nine months, there was something that hit right at the right time. It was a huge amount of luck [00:18:00] involved, to be honest. That initial launch was perfectly timed; the game came out, with a bunch of fanfare and all these videos; and then it became the largest VR discord in the world of hundreds of thousands of people.
They actually had to start kicking people out, because it went over Discord’s limit. Were creating mods with like different swords and songs and whatever. And that got around the copyright issue where most developers had to license every single song, which gets incredibly expensive. So they had this whole community essentially making infinite content.
And then the final piece of that is when it came out on the Quest, it converted so well to the Quest and, it didn’t have some of the issues that some of the other VR games had. Like Survios, for example, couldn’t port a lot of their games to the Quest because of the fidelity that was necessary to port it.
So there were a lot of developers who created really amazing experiences who had a really hard time porting it down to the Quest. So there were like three [00:19:00] big things that really pushed the success of Beat Saber to the point where it hit fifty percent device penetration of the entire VR market. It was on over fifty percent of all headsets in the world, which was…
Preston Lewis: Wow.
Cix Liv: That’s nuts. That’s nuts.
Ryan DeLuca: It, it’s funny you say that, because it’s so true. Like, the custom content, the custom songs, like, that was the best part about it, right? It’s like, there was so many different songs and maps, like endless amount, right? And you could find any songs that you liked and all sorts of crazy stuff.
And of course people would rate the best ones. You’d learn new songs. There’s so many, so much music that I had just learned about that I’d never even heard about, that now I’m a fan of through that. And to me, that’s what kind of ruined it when it went to Quest, because it was a perfect experience for Quest, because wireless, you know, because I was always planning on the Vive or the, or the Index. But going to wireless was just so great, you know, and they even made the 360 modes and stuff.
But, you know, it kind of leads into the next thing is, one of the best parts about Beat Saber being the flagship game, that became like really the first mainstream game that introduced people to VR, was the thing we always hear, right? “Hey, I’ve tried this Beat Saber game. It was super fun, [00:20:00] I loved it. And then I realized I’m exercising.” Like, it could have been some other VR game that wasn’t really an active game that became the first big one, but the fact that the first big one had such an exercise cardio component to it, was also really good for showing fitness as a powerful way to use VR.
So, tell us about YUR that led you into your next big thing, your next company.
Cix Liv: Yeah, so, I had to leave Liv for various reasons. One of the reasons was, is the team basically became European based and, I had a hard time with the idea of like, moving to the Czech Republic.
You know, I hadn’t started a company thinking I would have to move to the Czech Republic. So I made some decisions to ensure that, like, my departure would be okay for the company, and AJ became the CEO, which was, you know, my roommate way back then. But I was itching to, do something again right away.
In hindsight, I probably should have taken a little bit of a break, going straight from, startup two hundred miles an hour to another two hundred miles an hour, kind of breaks you. But, I [00:21:00] strongly believed in VR fitness and prior to that I’ve been working a little bit with the VR Health Institute with Aaron, uh, Stanton? Yeah. So, I’ll give him credit. He saw VR Fitness as becoming a big thing, and I was trying to find a way to work with him. And I’ll say this, we were trying to find a way to work together, but he strongly believed in the efficacy of everything to like an Nth degree.
Like, we need to have it peer reviewed. We need to have heart rate trackers that are validated by whatever. I was like, dude, “we just gotta prove to people that people are fucking exercising.” I was trying to figure out a way to work with him. He didn’t want to co-found it with me.
He’s probably a little mad at me now, whatever, like, shit happens in the startup world. But I decided not to work with him because, he didn’t want to be a co-founder with me and he was so focused on efficacy of everything. And for me, having built a consumer company before, proving at all that people are doing something with the least friction possible is how you build a consumer company, right?
So my thesis [00:22:00] was, okay, we’re gonna move towards a headset that’s no longer tethered. I think fitness is gonna be one of, if not the biggest use case. People would laugh at my fucking face. Even Aaron had the same experience; like, people thought we were a joke, right? He tells the story about how he was trying to prove to people that VR is fitness and people would tell him, “no, you’re just scared, that’s why your heart rate is high.” You know, like zombies are after you. That’s why your heart rate is high. It’s not because you’re exercising, it’s because you’re scared of what’s going on. I’m fucking exercising, man. He was trying to prove to people that it was a thing.
I didn’t have to be proved, I believed in it, right? But I was just, I was trying to find, you know, how do we create a consumer product out of this? I started thinking, okay well, let’s try to solve this in a way that is the least friction possible.
I’m fast forwarding a little bit here.
So, another person that really believed in VR fitness, there weren’t many by the way. I remember a meeting that I had with Oculus during [00:23:00] OC-6, where I tell them, I said, “hey, VR Fitness is gonna be a big thing.” They almost fucking laughed me out of the room. They were like, “what are you talking about?”
And I think this is mainly due to the fact that the way Facebook determines product value is based off existing metrics that they can go into a PM meeting and say, “hey, this is happening, we should do that too.” They have a very difficult time with foresight, and I think culturally that is the biggest problem with Facebook, is that they only operate on existing data and they don’t have the foresight to see how something can evolve into something.
And so, I had that experience where they almost like laughed me out of a room for pitching VR Fitness. Anyway, there was one other guy who lived in San Francisco who believed in VR Fitness, and his name was Dylan.
I met up with Dylan and I was like, “dude, VR fitness is a thing.” I didn’t have to convince him it was a thing. And that was one of the biggest issues that I had with co-founding this company, is I would go to people and they’d be like, “VR fitness, [00:24:00] what are you talking about?”
So Dylan, I didn’t have to convince him. And so we started, YUR from that. And we got into Boost, which was an accelerator here in San Mateo. Basically it was just because I think Adam Draper liked me, and he, you know, like, if I’m gonna be real, I think that’s what happened. He was like “Cix, I don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, man, but I’m a bet on you.” You know, one of those things, right? like Dylan hadn’t even committed to being in the company by then. So I came back to Dylan and I said, “hey, if you want to do this, we’re in Boost now, we have a little bit of money.”
So, we wanted to create the least friction way to get involved in this. So our very first product was a mod in Beat Saber. And we already had, going back to what powered Beat Saber, was this massive modding community and it kind of skirted around some of these different platform issues that we’d have. Like, could we actually integrate into Beat Saber officially? Probably not. Right? Especially not right out of the gate. So, we created this mod for Beat Saber and it became incredibly successful. We started [00:25:00] basically what YUR was, was a subset, initially, of the Beat Saber modding Discord wanting to exercise.
And so that community that we built was, initially, the base group, a subset of that Beat Saber modding group. And it was so interesting, because this was a demographic that no one else ever appealed to in the fitness space. It was gamers, a lot of them, super unhealthy that were exercising by accident.
And it was almost like Beat Saber made them feel like, “I have a chance now to actually be fit.” These were the guys that you’ve seen in the memes where they’re like eating chips on the couch type. That was our main demographic, right? Was kids who felt apathetic to even the idea of exercising.
And what it was, was a really good Trojan horse that made people have the confidence that they actually could start exercising, right? And that was the subset of the initial[00:26:00] community in YUR, the subset of the beat Saber modding group that realized, “hey, I can actually exercise.” That was our initial product. It went incredibly well. So then we created a Steam based tracker that basically, would take your movement data and estimate very rudimentary, you know, initially into what calories you were burning. And then it evolved into a Quest app that you had to side load. And we got a little bit more fancy over time where we were using machine learning to estimate your heart rate based off data that we had on heart rate. But, the goal was basically to create a Fitbit that didn’t require any hardware. And that was kind of the underlying goal of YUR. And, yeah, it worked incredibly well. I think we became the number two utility in Quest for a given time. Until it, uh, was de platformed.
Preston Lewis: So one question I want to ask [00:27:00] is, just sounds like you are very connected to users through these projects and products you’re building. Which I think is really important for our audience to hear, because a lot of people building these experiences, you know, people approach it from a bunch of different angles. Whether it’s, “hey, we have a gut feeling, we’re just gonna do it”, or, “we don’t necessarily need the validation because we just feel good about it.”
Sounds like, from what you’ve mentioned, and from what we gather, you’re the opposite. You of course have the gut feeling, but sounds like you have really stayed close to your users throughout the journey, and listened to them throughout the process. So maybe just a quick little brief hit on that, for our audience. What would you recommend as people are building the product as far as knowing which direction to go, validating the things they’re building and things like that?
Cix Liv: You have to have a feedback loop with your users, right? One of the things that I did that you could argue is not a good thing for a CEO to be doing, and at scale that’s true, is [00:28:00] that every single negative review, I would reach out to that person and ask them “why?” And I’d be like, okay, “so why are you leaving us a negative review?”
And they’d be like, “well, the UI here sucks”, or “it’s affecting the performance of what I’m doing” or “I don’t think it’s accurate.” Right? And, I chase after the people that didn’t like our product to find out why they didn’t like our product, instead of just being like, “oh, man, I’m so sad people don’t like what we’re doing.” Right? I guess the difference between me and some people who work in tech, is I get punched in the face and I just see it as this is what I’m doing. Right? When you start a company, if you don’t want to be punched in the face, get a fucking day job, honest to God. Go get a fucking day job. And if the worst thing that’s gonna happen to you is your manager is gonna be upset at you, that’s a good day. You guys know this, like, if you wanna be a founder, you have to be able to like get punched in the face every fucking day and do it again. One of the lowest points I’ve ever had, a little bit of a tangent here, is I pitched [00:29:00] during Techstars, and this is back before anybody really cared a whole lot about VR. And I gave this big impassionate speech on why I believe virtual reality is gonna be the future.
And it was like, oh, I felt so good about myself. And the second I stopped, an investor raised their hand. And he goes, “the second you said VR I stop listening.” And I’m like, “man, fuck you, dude.” Like, what is that? Like you discredit an entire category. Like, I don’t care. Fuck off, man.
Ryan DeLuca: It’s kind of crazy, we see the same thing. Like VCs, a lot of times investors, they always talk about their future thinking visionaries, they wanna be a part of like things that people haven’t seen yet. But when you really talk to ’em about something that isn’t already mainstream or big or that everybody else is already investing into, you’re right, it just doesn’t really compute to them. And it’s the same thing, like you said, with like big companies. I would say it’s not just Facebook, it’s almost all big companies. Like, they want data that proves it, and that’s really what creates that opportunity for entrepreneurs is to get laughed [00:30:00] in the face. And the interesting thing about being laughed in your face is half the time you should be laughed at, and the other half, it’s the next big thing. And it’s always impossible at the time, without looking back in retrospect to know, which direction it really is gonna go.
Cix Liv: I think the hardest thing as an entrepreneur, for me, is being able to distill constructive criticism from assholes, right?
Because sometimes the people who you think are assholes, are actually giving you good feedback. And sometimes the assholes are just assholes, right? And I think that it’s really hard to distinguish the two sometimes, right? Like, where someone is giving you feedback, but you’re like, it’s just like, it’s, it’s so personal to you what you’re doing. You’re like, “okay, thank you, but fuck you”, you know? You know?
Preston Lewis: That’s funny.
Cix Liv: Like instant…
Preston Lewis: That’s my baby.
Cix Liv: Yeah, it’s like your baby. It’s like someone going in and being like, “man, your baby’s ugly.” And I’m like, “well, it’s my baby?”
Preston Lewis: Yeah, yeah. “What’s wrong with you?” That’s funny. Yeah.
Ryan DeLuca: Then years later you look back at pictures, you’re like, “man, that baby was kind of [00:31:00] ugly.”
Preston Lewis: That person was right. That person was right.
Ryan DeLuca: I guess, I mean we’re joking, but like, it kinda is true. You look back at the business you had, like, when we first came out with Black Box, the onboarding experience was just not good at all. But, like, we just loved it so much, and then when we first started getting feedback, people were saying so many negative things. And of course the first reaction you wanna have is, like, “they’re wrong” and like all these things. But then, you sleep on it and you think about, okay, we need to make these changes, and it’s a lot of hard work to make changes, but then you go back and you make those changes.
Then you look back at your baby, at the time, and realize, like, yeah, that wasn’t good. And, and hopefully that’s always the case. Hopefully you look two years from now and always look at what you’re currently doing and say it was not nearly as good as it is now. Otherwise, you’ve been stagnant and hasn’t move forward. Haven’t listened to that feedback.
Cix Liv: I think listening to your users is absolutely foundational, because if you talk to your friends, they’re always gonna give you a positive spin, or usually or sometimes you just have a friend that shits on everything, right? And so your friends are usually really not a good proxy for whether or not what you’re doing is good. And family is even worse. You know, family’s either [00:32:00] always gonna be negative or always gonna be positive, depending on if they think you’re making money or not. Right? So they’re, they’re terrible for feedback loops. And then your co-founder, you can constantly be overly optimistic, because you both believe in the same things.
So they’re usually also not a good proxy. How do you get out of the bubble that is your brain, into market reality? And the market reality usually just exists with the people that use your product. And getting them to actually communicate and tell you is, I think the most valuable form of feedback if you’re building a consumer company. Getting to the people that like your product or don’t like your product and “why.”
Preston Lewis: A little follow up to that is, do you have any small tips as far as how you go about intelligently collecting that feedback? Or is it just straight up scouring the Facebook posts, setting up a Discord? Or do you have specific things that you do, for example, create surveys, do focus groups, or how does that process go for you with collecting the feedback?
Cix Liv: [00:33:00] If you communicate with a person, like, directly, it’s kind of like the difference between talking to someone through 4Chan and talking to someone through their face. Like face-to-face, right?
if you’re on 4Chan, you’re gonna shit on everything. It’s almost like straight from brain stem to face, right? Like “this fucking is terrible, that shit blah, blah, blah, blah.” And then when they talk to you, they’re gonna be like, “well, I think you should, you know, improve this” or whatever. Right? So, I think it’s getting both of those perspectives, right? Because what you miss when you’re speaking to their users are those who didn’t even care enough to talk to you, right? Usually the users that you’re talking to are somewhere between actual users and pro users, right?
And you’re usually getting not a lot of the feedback of the people that just turned instantly, right? They don’t wanna fucking respond to you. They don’t give a shit, they don’t want to tell you what their experience was. So you’re gonna have a blind spot on that category [00:34:00] of potential users, right?
So for those, you’re gonna have to, like, find it anecdotally through like Facebook posts or bad reviews, and this is why I would always chase the bad review people. If you’re building that consumer product to understand what’s churning people from the beginning and, what improvements can I make for those casual users and then, the pro users, should we cater to them or not, you know?
So I, I think that getting those three perspectives and maybe bucketing people in those three things, is a good way to iterate on your product.
Preston Lewis: Awesome. Thanks so much for that Cix. So that’s all for this episode, we decided to split this podcast into two episodes because Cix had so much good stuff to share with you all. So join us for part two of this episode, where we’ll dig deeper into Cix’s upcoming XR project and we’ll hear more of his awesome insights. We’ll see, on the next episode.
Thanks for listening to the VR Fitness Insider podcast. Do you know of anyone that should be on our show or have feedback? Don’t forget to email [00:35:00] us at podcast VR fitness insider.com and follow us at VR Fitness Insider on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. You can also join our Discord channel. Until next time, keep creating and dreaming up the next big thing that will revolutionize the world of fitness.