February 15, 2012
Arqball’s bootstrapping founders, Abhi Shelat and Jason Lawrence, are having a blast making visualization technology for education and scientific use. Their newest product, Arqball Spin, will be debuting at SXSW in March.
Arqball Spin is like YouTube for 3D. It lets you capture, author, annotate and share 3D visualizations of objects using your phone or tablet. DNA structures and museum artifacts can be rotated with a tap of the finger for a more complete understanding of the object being presented.
I asked Shelat for some insight into Arqball’s work process. The two UVA computer science professors work well together, utilizing complementary skillsets. “Idea flow is easy when we get talking – the ideas come faster than we can bother to study them, and it is a fun process.” As for launching Arqball – “It started organically and informally,” according to Shelat.
We both spent years earning PhDs in highly specific topics. That process gave us a lot of discipline, but it also puts us a bit out of touch with what most people consider interesting uses of computers. For example, I can’t spend more than twenty seconds on Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja – so to my financial detriment, I’ve ruled out a lot of ways to make highly impactful software.
I asked Shelat what has been the hardest thing about starting up, and he admitted grappling with doubt and wondering, “Are we doing the right thing?” But his advice for fellow entrepreneurs is simple: “The hard work shouldn’t be a chore.”
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