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Meet VR Entrepreneur Jan Dirk Bijker of Vrendle/Coolminds

With the Amsterdam talks Tech: VR Edition coming up, we take a moment to get to know the speakers a bit better. This time we have a chat with Jan Dirk Bijker, director of Coolminds.

Hi Jan Dirk, can you tell me a bit more about yourself?

Well, I am director of Coolminds, a full service digital agency. We apply the latest technology in our internet projects to improve people’s wellbeing and improve their health behaviour. One of the developments of the past four year have been the appliance of virtual reality in mental healthcare.

So what is  your background and how did it lead you to where you are?

I studied Business at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and I specialised in Technology and Innovation. During my career I was restless. I needed a lot of changes and new things, otherwise I’d get bored. I started working for an Consultancy Agency specialised in organisational change. During that period I worked a lot with larger Telecom companies to introduce new features for mobile and WiFi hotspots. I also worked as a Productmanager for Digital Television at its early stages of development. Although TV used to be my hobby, it started getting bored after a year. Then I was introduced to Coolminds and never had a dull day after.

What are the apps and websites that impress you the most?

I love Google and LinkedIn. These websites are my friends. I use them al day to look up things, get information and find people. I love it. What impresses me is the development of browsers like Chrome. Browsers are necessary to make new technologies, like 360 and VR available via the web. We worked together with one of the Chrome developers in this process of making VR and 360 available. I’m also impressed by its ability to make more and more use of native functionalities of smartphones. I believe apps wil be replaced by web-based apps because of the development of browsers.

How do you harness tech? What role do you see tech playing in your business?

My business is tech. Web technology, 360, CGI, VR, AR, MR are all technologies that are giving us and our clients the opportunity to develop new ways of treating people, to change their wellbeing, to change their behaviour. It is essential for us to be on top of the developments. In our niche we want to be the first and preferably the only to implement our stay out strategy.

What are your thoughts on the future of virtual reality? Which direction do you see it heading in?

VR is absolutely great. It gives great experiences and even more important its effects are great if the events happening in VR match experiences in real life. It will give strong emotional and physical reactions. We make use of these reactions of the body in mental healthcare.
The direction I see this heading is is also the upcoming of Mixed Reality. Real life visual enriched with computer graphics and information.

What companies do you look to for inspiration?

Our inspiration comes from caregivers, psychologists, people working with people in need. Their stories inspire us to develop 360 video’s that can help people overcome their anxieties, relax, learn appropriate behaviour, control their emotions like aggression.

What advice would you give to people aiming to integrate tech as a central component in their business?

Know what you want to use this technology for. What is the added value? Ease of use, saving time and money, higher levels of safety, comfort? If you know the core values of your product and also the extra technology will give, then you can start implementing.

How did your startup get into the virtual reality industry?

My business partner Daniël Brinckmann is a hardcore gamer. When he heard about the Oculus Rift DK1 in 2012, he got restless and ordered the thing. Next thing I knew, I was riding a rollercoaster and from that day forward we knew VR would give us great opportunities to change and expand our business.

What advice would you give others trying to crack this industry?

If you think you have a good idea, find your first customer. Sell your idea and learn from their questions and reactions. This process will strengthen your ideas and sharpen your strategy to market your product when it’s ready. But be aware, don’t develop for one customer, develop for the market. Look at the app store and look at all those hundreds of thousands of apps that failed because a startup was fully convinced of the greatness of the idea, but forgot to look any further. This same applies to all VR startups. Be great and be sane.

Interested in hearing more pieces of advice from Jan Dirk ? Get your tickets for Amsterdam talks Tech: Virtual Reality where he’ll be one of four speakers.

Watch a video (Dutch) about how Vrendle is active in creating better health care.

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