For some people, startups are in their blood. Shaun Meredith is the Co-Founder and CEO of Omnic Data, which is his fifth startup. And the two he learned most from, he freely admits, are the ones that failed.
Here, you won’t merely discover what makes Omnic Data interesting (and trust us, it’s a fascinating concept that keen gamers will love). You will also discover what almost amounts to a secret formula for launching startups — or at least something that you can use to test your own aptitude for it.
So, who is Shaun Meredith and why should you listen to him? Before forming Omnic, Shaun was the Senior Project Manager for Apple responsible for the implementation of the world’s largest educational technology program.
And prior to working at Apple, Shaun was instrumental in the formation of several technology startups in the Boston area, two specifically focused on machine learning and cloud computing to solve complex problems. He was also responsible for product development at Oculus Technologies Corporation, a pioneer in the early 2000s in the use of neural networks and genetic algorithms for internet-based team collaboration.
If that hasn’t convinced you, let us tell you that Shaun has been a US Navy Submarine Officer, is the author of a patent, has a BS and MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is currently completing his PhD at MIT in the use of autonomous software agents. That’s quite a CV.
What is Omnic Forge’s elevator pitch?
We help the world’s 3.2 billion gamers activate their superpowers. Simply put, we are a personal AI gaming coach. Our product, the Omnic Forge, uses computer vision and deep learning to “watch” video of your gameplay and provide actionable insights and data that provide the assistance you need to get better faster.
What made you launch a startup?
This is actually my fifth startup. I have had two successful exits in the past and learned the most from the two that failed. I came out of graduate school at MIT and entered the startup world because of the challenge of trying to do something that would change the world. From it, I quickly learned that I loved how nimble a startup could be and how much impact each founder and early employee could have and I just never looked back.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Interestingly enough, even though video games are digital in nature, players lack the digital data for performance analysis. Imagine being an NFL quarterback without any coaches, analysts or scouts and playing against other teams using “Moneyball” type analysis. You would not stand a chance.
We provide that analysis and data. Sure the publishers and some other tracker-type sites can provide you with some community information, but the Omnic Forge analyses your gameplay and fingerprints your play style to provide you with recommendations that are personalised to how you want to play the game.
Whether they are someone who just wants bragging rights with their friends, an aspiring high school student wanting a collegiate esports scholarship, someone attempting to go professional, or a professional wanting to win the World Championships, we want every player to reach their full potential
Can you talk us through your journey so far? What’s a major milestone you’ve reached?
I had been watching the gaming industry for a few years because of its sheer size. I knew I was specifically looking for something complementary to games. In 2018, the Overwatch League was formed and it was the first to use a traditional sports franchise model. There was talk online of a combine that players could participate in for teams to recruit from. That combination did not materialise.
I reached out and got a few minutes time from several coaches in the league and asked them how they recruited players and what they thought of the combined idea. They all thought the combine was a good idea but it never materialised because they did not know what to measure. I contacted a colleague I worked with a few years ago at Apple, my Co-Founder, Chuck Goldman. He immediately understood the concept because one of his sons was the captain of his League of Legends team at UMass-Amherst. We started building a prototype.
In 2021, we were selected for Techstars in the Roux Institute’s inaugural cohort. We raised just over $1m in pre-seed and did a public launch of the Omnic Forge in August 2022. We currently cover two games, Fortnite and Valorant, with two more, Overwatch 2 and Rocket League, coming soon. This month we surpassed 5,000 monthly active community members and we have delivered over 128,000 insights.
Who are your main competitors and what distinguishes your startup from them?
Interestingly enough, there have been some companies that have tried to tackle this problem in various ways. A couple of them have used a marketplace approach with human coaches. This is difficult, in our opinion, from multiple angles.
First, it is a two-sided marketplace where you have to attract players and coaches.
Second, the concept is just not scalable. Humans can only coach so many people in so many hours.
Third, it eliminates a key feature that gamers are used to using, the “try and buy” approach. You cannot offer a free trial since someone has to be paying the coach for their time. Finally, coaching at $40 to $80/hour is beyond the reach of many gamers.
The Omnic Forge solves all of these problems. We only need to attract players and the larger the community the more the Omnic Forge learns and the better the recommendations get. We are virtually unlimited in size and scale as we just need more computing resources.
How has the startup scene in Maine helped and/or challenged your own startup’s development?
At first, we received a lot of questions about starting a technology company in Maine. After all, we are a long way away from Silicon Valley. However, our offices are located at the train station and we are just two hours north of Boston. Similar to how Microsoft started in Seattle, we envision establishing an esports and gaming centre in Maine to attract professional and collegiate players to train and enhance their skills. All while providing our employees with the education, quality of life and outdoor benefits Maine has to offer.
Maine does have its challenges with a population base that is growing older. However, we have been able to attract great young talent from Northeastern’s Roux Institute and others like UMaine, Bowdoin College and Thomas College. The State of Maine has several programs to encourage the growth of technology companies and we have been taking advantage of the resources they have to offer, like the Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit, Maine Technology Institute grants, economic development programs and Maine Venture Fund.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone looking to launch their startup?
First, it is an extremely hard road. You will have a lot of ups and downs. So make sure you are doing something you love to do and you are not just in it because you think you can do it for a short time. Enjoy every minute and thank all of your loved ones around more frequently than you think you should because they are amazing to understand that you are driven by a passion for what you like and the thrill of building something.
Second, make sure you take care of yourself both physically and mentally. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in bringing your ideas to fruition without making sure you are mentally and physically healthy.
Third, enjoy the process and do not take things personally when they do not go the way you think they should. You are attempting something only a handful of people try to do and that is unique. Not everyone will understand the challenges you face and the feelings you encounter.
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