If you thought you’d never see the day a technology platform could teach you soft skills, you’ve got some catching up to do. Meet Bodyswaps, the 21st century virtual reality start-up offering lessons in empathy and self-reflection.
Tom Szirtes, the chief technology officer and co-founder of Bodyswaps, spotted an opportunity for the software amid the “fourth industrial revolution” since the advent and integration of AI, he says. Szirtes is confident soft skills will remain integral to companies and employees. Bodyswaps aims to tackle “the big issue” which will be “how to train people up on it”.
The technology offers users the ability to record themselves having difficult conversations, which they can then watch back and review. The beauty of the headset means users can join sessions and practice from anywhere, in their own time. While Bodyswaps offers bespoke company-specific services, tailored to the individual needs of a business, the team have been keen to produce off-the-shelf products too.
Co-founder Szirtes has a background in video games, having spent years working for Sega, a Japanese developer and publisher responsible for the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. He was a typical child of the 80s, he laughs, and many hours spent obsessing over his ZX Spectrum “inspired” him to “get into the brave new world of computers”.
Unlike his co-founders, who have more experience running their own businesses, Szirtes decided to spend longer working for corporations and consulting. “Having my own software company was something I always thought about,” says Szirtes, who has been an entrepreneur for six years now. “It took me a couple of decades of experience to feel confident enough” to take the plunge.
He is mindful of the risks and pitfalls of striking out alone and keeps tabs on those he “grew up with” in the industry, many of whom are now comfortable in senior positions with established businesses. Sensibly, Szirtes spent much of his 20s saving and has “always organised my life so I have a low cost of living” in order to enable the launch of Bodyswaps and the financial risks that come alongside it.
As with many entrepreneurs, the biggest sacrifice Szirtes has made since launching Bodyswaps has been giving up his time. The co-founder has foregone an exhilarating side-hustle as a DJ and music producer, something that used to see him jetting across the world to perform. If it hadn’t been for the pandemic, and the universal adoption of working from home, Szirtes is sure he would have seen a whole lot less of his new-born son.
Since becoming a virtual reality entrepreneur, it hasn’t all been fun and (video) games for the chief technology officer. Szirtes has had to battle the stress, vulnerability and loneliness caused by managing a company. But, as you may expect from someone teaching soft skills in business, there are learning opportunities to be gained. “Part of the experience of being an entrepreneur is to see how you react under those kinds of pressures,” he says, it “makes you more of a rounded person”.
The buoyant Szirtes has always kept an eye on Bodyswaps’ scalability and is looking forward to manipulating user data to enhance and improve the software. Not a fan of half-measures, he is hopeful Bodyswaps could become “the go-to solution for people to improve their soft skills”.
You can check out the full interview in the video below.
This article is part of a series for Haatch Venture. Find out more at https://haatch.com/celebrating-entrepreneurs/