One Year Update

Today marks exactly one year since SURVIVR was acquired. My life and worldview have ebbed and flowed profoundly since then. Frankly, I’ve been at a loss of ideas to post. But I felt that an anniversary is symbolic enough for some introspection. 

To be clear, the purpose of this post isn’t to make any dismal implications or source pity. I just thought it would be nice to take a brief break from my usual business-oriented content. I believe that much of what we see online is a facade, and that everyone has demons that they face deep down. This is an authentic glimpse into mine, in the spirit of transparency.

Starting with the positives. I feel that I’ve attained a new lifestyle that I never had the luxury of experiencing prior. In a world where 70-90% of startups fail, we defied the odds enough to find the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Despite starting at 19. Despite this being my first startup and full-time job. Despite pivoting multiple times in 5 years. Despite not being a tech or public safety expert. Despite the doubters. 

I was blessed to have a team that powered through our obstacles. To have an acquisition under my belt has substantially impacted my ability to support my family and fuel my future career. I’m perpetually grateful to everyone who played a part.

Now for the rest. Once the acquisition closed and I had fulfilled my duty to my team and family, I was free to prioritize myself for the first time in my life. I could be shamelessly selfish and think about privileges like the meaning of happiness. I didn’t know where to begin—it felt exhilarating at first. But then I quickly became blindsided by a torrent of questions and feelings that I had never experienced.

Perplexingly, this past year has raised more questions than answers. My sense of self dissipated post-acquisition, and after a few weeks of frustration, I realized that I had grounded my self-identity in my company. Once the company was sold, my sense of self was in the air. Before, I was Brian the founder, a label that I held with pride. After, I couldn’t even introduce myself to myself. 

I didn’t know who I was, why I’m here, what I want, and whether anything truly matters in the end. Everything felt numb, and the more I pondered the answers, the most lost I became—like struggling in quicksand. Will starting more companies make a difference? Will having a bigger garage make me feel better? Who knows. (Although starting more companies is guaranteed. Nothing else is remotely as fun to me.)

One discovery, for better or worse, was that I no longer fear death. If I run out of cards sooner than expected, I would accept it. Despite my challenges, I’ve lived an extraordinary life with the time I’ve had so far. It genuinely feels like a lifetime already. If this is truly my final act, and lowering the curtains will finally absolve me of all suffering, then so be it. 

Honestly, I thought that I’d feel on top of the world by now. That I could finally release my anxieties and be satisfied with myself and life in general. But evidently, my mind doesn’t work that way. There’s always something more that I must chase.

I still don’t have the answers. They’re as elusive as ever. I still wonder to what extent life is insignificant in the end. After all, we’ll all end up the same way.

However, while I’m anxious, I think I’ll find the answers. No matter how many years it takes—this is the long game. In the meantime, I want to explore life more freely. I’m unafraid of taking bigger risks, treating others and myself more generously, and unapologetically being myself. Forget fear and stifling conformity. I want to believe, with all that I am, that life is meant for so much more than that. That there is meaning in what I do until the very last breath. Time will tell if I accept that as my answer. 

On the penultimate day of a recent vacation, I lucked out and found a solitary lounge chair on the beach away from all of the noise. The otherwise pitch black ocean was faintly illuminated by the full moon. The only sounds were of the gentle wind, insouciant waves, and rustling palm trees to my right. As I stared into the vast night sky and contemplated the smallness of life, I saw my first ever shooting star (yes, yes, I need to get out more). Once the shock subsided, I rushed to figure out an ask, as if the star’s efficacy would expire in seconds. And for the first time since longer than I can remember, I didn’t want to wish for happiness. There will come a time for that, but I wasn’t ready yet.

“Clarity,” I decided. That is what my current chapter is dedicated to pursuing.

SURVIVR Awarded U.S. Air Force SBIR Phase I Grant

It is my pleasure to announce that SURVIVR has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant by the United States Air Force! This Phase I grant will be used to adapt our VR police scenarios to train Air Force security forces.

Phase I comes with several important goals. First, we are tasked with performing customer discovery by demoing to and interviewing relevant Air Force and Department of Defense stakeholders. Second, we will use our findings to 1) validate the need, 2) identify success metrics, and 3) create a comprehensive action plan for our Phase II application.

The SBIR solicitation that we applied to is titled: “Open Call for Innovative Defense-Related Dual-Purpose Technologies/Solutions with a Clear Air Force Stakeholder Need.” The purpose of this solicitation is “to explore [Innovative Defense-Related Dual-Purpose Technologies] that may fall outside the Air Force’s current fields of focus but that may be useful to the US Air Force.”

The Air Force has also commented regarding this solicitation: “AFRL and AFWERX have partnered to streamline the Small Business Innovation Research process in an attempt to speed up the experience, broaden the pool of potential applicants and decrease bureaucratic overhead. Beginning in SBIR 18.2, and now in 19.2, the Air Force has begun offering ‘Special’ SBIR topics that are faster, leaner and open to a broader range of innovations.”

The best part is: we already know that our product is useful to the Air Force. Not only has the Air Force chosen “Immersive Training Solutions” to be one of their Open Topic Technology Focus Areas, but also they have a stakeholder who declared a need specifically for “VR/AR Emergency Response Training.”

All-in-all, the SBIR program is highly selective and we are grateful for the Air Force to be putting us on a path to train military first responders. We look forward to collaborating with the Air Force and Department of Defense to improve public safety training at the federal level.