Interview by Darya Yegorina
Sarah Gatefield, co-founder and CTO of Creatikal, has eight years experience in the visual effects industry for cinema and television. She was previously Head of the Matchmove Department at Double Negative TV, and has worked for Oscar- and BAFTA-winning companies such as ILM, Framestore and MPC. She decided to transition into the immersive technology sector after seeing Magic Leap and The Void demos showing what the future could bring, and she taught herself C# programming and Unity in her spare time. She enrolled in Madrid-based venture builder Oarsis on a six month entrepreneur programme, and is now working between the UK and Spain while Creatikal launches and grows. She likes to use technology creatively and for social good, and is excited to see where the next few years take us.
What is the idea behind Creatikal and how did you come up with it?
Creatikal is a new way to tell stories, using augmented reality. I have a love for film and immersive technologies, and in particular the potential that mixed reality has to change the way we learn and creatively interact with each other.
When did it all start and do you have other members in your team?
The idea for Creatikal was born at the beginning of this year with my fellow co-founder Jorge Duarte Ruiz when we met at Oarsis, a venture builder based in Madrid. We share a love of the cinema, storytelling and social good, so we followed the Lean Startup method and set out to find a problem that we could solve. We asked parents, teachers, psychologists, and of course kids, and they all said the same thing: storytelling and creativity are important but they're not always focused on enough at schools because they are following STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These are of course necessary subjects too, but to complement and balance them we should also include the Arts. Edwar Rojas is our Android ARCore and Unreal developer, and Rob Sansom is our UX / UI designer. We also have Motion Graphics and 3D Artist Cristina Hernandez Gamir collaborating on creative direction.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
We began in January 2018 and built our first working proof of concept in a month with help from people collaborating with us because they also believed in the idea. In less than six months, we've gone from drawn ideas on paper, building prototypes and POCs that we've tested with users in order to gain feedback for improvement, to an MVP that is almost ready for real-world testing on the Play Store!
What was the biggest obstacle?
Time, but just because we want to do everything all at once as we're excited about our idea!
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Starting a business has to be one as it's not something I expected of myself up until recently. I have always freelanced, though, working project to project in visual effects, so I guess it's been a natural progression to want to work for myself. Also, just putting the demo into other people's hands and seeing their reactions has been very rewarding as they've all been amazed and hopefully it shows we're on the right track.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in?
I don't see being involved in immersive technology as a challenge because, for me, the medium is relatively new and the network is gradually expanding, so it feels like a community that wants to support each other while learning and trying new things. The technology is rapidly advancing so we need to be quick, but then it means we make interesting projects sooner!
How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Sadly, it's sometimes seen as a surprise that Creatikal has a female CTO and co-founder. That shouldn't be the case in 2018; in the UK women have had the vote for 100 years and yet we're still not paid the same as men or have anywhere near as many founders in startups or managerial and executive positions in companies. That's got to change. We have to sit at the table.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Absolutely; this is an underrepresented area and we need to get more women into code, which is slowly starting to happen. I feel that we are told at a young age that some job types are only for certain genders. I myself have a more artistic background - I have worked in the VFX industry for the last eight years - and always thought that I couldn't program because it was maths-based which I struggled with at school. However, I have learnt C# programming in the last two years thanks to a willingness to learn and online resources such as Sololearn (the Duolingo of programming), Unity tutorials and its community, YouTube tutorials, and by taking the Udacity VR Developer Nanodegree. Change can happen!
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Read Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In"; it will make you consider your place in the business world and the real word, and then question it. We have to be in the race to compete, and we have to believe in ourselves. Just by building this start-up and believing in my idea, I've become more confident in my abilities. Your experience is what makes you unique and you can always learn new things - it just takes time, and the time will pass anyway, so do something with it.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
AR glasses (I hope!). There are some interesting optical companies out there making designer-style glasses that merge fashion and technology, such as LaForge. Ultimately, we have to get the general public on board, so it's important that we think about aesthetics of the hardware. Obviously I am waiting for the infamous Magic Leap release, whatever Apple and Google bring out of the box in terms of AR glasses, and hoping for a lower cost and more slimline HoloLens.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in VR/AR?
The ladies at the Women In VR Meetup in London that has since diversified into two groups, Women In Immersive Tech (WiiT) and Unfold, were my early inspirations. They showed me that I could build a business out of a passion, and it was great to meet others who were excited about the immersive technology industry too.
This interview was conducted by Darya Yegorina, Women of Wearables Ambassador in Dublin, Ireland. She is a serial entrepreneur, CEO of CleverBooks and other ventures in multiple industries. Darya’s current focus is on emerging technologies for education where she has the mission to deliver the most innovative Augmented Reality technology to schools around the world and to create equal access to technology for kids globally. Darya is called the Innovator by Irish Times, Irish Tech News and Examiner in 2017, was featured in Forbes and selected as one of young Irish best entrepreneurs in 2016. Connect with Darya on LinkedIn: Darya Yegorina or follow her on Twitter: Darya Yegorina