Five Years of BSD
By Daniel Blair
Bit Space Development was founded five years ago. That is not something a lot of startup tech companies can say, and we’re humbled that we’ve made it this far. To even think about that is mind-boggling for us.
Five years is a long time, especially when you’re working in an emerging industry and learning as you go, but here we are, and we’re still going strong. We’d like to some time to reflect on where we started and how far we’ve come, and we’d love for you to come for a stroll down memory lane with us.
It’s been a long journey and it’s not even close to done yet.
In 2015 Bit Space was just getting started, we had just gotten our first ever real office, and we were trying to figure out how to furnish it. VR was just getting started, we just got our first Google Cardboard viewers, and we had just started playing with our Oculus DK2 developer edition headset.
Our first project getting out of the gate was a tool intended to expose kids to the skill trades using (surprise) 360 photos and embedded hotspots. Although we were not using VR for this, we understood that we could use the visuals in this project to create immersive VR applications, and we loved the idea of Web VR.
While getting started in this space, we became involved in a movement that would later become the ACE project space at Red River College. Due to our work with students and our efforts to create a collaborative space for students and entrepreneurs, we became the template for what would later become an award-winning startup space.
In 2016 we moved out of our first office. With no employees and just the start of an idea, we set off to take what we learned about the trades, 360 content and the need to manage the content for building immersive learning experiences, and we started working on the foundation that would become VRSafety.
During this time, we also hired our first developers and started building the foundation of the team. We also thought we had made it big and threw our first party!
2016 was the year we started exploring VR more seriously and started to get involved in our community. We became involved in organizations like New Media Manitoba and North Forge and continued supporting the ACE Project Space.
The only problem with our fancy new office was the colossal HVAC unit on the ceiling. Our office was–and still is–in the historic exchange district in Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada. These old buildings have that kind of equipment inside. The unit was named Jupiter and only turned on when you were trying to take a phone call or have an important planning meeting.
2016 was a significant growth year for us as well. We started taking part in pitch competitions (which we’re good at losing in), and we continued to grow our brand. It was the year BSD become known outside of Winnipeg.
Realizing our huge space was way too expensive, we orchestrated several moves around the floor we were on until finally settling in our home on the 3rd floor. We crammed way too many people into a small office and turned our old office into a VR lab, which was perfect for that space because nobody wanted to rent it.
This space felt like a forever home for us: Up until this point, we had been continuously moving. The floor we were on was always reshuffling because it was a co-working space, and we had been moved from buildings and pushed around. We thought we had found a location that we could exist in for a long time. We were wrong.
A few months after finding our forever home, our landlord told us that they were getting rid of the 3rd floor, and we had to move–again! Once more, the search was on for something permanent.
Moving from the 3rd Floor at North Forge, we decided this was time to expand our space, and we moved into the basement where there was far more space to spread out. We used that space to develop our first full-size VR lab. We joked that this space would never fill up. It soon did.
During this year, we also experienced a break-in at our office that resulted in the loss of an enormous amount of VR equipment, computers, phones etc. This robbery was bad enough that if it had happened a year earlier, we would have been out of business simply because of the value of the equipment and inability to replace it. Luckily, we had insurance and generous and supportive partners who helped us get going and back to work as fast as possible.
2019 was another big growth year for BSD. In January, we expanded the team with dedicated marketing and sales departments, and in the spring, we hired a full-time 3D artist to bring our art design in-house. Additionally, we expanded the development team to include dedicated Unity developers and a pair of web developers so that we could take on bigger and better projects.
Early in 2019, we moved out of the basement at 321 Market Avenue and temporarily moved back to the North Forge co-working space on the main floor. That was a short-lived transition: We moved into our current home in July of 2019.
The transition was a massive move for us. Until this point, we had always existed at co-working or shared startup spaces. Our new offices at 112 Market (where we currently reside) have space for us to work, collaborate, and experiment with VR. The new office was terrific, but by the end of the year, we already needed to expand again. Growth was a big theme for us in 2019.
2019 was also an excellent year for recognition for us. Early in the year, we were nominated for the Spirit of Winnipeg award. Bit Space Development did not win, but it was an honour to be part of the event. Later that year, we learned that one of our projects won a prestigious award. Changemakers, who funded the development of Level Up VR for Safe Workers of Tomorrow, received the coveted Innovator Award at the 2019 Summit International Awards.
As exciting as it was to see one of our projects win an award, we were even more excited to receive a few recognitions of our own. In mid-2019, we received word that Clutch.co had named Bit Space Development as one of the top AR & VR companies, and at the end of the year, Clutch named BSD as a Global Leader in business-to-business software development services.
2020 has already been an exciting year for us with large-scale hardware deployments and innovative new products coming down the pipe. More than ever, we’re focused on helping our clients implement VR training in much more scalable ways.
At the start of 2020, we expanded our office and nearly doubled our footprint, giving us space to take on bigger and better projects. We have a larger board room for client meetings and an area for VR testing and client demos. We also have secure storage for our devices.
The expanded office also gave us room for a mixed reality studio, which will help us showcase our apps to new audiences. We can also use this space for experimenting with things like full-body tracking for motion capture.
To christen our new space, Bit Space Development hosted the Winnipeg Alternate Reality Club meetup in early March. We had dozens of local VR and AR fans in our office to try out a half dozen of the latest VR headsets available.
The funny thing, right after we did this, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and we were all forced to work at home and meet in VR.
Cheers To The Next Five Years!
The last five years have seen much growth. Still, more importantly, we have also had the opportunity to meet many amazing people, worked with incredible companies, and explored so much interesting and exciting technology.
We have learned so much since 2015, and we’re not stopping now! We’re already pushing into the next five years and can’t wait to see what we will learn and how technology will advance. We’re ready for the challenges and experiences yet to come!