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Transcript: Tech Moguls 2036 Keynote - Ben Traverston

Sam Jarman, Guest post. 12 May 2021, 5:51 am
Transcript: Tech Moguls 2036 Keynote - Ben Traverston


The following is a transcript from Auckland's Tech Mogul Showcase 2036


Hello everyone! It's an honour to be here in Auckland! This is my first time in New Zealand but it's a shame I can't be here in person with you all - my Synth™ will have to do. It's so great to see you all though. What a weird sight to see a room full of humans.

My name is Ben Traverston and I've been asked here to tell my story of my company, Be There™ and our journey to date and how we became the world's first and most successful virtual presence technology company.

Let me take you back to 2029. COVID-28 was still raging, and most countries apart from your own and those Aussies were struggling hard with it. A new strain had emerged out of the Republic of Texas that was more virulent than ever. A vaccine wasn't in sight, and even the largest companies in the world - Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca - couldn't keep up with the adapting strains fast enough. It was looking dire.

By this point, we'd been in lockdown for four years straight and while remote work looked like it'd be a revolution back in the early 2020s, people quickly craved being back in the office. The banter, the gossip, the slacking off, the comradery - there was simply no substitute.

My co-founder John and I thought that instead of Zoom, ha - remember, sorry guys - instead of Zoom, we'd like a safe, in-person presence. That's where we got the idea for Synth™. It was intimidating at the time. I mean, controlling an entire robot with just your mind? Seeing what it saw? Hearing what it heard? Feeling what it felt? It was ambitious to say the least. The tech was out there in parts, but no one had put it together as one before in a single unit, never less sold it. There'd be a few attempts at VR meetings but they missed the point - people don't want to be virtually there, they want to actually be there.

What do I mean? I mean the commute to the office, the watercooler banter, the uncomfortable chairs in the meeting rooms, the hum of the broken AC. They missed it, and they wanted it back.

So late 2031 we launched Synth v1. It was simple. You would stand, lay or sit and while wearing a Synth Feel™ suit, headset, headphones and microphone, you would then be able to have full control over your Sythn™. The Synth™ would then leave the house, immune to the virus, head to work and come home again. You were completely immersed for as long as you want. We also offered sanitising spray for entrances to homes and apartment buildings. Once back inside, your Synth™ was safe and could be charged.

Originally we rolled them out to the C-suites, the board members. We took extra care in getting facial features right and the appearance as close to ideal as possible. Obviously, we didn't include the grey hairs and wrinkles - and we feel that was appreciated by those early customers. We also negotiated with the various health departments around the Bay Area to have frontline workers use Synths as well.

Of course, we had our fair share of Synth crime - I mean, kidnapping a famous looking Synth and controlling it could spell disaster, so we quickly retrofitted a small self destruct feature into existing high profile synths. The criminals learned quickly it wasn't worth it. One gang even stole an Elon Musk synth we had in an old storage facility - even though he'd been off-planet by that time for years. Haha! Not the smartest, those lot.

Anyway, the success of v1 let us raise funding for Synth Lite and Synth Basic for the rest of the world. Synth Lite had fewer features and were docked at major places around the city. We were able to buy up parking buildings and convert them easily enough. Needless to say, those landlords were keen to get rid of their rapidly depreciating assets! They charged from solar on the roof and pretty much ran themselves. Users would then operate them for their business. For this, we had an on-demand model that scaled with price as demand increased. However, we were building so many Synths by this point - Synths building Synths was one of our first use cases - that the cost barely peaked above US$25 an hour - the price of a coffee.

Synth Basics were our final offering, mounted directly in the board room or office cubicle. Minimal movement, no customisation, but extremely affordable for a business to buy or lease a set - we saw this very popular with businesses that weren't coping well with remote work, such as the public sector.

By 2033 we were ready to launch Synth Total, which remains our current product. The system that we all know and love today. I'm using one right now, and by the looks of it, some of you are too - I'm guessing the very limited numbers we've sold in New Zealand are in this room! I see some of our competitors products out there in the audience but you don't look as happy, call me biased. Anyway, the Synth Total. A modular system - a first for hardware technology products in quite some time, allowed for upgrades to the eyes, speech synthesis, touch sensors, and even genitalia to be rolled out through the mid 2030s, all while people could keep the base Synth Total unit. 

By 2034 we'd noticed something we didn't quite expect to start to pop up around us - an ecosystem of businesses that maintained the Synths. There were beauty salons that changed the hair, skin or nails on the synths. "Mod shops" that installed upgrades such as higher capacity batteries, laser pointers in the fingertips and hell, I think I even heard of a mod shop offering programmable hair. John and I then started Be There Ventures, our venture capital arm that invested in the ecosystem. It was a win/win, we couldn't think of everything, but we wanted to support and invest in businesses that did. I'm sure you've all seen CNBC, it's going well.

So it's 2036 now and people are looking at Be There and wondering what is coming next - what's the next big thing? Well, we have a few ideas in development, but you'll just have to wait and see.

Thank you, I'll take questions now!

Sam Jarman is a Kiwi software engineer / improv actor / public speaker / writer and future thinker living in Sydney, Australia.


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