How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level
As part of our series about “How To Use Digital Transformation To Take Your Company To The Next Level”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nathaniel Hunter. Nathaniel Hunter, Co-Founder and CEO of DreamView, Inc., has held pivotal pioneering roles at the forefront of CGI development and innovation for three decades. He has mastered business operations and technology at several of the most notable entertainment industry organizations during his career. Through DreamView, Nathaniel is able to leverage his expertise to lead the creation of an enabling platform and service solution that fulfills the production, marketing and distribution needs of small to enterprise level brands, e-commerce suppliers, manufacturers and retailers worldwide.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I spent close to 30 years in film and product development using CGI (computer-generated imagery). I’ve worked with companies like Disney, Apple, and even directly for George Lucas up at Skywalker Ranch. My career has been mainly dedicated to building more efficient virtual products in CGI, in a photo-real fashion for companies. I took this experience over the past three decades and saw a need for small-to-medium-sized as well as enterprise level companies that don’t do this on a daily basis, and created something that allowed them to access this type of experience. Now, they can develop products that are physically photo-real, as well as stylized, at a scale and price that they can afford, especially in the realms of e-commerce and marketing.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Funniest mistake, that’s an interesting one, because mistakes usually aren’t that funny. The funniest mistake, and I’ve admittedly made many, but I think just trying to try to focus too hard on the scalable solution aspect right away, before getting down the right recipe for building it in the first place. In other words, trying to jump too fast into the bigger picture, before just making it work at a smaller scale.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Before my career first started, I had a very close family friend, who not only loaned me a little bit of money to buy my first computer, but also used his connections at his job with a company called Autodesk to get me access to their software. This was back when computers were tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, and software was $40,000 to $50,000. This motivated me to teach myself how to do create 3D content, because at the time, no school was teaching this sort of work. Photoshop had just come out and the concept of doing 3D as a training course or in school wasn’t even available.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book and the film Ready Player One, for sure. Ready Player One fascinated me long before starting DreamView, but it was a big part of the word “dream,” the ethos of the company. It’s not just about building these products, but sending the dream, and being the broker for the Oasis of the future. I think the book and the film are both pretty good resonators in terms of where the industry is going as a whole, as well as where we as a culture are going. These digital experiences are going to become pervasive and everyone will want to be part of them, whether you see it as a game or as experiences for enhancing the world around you. I’m a firm believer that’s the way that the future is going.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
The purpose was to unlock this ability for any company, especially any company that has branded products, to create representations of those products using technology they typically don’t have access to. That was the nucleus of what DreamView was when I first thought of it, and what it has become, in a fuller fleshed-out manner, as we continue to grow.
Are you working on any new, exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
We’re always working on many exciting projects. Some of them, a few in particular, are going to be projects that no one has really attempted before and because of that, I can’t really say too much, but I think they’re going to help not only clients, but also creators themselves. We’re going to unshackle the limitations they’ve had with content creation. DreamView is going to be enabling this type of technology for external creatives, technologists, and companies to be able to use. Just the perception of what reality actually is, that is what DreamView is fundamentally disrupting.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about Digital Transformation. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly Digital Transformation means? On a practical level what does it look like to engage in a Digital Transformation?
On a practical level, it’s really about unchaining the concepts around what is possible. It’s not just how a product is created, or how its utilized, but what is possible in the creator’s mind. Also, taking our clients into consideration, it’s about making our partners successful by giving them access to technology and creativity that they’ve never been able to access before DreamView.
Which companies can most benefit from a Digital Transformation?
Commerce and marketing-based companies can largely benefit from digital transformation, because of their heavy reliance on visual based media that is required to sell their physical products, whether it’s for themselves or for other clients they have. Taking that visual medium to another level is really going to enhance their ability to tell a story, to sell their product. What we’re building is going to enable them to take any possible machination, really any idea, and make it reality for their clients or for themselves.
We’d love to hear about your experiences helping others with Digital Transformation. In your experience, how has Digital Transformation helped improve operations, processes and customer experiences? We’d love to hear some stories if possible.
There’s a company we’ve worked with for a while now and their traditional way of doing business was forever changed through our services. The CEO of this company, that made fireplace mantels, would travel to Indonesia, pick out certain raw materials and bring them home. They would then manufacture test pieces out of that material, take pictures and send them to buyers. Then every three to four months, they would go back to that same Indonesian manufacturer, and put it in an order. Now, instead of shipping them back to the U.S., we take images and within a number of days, recreate that same product. Before the CEO leaves Indonesia, orders are already being filled. We’ve trimmed this process from three months down to three to four days. That was a massive way in terms of how digital transformation transformed their business and how they operate.
Has integrating Digital Transformation been a challenging process for some companies? What are the challenges? How do you help resolve them?
It’s definitely been a challenge. Many companies are just not used to so much technology. Oftentimes, we work with companies that are not technologists, especially with the advent of cloud computing, and the ability to access more and more data in the cloud, there can be a steep learning curve for some companies that are more traditional. That includes the creation of these products, the management of them day in and day out and there can be some challenging factors to that for companies that aren’t used to using technology on a constant basis. We try to simplify that as much as we can. For companies that either physically manufacture products, or are more traditionally used to just photography and videography, which is a physical medium, going all digital or this digital transformation is something that can have a steep learning curve. We’ve become very adept at helping support our clients with simplified workflows and interfaces to make the transitions smoother.
Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are “Five Ways a Company Can Use Digital Transformation To Take It To The Next Level”? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. It can start as early from product design. Using the products and services that we have, starting from a design standpoint, rather than physically manufacturing something, we can work with a company and take products that don’t physically exist yet and manufacture them in the computer. That allows the company that owns that product to then bring it to life in an ad sense where users can actually vote with their interest, like using Facebook or Google ads on a product that doesn’t physically exist. We’ve done this with multiple brands to help reduce their cost of product development, shorten their time to market, and increase their conversion rates by pre-determining customer interest patterns.
2. The second part is being able to use those individual products that can be developed digitally before they’ve actually been physically manufactured, to create something in the digital space that looks real, not just for that product, but also variances of pre-existing products. To take a product that exists as one type of material, or one color, and then being able to redefine it and introduce it again as another color, or in another configuration, to use A/B testing and really do market testing on a product before our clients physically go and start the hard, costly process of manufacturing those products in the first place. This takes product development to a level that few companies can afford without the digital transformation in the process that DreamView allows.
3. Once a company wants to manufacture their products, DreamView then unchains our clients restrictions, especially the ability for them to put those products wherever they want to. For instance, taking a product, such as a tennis shoe or a couch, and being able to showcase it in either its natural environment, or go wild and juxtapose the products in a stylized or commercialized way.
An example of this would be a client we have worked with now for a few years. They manufacture very high end furniture pieces that are influenced by cultures and areas around the world, but had always been represented in fairly bland studio environments. With DreamViews approach, they unlocked the ability to showcase their products in English castles, in coastal environments, in exclusive New York and San Francisco penthouses, and dozens more. This allowed their products to not just be visualized for consumers, to be contextual, aspirational, but also to be warm and inviting, which lead to increased conversion rates in their sales across the board, and an overall better brand representation of their amazing products.
4. We like to take all of these products that we build and create what we call an evergreen solution for our clients, to build out these environments that are reusable infinitely. In many cases, and this is a story that relates to every company we work with, if they were to go and get a product created, to go through the traditional approach, they, or a brokered agency, would have to go to the process of designing a physical set, or renting out a location or studio. This would require levels of design, lighting, etc., that would have to be physically created, and then once that shoot was complete, deconstructed because of the next client. The cost for them to go back to that is enormous in the physical sense and every time you want to reshoot something, it truly does cost twice as much as it originally did, because they have to recreate it from scratch.
Our evergreen methodology allows us to create these digital sets and put them into the cloud to be used over and over again indefinitely. To be able to re-use, or re-skin them, or take a product that for an e-commerce site might be sellable on Amazon, and showcase it in a way that is now specific to Target, Walmart, Overstock, or any number of marketplaces, this suddenly gives our clients the ability to do something they never have had before. To create variations on the content itself, not just the product, but the surroundings, with as many or little variations as they desire. Thats the power of evergreen development and design, it lives on indefinitely and in as many forms as you choose.
5. Finally, the ability to bring those products to life in a way that only animation can, which is traditionally very hard to do. For instance, if you’re going to showcase products that have some sort of functionality, let’s say how the internal mechanism of a vacuum works, or the compression of a shoes sole while its in mid-run, or how a reclining chair tilts and cantilevers. Breaking any of these apart while it’s still moving, still working, and then bringing it back together, with special effects, overlays, and at the same time it looks entirely photo-real. That’s something that you can only do using CGI. You can attempt to do it in the physical world, but the costs are so enormous. That’s just completely out of touch for most companies that utilize more traditional techniques.
In your opinion, how can companies best create a “culture of innovation” in order to create new competitive advantages?
Trying things and not being afraid of failing at them. Benjamin Franklin was famous for saying “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Having that same type of mentality where you’re not afraid of failure and failing fast is something that we at DreamView take to heart. Being able to take a process that is unproven, and very quickly change that process, to manipulate it, to have agility, or the ability to move very fast on your feet, is something that I think every company’s culture could actually benefit from. Having that type of mentality where you’re not stuck in one specific way of doing business, that you’re malleable. Another great quote, from Heraclitus, a greek philosopher, “Change is the only constant in life”. Taking that to heart as a company, especially in this age of digital innovation, will help that company grow in the most incredible of ways.
How can our readers further follow your work?
The best way is by going to dreamview.com and subscribing to our email system.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!