The Storyteller's Startup
How a VR Startup Confronts Reality
Larry Cutler works in two worlds: He’s building an animation studio that creates virtual reality content, and he’s building a startup. The CTO and co-founder of Baobab Studios describes the parallels between telling a story in VR and creating a new business. “The audience has 360 degrees to look around, but we still want them to focus on the right thing at the right time," he says. At a startup, “you have to be comfortable with change and uncertainty…but keep the singular vision and focus.”
Cutler has long been in the front row of the animation industry, a repeat entrepreneur who worked at Pixar and DreamWorks, and now helps run Baobab Studios. Virtual reality is transforming animation but there is more to creating cinematic-quality animated content than the technology. Cutler explains that a successful film requires understanding two core principles of storytelling: "The characters must be compelling, and the story you tell on the screen is almost never the one you started with," he says.
Animated storytelling is a process of development by iteration on two levels, technical and creative. In both, the path isn't always clear at the outset — recognizing and quickly adapting to challenges is essential. The same holds true in building a successful startup. "You really don't want to go too long without getting input. And when things don't work out, you have to recover quickly," Cutler explains. Failure will happen, but value lies in what's learned.
you have to be comfortable with change and uncertainty…but keep the singular vision and focus.
Riding in a car without shock absorbers
Being a founder of a startup requires managing extreme highs and lows: “You have moments of doubt probably on a daily basis,” Cutler says. “It’s like being in a car without shock absorbers.” He says part of his role is to keep the highs and lows from distracting his team, and he hires people who understand both the big picture and their individual roles. "I feel very fortunate to work with really top-notch people who share my passion for storytelling, for bringing characters to life, and for wanting to be the very best," he says.
Choosing a trusted partner
Cutler looks for the same enthusiasm, commitment and flexibility from his bank. He recognizes that having a trusted partner is key. And positive personal experience often anchors that trust. "My previous company relied heavily on Silicon Valley Bank through a tough time," he recalls. At that startup, the bank provided a bridge loan, and so when he was looking for a savvy financial partner for Baobab Studios, he again turned to SVB.
Figuring it out together
Cutler, the professional storyteller, also values SVB as a partner that can help him tell Baobab Studios' story to potential investors and he appreciates the bank’s hands-on approach. "SVB is always there to advise and to help make companies like ours be successful," he says. "There's a strong sense of camaraderie, that feeling of, 'Hey, today we're going to figure this out together’."
At Silicon Valley Bank, we have conversations every day with technology visionaries who are shaping the future. We invited several clients on the frontlines to share their experiences and points of view on how to build a successful innovation company.
In this collection of stories, titled Next2 POV, you will hear about the vision, passion and sheer grit necessary to get going, and how building a trusted team of partners and advisors is a prerequisite for success. Our goal is for these stories to give you insight and inspiration to move your big idea forward.