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Startup Highlight: Looking Glass

July 13, 2023

Photo by Tom Parkes / Unsplash

We’re interviewing the founder of a standout startup in the Bolster community. Read on for a team with an outside-the-box idea, a CEO who loves to learn, and an exciting vision for the future. Looking Glass is building the first great hologram company of the 21st century, charting a course out of flatland for all.

CEO and co-founder Shawn Frayne shared some of his thoughts on startups, team building, and mentorship with us recently.

What inspired you to start Looking Glass?

When I was around 10 years old I saw Marty McFly get gobbled up by a holographic shark in Back to the Future II, and for whatever reason kids get obsessed with something, I was hooked. At that point, I needed to know everything there was to know about holograms.

A couple of years later, after talking incessantly about holograms, my parents got me a book called the Holography Handbook. With my Dad’s help, I was able to build a small holographic imaging studio at the foot of my bed in my family’s house in Tampa, Florida. Then a few years later I went to MIT to study physics and, on the side, holography. I was surprised to find that no one had yet built the dynamic, computer-controlled “holographic interfaces” I saw in the movies when I was 10 years old. So, I set out to assemble a team that could make that science fiction dream of holographic interfaces a reality at last.

Assuming all goes well with Looking Glass, what do you hope people are saying in 10-20-30 years?

In 20 years, I hope people say, “It seems so obvious now, since holograms are all around us in our daily lives, but back in the 2020s, that just wasn’t the case. Back then, that great hologram company you know and love—Looking Glass—had a hell of a time convincing everyone that headset-free holograms were right around the corner. Thankfully, as we all know now, the emergence of large language models combined with the realism of holograms to finally, in 2023, make that holographic future seem suddenly obvious.”

What are three things you look for when someone joins your team?

  1. We pay close attention to a candidate’s ability to talk through their most challenging experiences honestly.
  2. We often hire based on someone’s hobbies rather than their educational background.
  3. We pay close attention to the initial technical or writing evaluations (e.g., we’ve asked mechanical engineers to draw a 3D model of Edison’s sketch of a phonograph on the spot, we’ve done pair programming for a couple hours to understand how someone approaches problems, and we will often ask for a writing sample to see how clearly someone can think and communicate—for both writing and non-writing roles).

How has receiving mentorship been invaluable to you?

My mentor has been someone I can turn to for very different sorts of advice than I can seek with my board of directors. Even though my board is excellent, there are just some more wishy-washy throw-ideas-at-the-wall conversations I can have with my mentor that would be hard to have in a board meeting context.

His advice and role as a completely safe sounding board has been invaluable.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to new founders?

Only do a startup if you are completely obsessed with the idea behind it. Then it might be worth the pain :)

Finally, a book you’d recommend from the past year?

Why Fish Don't Exist, by Lulu Miller.

Founded in 2014, Looking Glass is headquartered in Brooklyn, NY with additional operations in Hong Kong. Looking Glass is committed to helping the world’s biggest brands, organizations, and millions of individual 3D creators around the world complete their journey into the holographic future. Their ultimate goal is to bring holograms to everyone. They think it’s going to be bigger than the shift from radio to television, or the shift from black and white to color, and they’re going to get us there together.