Chris Haralambous was a partner at a prestigious law firm with more than 20 years’ specialist experience in commercial and employment law – but it wasn’t enough.
The South African acted as lead counsel in many high-profile legal cases for Cox Yeats and had also developed an established training career.
However he took the decision to leave the Durban-based legal firm last April to relocate to the UK and join immersive tech firm Laduma, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah with a major base in Liverpool.
He had worked with Laduma since its incorporation in late 2015. When the opportunity arose to become its director of commercial partnerships, he took it with both hands.
“I wanted to get away from practising law,” Haralambous told BusinessCloud. “It’s been a refreshing experience since the outset.
“What I thought virtual reality was when I arrived here is not what I thought it was. I had an image of old movies, where people put headsets on and enter a virtual world.
“I didn’t realise half the things that immersive tech can do, or how it could be applied. It was a huge education for me.”
Haralambous focuses on deal structuring and developing commercial relations for the company, which is growing across sectors and geographical boundaries after initially focusing on providing content for sports clubs.
“There is still a legal element to what I do, in terms of the contractual side of things, but I find the career a lot more fulfilling,” he said. “Especially the creative side – as a lawyer you have to be creative with clients, but it was a lot drier.”
Haralambous says many businesses are still hesitant to use immersive technology, which he terms “fear of the unknown”.
Since last year Laduma has established joint-venture partnerships and agencies in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to complement its existing footprint in Europe and the USA.
“We want to position ourselves internationally as an immersive tech company and are in the process of identifying other players who can have mutual collaborative benefits for us,” Haralambous said.
“We’ve got a handful of large clients in each region, for whom we have developed bespoke solutions. Our projects tend to be on larger side.”
Laduma exhibited a cavern dome experience, which can accommodate 25 people, at the International Festival for Business last year. The 360-degree video documentary commissioned by Liverpool City Council showcased the city’s highlights and left a smile on Prince William’s face as he emerged from the dome.
The company is in talks with security companies, pharmaceutical companies and car parts manufacturers on how the dome can be used for training.
Another bespoke solution which does not require users to wear a headset was created for the HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) event in the United States in February.
Featuring projections of a bear in the wild, the experience was wholly interactive.
“As a participant approaches a wall, it activates a reaction in the bear,” said Haralambous. “You can also elicit that reaction through sound.”
Laduma also recently worked with cardiac surgeon Dr Harish Manyam, Boston Scientific and Erlanger Health Systems to capture footage of a surgical procedure in VR which could be used to train doctors.
“Getting people to immersive themselves empathetically within situations can be very beneficial in developing skills,” continued Haralambous.
“To reach milestones such as this with our technology within a reasonably short space of time is quite exciting for us.”
Laduma is in early talks with investors about securing funds to scale the company’s offering.
“2019 is a critical year for us in terms of capital expansion. Funding is important – but finding the right fit in an investment partner is the most important thing,” said Haralambous.
“We’re hoping to grow technical and sales teams and expand our presence in London. We want to at least double our headcount.”