Alum takes a bite out of Shark Tank

Virtuix CEO Jan Goetgeluk ’10 appeared on the television program Shark Tank December 6 to pitch the Omni, a virtual reality treadmill. ABC’s business-themed reality series features the sharks — tough, self-made, multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons — who give budding entrepreneurs the chance to make their dreams come true and potentially secure business deals that could make them millionaires.

Jan took a moment to share his experience on the show.


“I applied for SharkTank in the spring through a quick email submission and, a few months later, received an email stating that Virtuix had been selected to continue to the next round. However, that round required filling out lots of paperwork and preparing a short video.  I re-evaluated our participation and decided not to apply, taking into consideration that we were a serious and visible company with an established community (through Kickstarter), and ultimately not the right fit for a reality TV show.”

After letting the deadline expire without sending in the paperwork, he received a phone call from a producer who expressed deep disappointment that they did not apply and urged them to reconsider.  “At that point, I realized this was a good opportunity that should not be ignored. I filled out the paperwork and made a video in a matter of days, and submitted our application.  We got approved and in September of this year we traveled to LA for the taping of the show.”

Shark Tank aired last Friday night, and Jan was thrilled with the exposure. “Mission accomplished, great marketing, great response. The key is to approach it the right way. Going in we knew we weren’t the right fit for these investors. It was the marketing value we were looking for. The marketing value alone is undeniable, but the producers do a lot of editing. From 45 minutes of great discussion, great debates, great questions to six minutes of great reality TV. It’s a fast-paced production but even with that the product received really positive feedback from the sharks.”

The benefit is already showing itself. “There has been a spike in preorders, in interest, messages through the website. It’s all been positive. People are expressing their excitement about the product, even giving us ideas. Overall it was a great experience.”

To read more about Jan’s journey with the Omni, see the article below from the fall 2013 issue of the Jones Journal. To learn more about Jan’s company, Virtuix, visit http://www.virtuix.com/

The following article is from the Fall 2013 issue of Jones Journal 

Virtual World, Real Opportunities


Jan Goetgeluk ’10 Kickstarts into Virtual Reality

For Jan Goetgeluk, a normal work day begins around 8 a.m. and, with limited breaks, ends sometime between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. the following morning. In most cases, the founder and CEO of Houston-based Virtuix keeps the same hectic routine through the weekend, a mentally and physically demanding pace that he wouldn’t change if he could. “I may be from Belgium, but this is my opportunity to live the American dream,” Goetgeluk said. With $1.1 million raised by tapping into the public’s imagination and a unique device just months away from delivery, he’s well on his way.

Goetgeluk’s pursuit of that dream began six years ago, when he was transferred to Houston to serve as a project manager for a Belgian petrochemical company. When the project was completed, he decided to stay in Houston and pursue his MBA at the Jones School. Well before he graduated in 2010, Goetgeluk knew where his career path would eventually lead.

“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. That’s one of the reasons I came to the states,” he explained. “At Rice, I took all the entrepreneurship classes and graduated with an entrepreneurship concentration, even though I was the president of the finance club and was going into investment banking.”

After graduation, Goetgeluk took a job with J.P. Morgan’s Oil & Gas Investment Banking Division. During breaks in his long hours of work, he would look for opportunities to strike out on his own. “I promised myself that, before four years were up, I would start a business.”

Eventually, he found an area where he believed he could make his goal a reality — the virtual world. “It started with a conversation with a classmate of mine at Rice about twoand- a-half years ago,” he said. “Microsoft had just come out with the Kinect, which is an optical camera that tracks your whole body. I thought it was an incredible device that would make a big impact on virtual reality, and I wanted to find a way to take part in what I thought would be a virtual reality revolution.”

Goetgeluk said the combination of improved technology and the interest of people captivated by the idea helped him realize that virtual reality was no longer a niche industry, but the next big thing. With the idea of creating the ability for users to be fully immersed in a virtual reality world, Goetgeluk began work on the Omni, a platform that would allow users to stand and walk around in a virtual world.

He took the idea for the Omni to Kickstarter.com for support and donations from the public for the project, and rapidly raised more than $1.1 million from more than 3,000 donors.

“The sales pitch was easy because our product speaks to the imagination of a large audience,” he said simply. With the help of seven full-time employees and a couple of part-time employees, Goetgeluk is on schedule to ship the first Omnis in early 2014. There’s already a backlog: Virtuix has sold nearly 3,000 Omnis before the first one goes out the door.

While most of the $499 Omnis have been sold to individuals, Goetgeluk explained that he has been contacted by a wide variety of potential customers looking to use the device in ways that go well beyond gaming.

“We get calls from corporations every day who want to use the Omni for a wide variety of uses, from oil and gas simulations to military applications to the construction industry who want to use the Omni to virtually walk around a design before they build it,” he said. “We’ve had talks with large conglomerates, gaming companies, so there are a lot of opportunities. A big health care company reached out to us and they want to use the Omni for Alzheimer’s research.”

While Goetgeluk closes in on his objective of becoming a major player in virtual reality, his actual reality has also become more interesting. He married Erica Cedeno, a 2012 Rice MBA, in May — just as the Omni project began to take off. “I am 100 percent immersed in my work, but Erica understands every facet of my business, so I can talk to her about anything and that helps a lot.”

— Mark Passwaters

Jan recently spoke at the 2013 TEDx Houston held on Rice University campus on October 12, 2013. To see a video from his live demonstration at the River Oaks Theater earlier this year, visit business.rice.edu/jan.