Australian-based VR EdTech scale-up, Next World Enterprises, has struck a partnership with the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) to train and upskill the next generation of workers using the company’s innovative virtual reality (VR) technology.
Next World’s technology enables employees to undertake training and induction through VR to superimpose themselves in hazardous scenarios and ensure their safety.
In 2020, Next World received $100,000 in support through the Ignite Ideas program to expand their VR training technology and since then the company has gone from strength to strength.
Founder and Chief Executive Michael O’Reilly is a Behavioural Scientist who previously worked for large international resource companies, where training was critical in bringing workers home safely. This is where his idea was born. He has also owned other businesses in the learning, personnel and safety space.
We sat down with Michael to hear what Next World has been up to over the last twelve months and to hear about what’s on the horizon.
Firstly, congratulations on the deal with UDC, it must feel like a huge sense of achievement for a small startup from Brisbane.
Thank you. Our move into the United States was strategic. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, we had to bed-down a strategy that would serve our business. That’s when we identified five strategic goals for the business – one being to grow into the United States. We were quite deliberate in our approach and focussed on the college sector, specifically those colleges that provide construction education and would be great users of our training technology.
What will the partnership with UDC deliver?
We’re working with UDC on a new course that is designed to be a blended approach, merging VR tech with conventional learning approaches. It’s designed to develop sustainable employment for young Americans to support infrastructure investment in the country. Infrastructure spend will be massive and used to drive the economy out of the COVID recession. Using our VR headsets, the students will learn vital skills to allow them to safely enter the workforce.
How has your business grown since the Ignite Ideas grant?
It has helped in so many ways. Before we were successful in receiving the Ignite Ideas grant, we had 10 paying customers and now we’re on track to have over 150 customers on our books before the end of 2021 – including a range of industries including construction, education, retail and local government. Our technology is industry agnostic.
Our team has also dramatically increased, from a small team of three to now 15 people across Australia and now the United States. We’re now Australia’s largest VR development company.
While the funding from Ignite Ideas was a welcomed boost and helped grow our company, we also found that the startup community, and partnerships that have since been forged, have been the greatest reward. Receiving the Award recognition supported our business as one that is endorsed and has credibility, which is so important in and for emerging tech sector businesses like ours.
Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your business?
Obviously when coronavirus hit, it had a huge impact and posed challenges for people and businesses all around the world. For us, we noticed an uplift in our business – with more people turning to online training than face-to-face and taking the time away from normal business operations to focus on developing their Business Continuity Management (BCM) plans that included any training requirements.
Many businesses did not shut down and we found that businesses still needed to conduct their training, especially safety level training. Specifically, we noticed an increase in our manual handling training as people become ever more disappointed with the poor results from eLearning.
We also support many of the local government councils in Queensland – many of which need safety training for road works management.
The community lockdowns and business restrictions meant that trainers could often not travel large distances to deliver face-to-face training – particularly in communities with large percentage of indigenous in the community where it may risk their health.
Our technology offers a huge cost savings for the councils as well as retaining the ability to train for critical subject matters.
What does the future look like for Next World Enterprises?
Locally in Australia, we are accelerating growth on all fronts, from the actual software development with new hires every month, to the business growth side also moving ahead fast. We’ve entered international markets already such as New Zealand, United Kingdom, US of course, but more recently in the Gulf Coast Countries region where we are seeing game changing opportunities that can see us potentially outstrip our 5-year plan targets by the end of the second year.
Looking further afield, our partnership with UDC will help to forge more partnerships with universities and colleges in the United States.
Watch the Next World's Learning Experiences video.