Meet The Disruptors: Nick Fellingham Of Condense Reality On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
If you surround yourself with people you like and respect and you work on something that really excites you, you will find that most people want you to succeed. We have been incredibly fortunate to build an incredible team who are all passionate about our product and our company and we have received backing from some fantastic investors.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Fellingham
Nick Fellingham is CEO and Co-Founder of Condense Reality, the company that’s on a mission to make the metaverse the number one destination for live events, transforming the way millions of people engage with music, sports and each other.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I know some people leave university and jump straight into trying to start a company because it’s their dream and they think “why waste any more time?”
I came at it with a different approach though — in fact starting a business straight away was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to ‘pay my dues’ as it were. I knew I was going to start a company eventually, but what would make me a better founder would be knowing how to actually build products too.
Think of a piece of tech that’s growing in importance like, say, machine learning. Nobody could — or should — just decide to set up a business around it, without having a real depth of understanding of what it is and what it’s capable of. You need to have played around with it — a step I think it is important not to skip.
So, having been programming since I was about 11, I left uni and went off to build things — eventually moving into product ownership and product management roles. I worked at a number of different startups around Bristol — which was an invaluable experience.
During that time, I got to understand what it takes to run a business, experience the responsibility of owning a product, and develop my own set of skills. I got to see first-hand what the technology industry is like, and where and how it can be disrupted. And I got to have a few years of engaging with and learning from other people.
With all that under my belt in just a few short years, I felt I was better prepared to start Condense.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Well, any company working in or on the metaverse is already being disruptive, because they’re puncturing this idea that the metaverse is just a theory — a far-off vision that might never be realized. That’s absolutely not true — we’re already seeing tons of people spending time inside 3D worlds playing games and socializing with each other, a trend that’s only going to get bigger and bigger.
The thing about Condense that’s disruptive and unique to us — and why I love what we do so much — is we’ve adopted an enabling role. We are creating the infrastructure for anyone to live stream real-world events in 3D into the metaverse — which opens the door to anyone and everyone to be disruptive by creating content the like we’ve never seen before.
Disruption doesn’t need to be just a single individualized act — it can be giving others the tools to be disruptive too.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
Running a business is about enabling the people around you to do good work. If they excel, so does the company. So that’s why I’m always open to hearing other people’s ideas and suggestions — because they might be what solves a problem or takes the business forward.
Within that, they might also offer insight that helps with personal development. So I see mentorship less as a top-down thing — more as something I can get from a large number of people around me.
Two people who have stayed with me — quite literally — are Dan Fairs and Andy Littledale. I met both at SecondSync, the company they started, where I had my first tech job. SecondSync was acquired by Twitter, and they both now work with me at Condense — Andy is now our COO and Dan is our CTO. Our roles have shifted, but they continue to give me great guidance — which underlines the idea that mentorship doesn’t have to be one senior person telling a junior how something is done — it’s back and forth, and evolving over time.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Disruption is ‘good’ when it’s demanded by consumers because things are therefore transformed for a reason.
If people’s habits and technological capabilities have shifted, and large, slow-moving incumbents have failed to respond, then it’s a good thing that someone else is stepping in to fill the gap. Take the automotive industry for an example. If VW had provided what consumers wanted, there would be no need for Tesla — but they weren’t, and that’s why Tesla has outpaced these industry giants.
I think it’s good, because there’s value creation for the user, who gets something new or improved, and value creation for the company because they’ll make money from it. We’re seeing that in the metaverse right now. People are already spending their time in 3D worlds — which has created a gap for companies to fill by providing gaming, shopping, services — you name it.
It’s not positive when a company decides to disrupt and transform purely based on cost-saving at the expense of the customer. I’ll use the example of AI creating written content for publications. It would be a new approach, and it would save a publication money by no longer needing to pay writers — but it diminishes the quality of the reading experience for the user. There’s no value for the customer — and eventually, none for the publication, whose readers would walk away to a publication that understood how and when disruption is necessary.
Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
1. Generally people overestimate what can be done in a year and underestimate what can be done in five. Interestingly, I think this idea often causes entrepreneurs to embark on projects which are not ambitious enough and therefore fail as businesses.
Starting new things has a significant time cost and knowledge gained working on a specific problem compounds. Because of this, five years spent on five separate (unrelated) projects will generally yield significantly worse results than five years spent on one.
Before starting Condense Reality I had worked on a number of small projects with friends in my spare time. We frequently underestimated how long these projects would take to complete. Months over our self imposed deadlines we would often realise that the time required to complete the project was not worth the value it would provide.
By choosing ambitious, hard projects which really move the needle, you have the potential to show what can be achieved after many years of focussed work. If you don’t have experience building companies you will likely be behind schedule at year one, but way ahead after five.
2. It is extremely hard to change customers’ habits. Products which adjust to the natural changes of consumers’ habits quicker than incumbent products are able to can be very disruptive. If you are pushing to change habits then either the user experience needs to be extremely well honed or the change needs to be subtle.
Early in building Condense Reality we realised that our technology is incredibly compelling when viewed inside augmented reality however consumers do not currently watch content this way. Rather than try to push down the route of trying to change consumers’ habits we chose to focus on bringing content to where consumers are already spending their time, inside 3D worlds.
I am extremely bullish about spatial computing (VR and AR) and I think that XR will become the next computing platform. However, by focusing on routes to market which do not require us to change our customers’ behaviour we are able to provide value to our customers today and we do not preclude ourselves from continuing to provide value when their habits inevitably change.
3. If you surround yourself with people you like and respect and you work on something that really excites you, you will find that most people want you to succeed. We have been incredibly fortunate to build an incredible team who are all passionate about our product and our company and we have received backing from some fantastic investors.
I think business can often be portrayed as a zero sum, dog-eat-dog game. However, whilst building Condense Reality I have often felt that the majority of people who I meet are willing us and our business forward and pushing for us to succeed.
I believe this comes from the passion we have for our mission and the respect we have for the people working with us to help us achieve it.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Some people are still debating whether or not the metaverse is going to materialize. As I said, it already has. We’re at the very beginning of a tectonic plate shift in how we socialize, game, and live — and we’re only a tiny fraction of the way there.
It’s incredibly exciting — the question for many companies now is, are they going to start working out where they fit in, or are they going to ignore and allow themselves to drift into obsolescence? And I really think there will be some major brands that allow this to happen to themselves.
For Condense, we’re looking to work with the ones on the right side of this shift. We want to help them make that transition — a transition that will take a long time, but will eventually lead us into the next generation of the internet.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
Music is actually my biggest passion. I love dance music, especially drum and bass. Not only is it the perfect thing to listen to while programming, but having gotten into producing drum and bass, it’s taught me a lot about programming itself. Producing is a very mathematical process, and requires lots of hours messing around using different software — all of which has helped build up my programming skills and my understanding of what makes good software.
In terms of books, I find The Dip by Seth Godin really useful to go back to and read when I’m trying to build really hard things, and Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday is great for advice at any stage of life.
More generally, I’ve really leaned into YouTube for personal development videos, skills guides, how-tos etc. Whether I need a tutorial because my boiler has broken down, or I want to master a new piece of software, there’s always something on there I can turn to — and I think the fact that all the people who make these films are doing so because they want to contribute to the world — to push other people along — is really admirable. It’s an ethos I share, and everyone at Condense shares.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want people to spend their time online more wisely — to get more out of it. Sometimes I tell friends how long gamers — people like myself — will spend every day in 3D worlds. It’s usually a few hours, and this time is generally spent gaming, building, and being creative.
They immediately recoil, despite the fact that if I checked the screen time on their smartphone, the time spent would be the same. The difference however is that the time they spend on phones is most often spent using apps with algorithms designed to keep them hooked in and addicted, idly scrolling a newsfeed. These newsfeeds offer none of the satisfaction and development of playing a team game or hanging out with friends in a metaverse or going to a virtual concert or sports event.
As the next stage of the internet continues to develop, if we are deliberate about the products we are building and the products we use I believe that the human experience will be transformed for the better.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can find me on LinkedIn here.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Meet The Disruptors: Nick Fellingham Of Condense Reality On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.