3 suburban graduates make Forbes' '30 Under 30' list for VR office tool

What if a business with employees working around the world could have them interact through a virtual reality tool that gives the illusion of being in the same office?

That's the vision of three former suburbanites who dropped out of college and pooled their savings to found a tech startup in the hopes of revolutionizing workplace communications.

Vinay Hiremath, a Huntley High School alumnus; Joe Thomas, a Naperville Central High School graduate; and Shahed Khan, a Plainfield North High School graduate, made Forbes magazine's 2018 "30 Under 30" list for their tech startup Loom.

"It's a weird feeling when you've been working really hard and you get validation for what you are doing," said Hiremath, 25, who lives in San Francisco. "It's definitely a humbling experience, and you realize that it takes more than one person to build something awesome."

After graduating from Huntley in 2010, Hiremath studied computer science at the University of Illinois but dropped out after two years. He moved to Silicon Valley, learned software coding online, interned at Facebook and worked for various tech startups. His co-founders also ditched college to pursue their startup dreams.

Thomas, 27, dropped out of Indiana University in Bloomington with one semester left to launch his own media startup in California. He later worked as head of products for Los Angeles-based information brokerage, formerly

Khan, 22, started a digital social platform, ViaTask, at 16 and decided not to go to college after high school. He later became a designer for Backplane and Weebly and worked for venture capital firms.

The trio founded Loom in 2015.

"Early on we bootstrapped the company with our own money ... $40,000 out of our savings," said Hiremath, Loom head of engineering.

Loom is a cloud-based video recording service for businesses and customers. It helps workers communicate more effectively via internal video messages and also serves as a customer support and sales tool for businesses seeking feedback from clients. Anyone using a Google Chrome browser can download the free add-on, record video messages with a screenshot of the Web page and share it instantly through a link.

"We have a patent on our back-end technology that basically generates this metadata (video information) on the fly," Hiremath said.

The name "Loom" is the synthesis of two things: It's short for superluminal communication, which means communication faster than the speed of light, and the service weaves conversation and information together as a loom does to yarn.

Thomas came up with the name during a long bus ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

"We had been throwing around cool-sounding names and I believe had recently watched 'Interstellar,'" Hiremath said. "Before that, I had thrown out Plume and we liked the sound of it, but not the exact name. So I think Loom was a bit of a byproduct of all of that."

Loom has 415,000 users - mostly in the United States, India, Brazil and Spain - including businesses such as HubSpot, Google, Dropbox, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Zendesk, Nielsen and Uber. It is being used for job interviews, sales meetings, demos and outreach, but its applications are unlimited, the founders say.

"It's going to change how we interact with each other in daily life," said Khan, the company's business development director. "Video communication in the workplace is still very new. ... It's getting them to see the value. We basically just built the platform. What you do with it, how you use the product is completely up to you."

Hiremath believes virtual reality is the way of the future and predicts movies and video games will go virtual in 10 years. So why not the workplace?

He hopes to create a Loom virtual reality headset for remote employees to "feel like you are part of a shared working space."

It would be vastly different from instant messaging, video conferencing or any other workplace communications tool currently available.

"There's a lot of issues with remote work ... with it feeling like a dehumanized and disconnected experience," Hiremath said. "A sense of camaraderie when you work with people is incredibly important to keep you motivated. The feeling of being at your desk working next to co-workers is a different experience."

Loom so far has raised $3.6 million through venture capitalists and other investors.

"Right now, we are not generating revenue," Hiremath said. "That is our goal this year."

A screenshot of Loom, a cloud-based video recording service for businesses and customers developed by three suburban high school graduates who were named to Forbes magazine's 2018 “30 Under 30” list.
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