Our story starts at the intersection of a technology lab and the football field.
During the 2013 and 2014 college football seasons, our founder, Derek Belch, was working as an assistant coach for the Stanford football team while pursuing a graduate degree in media studies, specifically Virtual Reality.
At the end of the 2014 season, David Shaw, Stanford’s head coach, called Belch into his office to give him some feedback. But what followed wasn’t the feedback Belch had expected coming in. That’s because his master’s thesis while coaching was to apply his football experience to explore how Virtual Reality could be used to train athletes. Some players had experimented with his prototype for a while, and it was showing very promising results. Instead of talking about coaching, Shaw wanted to talk business.
Founder and CEO, Strivr
Founding Director Stanford VHIL
If I were you, I’d get out of here,
Start a company, make it happen. Virtual Reality is the future of how athletes will train and prepare, and what you have is really good. You have at least a year headstart over anyone else who will ever do this. Think about it.
Belch’s unique approach to VR for athletic training was developed in close collaboration with Jeremy Bailenson, a Stanford Professor and founder of the Stanford University Virtual Human Interaction Lab. Bailenson has spent his career exploring how Virtual Reality affects our brains, and his research has validated immersive technology as an effective medium for learning by driving real-world behavioral change.
Encouraged by Coach Shaw, Belch decided to give it a go. He asked Bailenson to join him and together they founded our company, naming it Strivr, for Sports TRaining In VR.
After only a few months in business, Strivr had established a customer base that included more than 20 NFL and NBA teams, as well as the U.S. Ski Team and several college football teams. As one head coach remarked at the time, “It was one of the few times in your coaching career when you’re watching something and you think, 'This is a game changer'."
What makes it such a game changer is the way we bring together Virtual Reality with advanced learning theory, data science, and 3D design.
When you interact with a virtual world, the decisions you make activate the same neural pathways in the brain as in the real world. Virtual Reality practice improves real-world performance, with results that can be measured through unique data analytics and insights. We call this groundbreaking training methodology ‘Immersive Learning,’ and we always knew it would be effective for more than sports.
We were just looking for the right opportunity to prove it.
In the summer of 2016, Brock McKeel, Senior Director of Digital Operations at Walmart, was exploring the potential of new approaches to retail and customer service training. During a visit to the football training facility at the University of Arkansas, he witnessed players using our technology, and talked to some of the team’s coaches about the results they had seen since adopting it. For McKeel, it didn’t take long to make a mental connection. “Seeing a scenario where quarterbacks can do repetitions in a safe environment to better prepare them for the game made a light bulb go off. I thought this would be a great format for our Academies.”
As far as pilots go, the results were impressive. During the first year of deploying Immersive Learning throughout the Walmart Academy system, associates using it demonstrated 30% higher employee satisfaction, scored higher on tests 70% of the time, and logged a 10-15% higher rate of knowledge retention than traditional training. The Academy rollout was so successful that in the fall of 2018 Walmart decided to expand the program to all of its nearly 4,700 stores nationwide, deploying more than 17,000 headsets to reach one million associates.
To McKeel and the rest of his colleagues at Walmart, it was quickly clear that many of the challenges they faced in training employees could be solved using Immersive Learning. Shortly after the initial demonstrations, Walmart partnered with us to pilot VR training for their employees, first at a handful of its learning Academies, then to its 200 Academies across the United States.
Immersive Learning at scale at Walmart
12 learning modules, starting at one and then expanding to 200+ Academies
17,000 headsets in nearly 4,600 U.S. stores
Training at scale
1M+ associates being trained, 50+ content modules
Inspired by this initial success, and the fact that employee performance is now becoming every leader's job, our work is resonating with some of the biggest companies in the world. Today, Fortune 500 companies such as JetBlue, Verizon, and Fidelity use our Immersive Learning platform to create, manage, experience, and analyze experiences in VR to improve engagement, performance, and retention.
This new, impactful way of training employees works for such diverse cases as health and safety, customer service, new tech implementation, onboarding, or conflict resolution. Immersive Learning is the biggest breakthrough in employee training in decades, and we are leading the charge. Our complete, end-to-end solution combines decades of research and science in VR and L&D with a unique approach to data and analytics, creating a technology that is transforming how many industries approach people development.
Recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies for the last two years, we take pride in our passion for innovation and we use that energy to fuel our mission.
We have built a culture that thrives on teamwork, grit, transparency, and impact, and we celebrate every win. Our team includes data scientists, solutions architects, instructional designers, immersive content specialists, and a robust customer success team.