Footee chief now bringing new VR experience with 'no motion sickness for players' to Dublin
A former lawyer who reinvented himself as an entrepreneur, bringing foot golf to Ireland for the first time, is launching a new virtual reality (VR) experience
Ronan Cunningham was so impressed with a free-roam multiplayer VR game he stumbled upon while on honeymoon in Japan that he and his wife took a detour to Melbourne to meet the game's chief executive.
"I'm always on the lookout for the next big thing and was blown away by Zero Latency, where the gaming response is immediate, meaning no motion sickness for players," he said.
"Gamers feel like they are actually 'there' and the experience can't be replicated in the home or via mobile device. You're in a room within the game and your body is the controller. You can talk to, and play strategically with your teammates, who appear alongside you in the game."
For Zero Latency, detectors in the ceiling monitor the movements of the players and the game footage reacts appropriately. This is then relayed to each player through immersive headsets and headphones.
With exclusive franchise rights for the game in Ireland secured, Cunningham is launching the first Zero Latency experience here at Sandyford Industrial Estate at the start of March.
He's used to taking a leap into something new. After being let go from his job during the recession in 2010, he found it difficult to get back into the employment market and decided to upskill.
During a nine-month 'Innovation and Entrepreneurship' course at the UCD Innovation Academy, his footee (foot golf) business was born
"I wanted to do something completely different to law, I wanted to try something completely new and see where it would take me," he said.
"I'd seen the idea for foot golf some 18 months before I had even joined the course, but just as a sports fan, as the blend of the sport caught my attention. It never really resonated with me in terms of business. Even when I took it on as a project during the UCD I never thought it would become a viable business."
After pitching his enterprise idea to his classmates in 2012, Cunningham worked on the concept, secured financial backing, and signed a lease for the golf course in Tallaght.
"It couldn't have been a better time to find a golf course, I had my pick of two in the end. I had just signed the agreement when a small clip of the foot golf launch I'd put up on YouTube was picked up by 'Huffington Post' and essentially went viral overnight.
"Everything just fell into place at the same time."
Six years later, the Footee business is still going strong, the heatwave of 2018 boosting traffic close to its peak in the "manic" first year of 2013.
In terms of expansion plans for the new Zero Latency enterprise, Cunningham said "the cost of setting up something like this is almost prohibitive" but is hopeful that its exclusivity will attract premium customers.
"In terms of target market, there'll be a small bit of crossover with footee, for stag parties and for corporates, who will be our main customer base.
"It has that social element, eight people (with avatars) can play it at once. We're hoping that the mantra 'if we build it, they will come' will be realised."