Michal Catari is founder and CEO of Wolf Virtual Reality. He previously owned construction companies and has been a construction manager and project manager for development companies. Michal has architecture and interior design degrees from Lawrence Technological University.
SpaceLab’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent intern Micah Womack spoke with Michal about starting a company, virtual reality, and technology in construction, real estate, and the industrial sector.
Micah: Can you tell me about your company?
MC: Wolf Virtual Reality is the name of the company. The trademarked name is “Wolf VR.” Wolf VR is a visualization company in Detroit. We help companies primarily in the real estate market illustrate their properties so they can get advanced funding and early pre-sales or pre-leases of properties.
Micah: As someone going to college, what advice would you give me?
MC: For those who may want to work at Wolf VR, mathematics would be one thing. Some art would definitely be a big plus. The mathematics comes into play when you have to do measurements. It’s not very complex, but it’s good to have to be able to figure out sizes of rooms, volumes and scales. In terms of visualization and art, maybe some hand-sketching or painting because we’re looking for more of the creative types to come on board.
Micah: What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
MC: Probably be the best thing to think about would be to develop solid contacts. This industry is built on contacts. You can have great advertisements and awesome campaigns, but you have to build relationships with individuals, and build their trust one-on-one. My advice is to have a solid network of people from different industries who could eventually use your services.
Micah: Walk us through your management strategies.
MC: As the owner, I need to develop strong relationships with whomever I manage. I also need to identify targets for segments or markets I’d like to pursue.
So, management processes: I oversee a lot of things within our organization – advertising, marketing, payroll, cash flow. I also have to be very mindful about contracts, proposals and estimates. In our engagement with the customer, we acknowledge what they’re trying to achieve, and then we start by developing a schedule so we can be on time with our services and fit within our customer’s schedule.
Micah: What are the biggest issues in construction, real estate and design today,
MC: Construction is one division built on tradition. They do things a certain way and aren’t always the most willing to make changes. Then here we come with a completely new technology, introducing how it can be used in various industries, from medical to construction to real estate to advertising to retail. Although this technology is costly, in the long run it will benefit us if we can be early adopters and allow it to prove itself to work. In our case, we helped a lot of real estate agents, owners and construction companies visualize what’s coming in their projects, and the return is maybe 100 times their investment.
Micah: What’s been the best feedback you’ve received from a client?
MC: I think it’s our attention to detail that’s most captivating to our audience. We spend quite a bit of time portraying what something would look like in the real world through an artificial world that we’re creating. Our attention to detail allows helps our client and their end user to truly visualize what they’re going to get, whether it’s the soap dispenser on the countertop, to the bedsheets, or the flooring or lighting. It’s a true representation as if it was real.
So, our attention to detail, our timeliness, and the communication has been the most rewarding. I would say probably the utmost is, “Thank you for helping us sell our property in five days for over $3 million.”
Micah: What’s your growth plan? What areas are you targeting?
MC: We’re trying to focus on the real estate market. So far, that has been, our most successful segment. We’re also looking at growing into different products so we have a full-service offering for our customers. We started off with visualizations; then full 3D images for virtual tours; then our most elite service: full immersion. Through the use of technology, we can insert that customer into that environment that does not yet exist.
For growth, we’re adding services that our client would typically get from different sources. For example, web pages, project management, and also specialty cameras that do a 360-degree pan of the room, and we stitch them together without having to do animation work. We’re also adding drone services. We decided to combine all those services under one roof.
We are looking to expand into the construction and industrial industries and focus on training using full immersion, our top-end service. We can simulate tasks and provide a training mechanism. If someone is afraid of heights, we can virtually put them on a skyscraper looking down, incrementally increasing their awareness and helping them to be more comfortable in order to relieve any stress.
We can also teach people how to properly do their jobs. If one person has a high level of skill that they’ve developed over 25 or 30 years, they take those skill sets with them when they retire. It will take the next generation another 30 years to develop to that skill level. We can have the senior level person tell us how they execute certain tasks, and then simulate those exact tasks to create a simulation training module, saving the company training costs.
Micah: What is the biggest item on your to-do list.
MC: I’d say it’s to secure a perpetual contract with an outfit – whether that be a construction company, a design house, or a real estate agent. We want to be their go-to source for visualizations, and we’d have a steady stream of income coming in week after week. It could be repetitive, but always something new.
Micah: What technology are you using?
MC: We’re using the latest technology in terms of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed realities. Those vary between software and hardware packages.
You asked about education. If you have a desire or passion to do or learn what we Wolf VR offers, we are very willing to teach. We find that the people who are very interested and passionate are the ones who are the most creative producers. You don’t have to have a degree – we can teach within the company.
Micah: What was your breakthrough project?
MC: I think it was the very first project that we received. It was from a gentleman in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He knew my capabilities. I understood the project and what they were seeking. Someone took a huge chance on Wolf VR – we had only been open a few weeks – but he knew my integrity and the talent pool I would bring. We persevered, we gave them everything we had, and then even more. The relationship has been fruitful for us because now that customer has given us two jobs, and recently called us back for another.
Micah: What was your favorite project to do?
MC: There’ve been so many projects; they’re unique in their own way. If I had a favorite, I’d say the very first project. The owner emailed us and said, “I have these images. I’ve had this other firm put these together. Could you please make it look more realistic?”
That resonates with me because with our jobs thus far – except for only a couple – we’ve had to fix other people’s projects. Not necessarily mistakes, but we had to really take a look at what someone was trying to achieve and turn the customer’s pain into a more fruitful outcome, guaranteeing that the results would be to their satisfaction and exceed their level of expectation.
Micah: If there is one thing you could change about your company, what would it be?
MC: There really isn’t much to say about changing. We’re really evolving as a company. When I first started, it was visualization. I had a solid business plan, and we initially intended on doing simulations. However, as a new company, we had to work to establish leads for that work. So, we’ve taken on many different opportunities from real estate to video game development to other things which help us grow. Having experiences in those different segments really made me think that my initial business plan was just a starting point – we’ve evolved so much in one year.
I see Wolf VR becoming a very prominent player in Detroit and other markets across the country. The goal is to have a Wolf VR office in every state so that anyone can bring their plans and ideas knowing that our talent network will transform their visions into reality at a very moderate cost. We want to become the premier visualization company. There are internet services, but we all really still need to have the interaction with people. We’re an open company. If you drop by our office, somebody will take the time to come talk to you. Please come and see us.
Micah: That’s all I have for you today. It was nice interviewing you!
MC: Thank you. It was a pleasure.