Women in Tech: Daniela Paredes
Thank you for being here Daniela. First, I’d love to find out about yourself and how Gravity Sketch came to life.
My name is Daniela Paredes and for the last four years I have been heading up Gravity Sketch along with my co-founder, Oluwaseyi Sosanya, who I met at The Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. Originally from Mexico, I spend my time between there and London running the business. With experience bridging science, engineering and design I have been interested in design engineering from a young age, specifically in using spatial intelligence to enable designers to quickly visualise and conceptualise their designs. Originating as a masters degree project, before securing £1.2m in seed funding, Gravity Sketch is one of the fastest growing 3D creation startups, having designed a tool to enable designers to quickly and easily create in 3D.
Imitating gestural interactions through VR motion-track controllers and, replicating the natural experience of creating with your hands, it intuitively enables creatives to fully express their ideas in real-time and also to go back into their designs at any point during the design process to make any changes, without compromising the quality of their work. We’ve been working collaboratively with designers across multiple industries including Tier 1 automotive OEM’s, concept artists in the film industry, industrial designers and architects, to build long-lasting solutions tailored specifically to their workflow needs.
What were you doing before you decided to get into the tech industry?
Before Gravity Sketch, I was studying Innovation Design Engineering at The Royal College of Art and Imperial College London whilst simultaneously working as an Innovation Designer at Jaguar Land Rover. My role at Jaguar Land Rover was focused on developing interiors technology that would combine smart materials and AI to create alternative experiences for autonomous vehicles. During that time, I was introduced to Howard Gardner’s theory that people have many kinds of intelligence. It was this that prompted me and my team on the course to focus on spatial intelligence given that it is strongly connected to our creativity and 3D visualisation. That was the start of Gravity Sketch, a university project that bloomed into a business.
What encouraged you to get into tech?
I wanted to solve a problem and technology enabled me to do that. Coming from a design engineering background I could see that many of the traditional CAD tools were proving restrictive for designers when it came to translating their ideas into actual drawings. Not only could they not make changes as they were designing but the time taken from visualisation to conceptualisation was impacting workflow efficiency and slowing up the overall design process. I wanted to create something that removed the barriers to design, that increased efficiency and that allowed designers to work with the most immersive and intuitive tool available.
How have you found your journey so far and what has been your greatest accomplishment?
My journey has been many things so far – exciting, scary, frustrating, overwhelming, fulfilling, fun, educational. I have experienced so many situations and emotions, some of which you are prepared for and others which take you by surprise. In terms of my greatest accomplishment, I see every day as an accomplishment. To think that what was started as a project has now grown into a fully-fledged business which has secured funding, which has built key partnerships with leading brands, which has hired super talented people, and which continues to go from strength to strength is amazing. And whilst we have won awards along the way both as a business and me personally, there is nothing more rewarding than to see what you have dreamt about become a reality.
What has been the most challenging?
A key challenge we face daily is the technology curve and industry adoption of immersive tech. We must design our solution to fit into existing design workflows without friction whilst simultaneously sharing how immersive tech can be used day to day to aid productivity. We have been researching, developing, and testing our solution three years prior to making it commercially available. This groundwork has proven very challenging but it has dramatically improved our knowledge base, our messaging and our development pipeline. During these few years, whilst we often received sceptical feedback from investors and other people in the tech space, the scope and scale of the problem that we were tackling led to very supportive user feedback each time we took a prototype to the testing phase. As a result of this, it became clear that we were actually challenging how a whole industry (design) has been doing things for decades. This was a daunting task but it also provided the spark needed to recognise the potential of this tech, which five years later we are still focused on and which is delivering solid results.
Technology is moving very fats, how do you think it will affect our world in 20 years?
That’s a tough one to answer as look at how the world has changed over the last 20 years – much of which we could not have predicted. The explosion of social media, self-driving cars, virtual reality, sending people into space – it’s crazy and the list goes on. Whilst a lot of this will evolve e.g. self-driving cars will become ubiquitous, AI will continue to impact every aspect of our lives there will be new things that will force us to both behave and think differently and that will drastically change and improve society. For example, there will be huge leaps in medical science, in environmental protection, in developing new and faster ways of humans interacting with technology. The possibilities are endless and I am really excited about it. I feel we are beginning to see the tip of a very large iceberg, it almost makes me wrestle with the fact that this new wave of technology is still at its infancy. I can’t wait for it to evolve and disrupt our lives in ways we have never imagined.
What do you say to those who are sceptic about technology and what it may do to our work force?
I think that people need to fully understand the potential impact of technology before making what are often general and incorrect assumptions about how it will negatively impact our workforce. Of course, as technology evolves there will be some jobs currently carried out by people which will be replaced by tech – be that AI, robotics etc etc. However, new technologies will also create new job opportunities for people. What this means, is that the type of jobs that humans do will change, which will require people having to invest in expanding their skill sets, pursuing alternative career paths, but technology itself is not going to make the human workforce obsolete. The real conversation we should be having is around education and how we will better prepare future generations for a world with artificial intelligence which helps bring out the best in humans.
Who is your target audience?
Our target audience is designers and artists. Operating in the B2B space, we are predominantly focused on the automotive, concept art / entertainment, architecture, industrial design and education sectors.
What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs who are getting ready to launch a tech product?
I don’t think this question should be gender specific as in general entrepreneurs face the same challenges regardless of their sex. My advice would be to do your research – know what you are getting into and have a clear vision before launching a product. Work with people who you trust, who compliment you and who provide critical information about how to grow a business in a sustainable way. Have confidence in your ability to succeed but be prepared that doubts and insecurities will arise along the way and be able to address these doubts and face the challenges and tough decisions head on.
Make time for the things that are important to you outside of work as this will increase productivity, provide you with greater perspective and will reduce the possibility of you becoming isolated. If you do want me to speak to women specifically, look for female role models in your sector, seek out female peers from whom you can learn and understand that while you are an under-represented group it doesn’t lesson your value or your ability to succeed. But most importantly know who you are and what you bring to the table, don’t try to fit a one size fits all approach on how a business person (man or woman) should be.
What legacy would you like to leave behind?
Personally I would like to leave behind a loving family that will keep my memory alive.
Professionally I would love to augment the art and design scene. For me science, design and technology are three tools I use every day. My goal is to understand how we think and behave when going through a creative process, using that knowledge to create ever-evolving tools that will not only make creatives design more intuitively, but that will augment their workflow and help them produce work that they have never been able to do before. If I can help the world expand its creative reach through the tools I create, I would feel I left something worth living for.
What plans do you have for Gravity Sketch in the coming 12 months?
We are planning to expand our product range and take on three additional enterprise verticals. We have prepared with a clear roadmap and we have identified what is needed to get there. We will scale our team size in design and development as well as strengthen our sales team. The goal is to create a more flexible product for more creative workflows.