How A Ryerson University Student Balanced Entrepreneurial Success & Full-Time Studies

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Virtual reality (VR) technology has been the talk of the tech world for the past few years. Terms like revolutionary, and groundbreaking are connected to industries like video game design and new ways of teaching in the classroom.

Josh Maldonado – a graduate of the Radio and Television Arts (RTA) program from Ryerson University – is one of many involved with a the technological platform that could literally change the way we see the world. And with his new business venture DISCOVR, Josh intends to do just that.

The phone call

Josh Maldonado
Josh Maldonado
Radio and Television Arts, Ryerson University
Founder of DISCOVR

It was midnight, and Josh was a nervous wreck. While explaining to his family why he was unsatisfied with the TV production job he held at the time, Josh was waiting for a phone call he didn’t think would come.

But soon enough, the phone did ring, with Mike Rothenburg on the other end of the line. The CEO of Rothenburg Ventures was calling to deliver the good news – Josh’s start-up company, DISCOVR, had been selected to participate in the first ever virtual reality accelerator program!

“My brother was eavesdropping, and he was freaking out. We’re all taken aback,” says Josh. “I was in disbelief. I didn’t sleep that night. It seems a little dramatic but I knew that nothing would be the same from that moment forward.”

“I can’t pinpoint one thing. But I am happier than I’ve ever been before… I’ve proved to myself that there is no ceiling on even someone average like me. The confidence I have to continue doing what I love is priceless.” Josh Maldonado, Founder of DISCOVR

Josh hosts a presentation as the founder of DISCOVR
Josh hosts a presentation as the founder of DISCOVR

Josh’s entrepreneurial journey and his love of technology began with a movie. It was after watching The Pirates of Silcon Valley – a retelling of the personal computer industry and the relationship between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – that Josh found his calling; a desire to get in on the ground floor.

“It was other entrepreneurs and their stories that inspired me. Men and women who took a chance on completely unproven media platforms and premature markets that would eventually define the ways we apply comm. tech to our lives.”

VR systems are built intended to be multifaceted pieces of equipment. While some entrepreneurs see the technology applied to video games, Josh has a different ambition for the burgeoning tech: Education. For Josh, it’s all about experience- based learning; being able to take a classroom of students and allowing them to practice chemistry without the risk of dangerous chemical reactions. For Josh, using VR is all about putting the user inside the subject matter, creating a much more compelling learning experience.

Different directions

For Josh, the balancing act began when his two loves – RTA and Virtual Reality – began to pull him in separate directions. Josh learned quickly how to kill two birds with one stone; finding where RTA and virtual reality overlapped, and taking advantage of the opportunity.

Josh explores San Francisco during his trip to the VR Accelerator program.
Josh explores San Francisco during his trip to the VR Accelerator program.

He recommends this strategy to any student entrepreneur – to take lessons learned in the classroom and the start-up world, and apply them to each other. Although Josh believes VR has everything to do with RTA and visa versa, he also knows he’ll never be able to split time equally between everything. While he’s successfully completed his goal of graduating university, Josh has come to understand that his number one priority will always be his company.

“The honest truth is that there are only few ‘super-humans’ that can actually succeed at both being a great student and a great entrepreneur simultaneously,” he says.

“Spirituality plays a large part in my approach to my life and my career because of my father. He is the most self-actualized person I know. He grew up in the slums of Guatemala but came to Canada when he was my age and really made something of himself.”Josh Maldonado, Founder of DISCOVR

Early in his university career, Josh thought he might end up running a marketing boutique or production company one day. But as soon as the possibilities of VR aligned with his entrepreneurial vision, Josh knew there was no turning back. For him, the passion for tech and business allowed him to bypass any hesitations he might have had about balancing DISCOVR and school.

Takeaways from the VR accelerator program

Josh manages DISCOVR’s booth at the VR Accelerator program, as participants try out VR equipment.

Of the 200 companies that applied, DISCOVR was the only Canadian company accepted into the VR accelerator program in San Francisco. Travelling alone, Josh spent the next 3 months optimizing his first VR educational project alongside industry giants, such as Dreamworks and Unity Technologies. He was also fortunate enough to receive a $100,000 grant from Rothenburg Ventures to develop his start-up, so he can achieve his goal of creating a VR educational experience.

Since taking part in the Rothenburg Accelerator in San Francisco, Josh couldn’t be happier. Despite the knowledge that not all start-ups come to fruition, he’s made relationships and acquired new abilities that will always stay with him. For Josh, the ability to realize that there are no limitations to what he can accomplish is liberating.

“The confidence to continue doing what I love is priceless.” Josh Maldonado, Founder of DISCOVR

The future for Josh isn’t completely planned out, and that’s just the way he likes it. Instead, he plans on taking a pragmatic approach, dealing with each situation as they come his way. And while he’s a self-described “go with the flow kinda guy,” he also subscribes to “the looking ahead” train of thought and trusts his intuition to help him get ahead. Josh knows only he has the ability to shape his future, and he believes in involving himself with others who share similar passions and ideas.

How do you balance your passions and schoolwork? Tell us in the comments!

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