OBE's Antonio Rodriguez and Linda Franco
Welcome to Founder Friday, where we learn about the people behind the Highway1 startups.
Today’s founders are Antonio Rodriguez and Linda Franco, co-founders of Machina, makers of OBE, a garment that turns your body into an immersive controller for interacting in virtual reality.
Tell us a little about your background.
Linda: My background is marketing and strategic design.
Antonio: Mine is in fashion design.
Linda: We met in college.
Where’d the idea for the business come from?
Antonio: OBE was a thesis project in college. I had an idea for mixing electronics into clothing to create a fashion brand that would allow users to feel and move in the digital world, closing the gap between the real and the virtual.
How’d you get the company started?
Antonio: As I began working on my thesis, developing concepts of the digital clothing brand, the teacher in charge said the idea wasn’t viable. They actually kicked me out of the program — I didn’t finish university. But Linda still believed in the idea. She applied to an accelerator in Mexico City, we got accepted, and we’ve kept at it ever since.
Linda: The accelerator, called Wayra, is a program run by Spanish telecom company Telefónica-Movistar. Since joining the program, we’ve developed several products, one of which is OBE, a product line focused on gaming and allowing new modes of control for VR and other applications.
How did you find out about Highway1?
Linda: We had heard about Highway1; it has a reputation as the number one accelerator for hardware startups. Eventually, we raised a round for OBE and moved to San Francisco. At that point, we thought we were in a good place to approach Highway1, so we applied.
What are your goals for your time at Highway1?
Antonio: To validate the product idea and take our MVP to the next level. We’ll start by miniaturizing the electronics and putting the whole package into an ergonomic design. Then we can focus on how to reduce cost.
Linda: We also want to establish relationships with manufacturers, so we can ensure we’ll be able to make and ship product.