A Cornwall-based company which creates interactive 360° tours for industries including education, transportation, and health has established itself in the US market. The business expects to generate sales of £1 million to the US over the next five years and exports now account for 39% of the company’s total revenue this calendar year to date.
Ocean 3D based in Penzance was established in 2018 by Chris Wood and Rosalind Osbourne after they identified a gap in the market for organisations to produce 3D tours to help people who suffer with autism and other mental health conditions. The tours allow people to experience spaces before visiting them, thereby reducing any anxiety surrounding navigation or accessibility.
The company was the first business in the world without a physical premise to be awarded the National Autistic Society ‘Autism Friendly’ Award.
Ocean 3D has also recently worked with Doughty Street Chambers in London who have identified a need for there to be a legal requirement for organisations to provide 3D tours to cater for people with conditions such as autism. The benefits of this have been shown in research published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders which found that immersive virtual reality can help improve autism phobias.
The company began exporting about five years ago after Chris was working as a volunteer ambassador for a military Veteran’s charity called Turn to Starboard. The charity was given three yachts by a company in Corfu called No Stress Yachting. Chris said:
“A few Veterans and I went out to Corfu and were chatting to the owners about what we could do about creating 3D tours for them. Myself and my partner returned a year later and scanned all their yachts. The experience made us realise the opportunities available and our exports really grew from there.”
This year the company has signed its first deal with the US with DIT’s support which has involved market research advice and the opportunity to attend a virtual trade mission to the US by participating in the Tech 4 Good program.
“We wouldn’t have been able to export to the US without the support of the DIT. There are some brilliant people in the South West and nationally whose support has been invaluable.
“The opportunity to export to the US initially came about because we won the New Civil Engineers Future of Airports competition in 2019. The news went onto a couple of airport review sites and an airport in Texas approached us.
“Our ITA (International Trade Adviser) Colin Piper has been great. He has helped to get us in touch with the right people to get presidential exemptions lifted and has ensured we have the right paperwork.
“DIT is now helping us identify regions of the US where we should be focusing our efforts through providing useful market data.
“My biggest advice to companies is to get in touch with DIT as they’ve been brilliant in supporting us to grow overseas.”
The company’s success comes as services exports to the US have increased by 25% from 2011 - 2020. The United States was the UK’s largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2021 accounting for 16.7% of total UK trade.
Chris says that while exporting to the US has been a positive experience it has not been without its hurdles:
“The only barriers have been around getting VISAs. Ocean 3D has a problem in that we fall into many different Visa categories but not any specific one. For example, we’re can classify ourselves in technology, health, digital and photography amongst others, but our service doesn’t fit neatly or totally into any of these.
“When it comes to getting VISA applications and work permits its quite difficult to get it right. If you get it wrong, then it can be an issue, but luckily DIT has supported us to resolve this by ensuring we include the correct description on our applications.”
Ocean 3D also took advantage of the Export Trade Forum project, a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funded program in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The program supported Chris in providing market research which helped Ocean 3D overcome some of the aforementioned hurdles.