What's Next: Leaving Adobe, starting Virtual Neural

After 10 years at Adobe, I'm leaving to start a new company to explore the intersection of spatial computing (VR/AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI/ML/DL)

Those that know me best know I tend to think & plan in 5-year increments. For example, I left Microsoft the week of my 5 year anniversary.

It’s with mixed emotions that I announce I’m leaving Adobe on my 10-year anniversary.

Today is my last day at Adobe. Leaving Adobe was the toughest decision I’ve made in a long time. I’ve loved Adobe products since I was a teenager playing with early versions of Photoshop (and Macromedia Director, which Adobe later acquired.) I’ve dreamed of working at Adobe since I saw an interview with John Warnock in 1995.1 However, I know I have one last startup in me, and I know I’ll wonder for the rest of my life if I don’t do this now.

Adobe 10-year Award Adobe 10 year award in foreground, Adobe and Microsoft 5-year awards in background

With that in mind, I’m forming a new company. It’s called Virtual Neural, but that name may change in the near future. We’ll be in stealth mode for a while, but the company will be working on immersive video technologies, and exploring the intersection between spatial computing (VR/AR/MR) & artificial intelligence (AI/ML/DL.) I tried to do this (within Adobe) back in 2015, but when developing the business case I couldn’t force the numbers to bend to my will (and being early is the same as being wrong.)

5 years later, the numbers work. The Oculus Quest app/game store did $5 million in a single day, and devices like the Oculus Quest and Valve Index have been out of stock because they can’t manufacture enough to meet a high level of demand that’s been sustained too long to just be an over-hyped launch (The Quest launched last spring!) I’m not the only one saying 2020 is shaping up in a way many expected for 2016. We’re emerging out of the trough of disillusionment created by trying to project a logarithmic growth curve on a linear plot, and I predict the slope of enlightenment for spatial computing is coming in 2020/2021. 2

Gartner Hype Cycle visual Gartner Hype Cycle Curve

I had the privilege to work with some wonderful people at Adobe, and always got to solve interesting problems. I’ll always look back fondly on my time there, and made friendships that will last a lifetime. I love that I can tell my 19-year-old self “Achievement Unlocked: I orbited the sun 10 times at the company John named after the creek in his back yard.”3 I’m sure my 19-year-old self would be proud of that (I know the 45 year-old me is.)

I’m excited to explore this new challenge. Sorry I have to be somewhat cryptic for a bit, but I promise I’ll share information about the new venture as soon as I possibly can.

Thanks to all my friends and colleagues at Adobe for a great decade. I look forward to continuing to celebrate your accomplishments as a user and fan.

  1. The interview was in Part III of Robert X. Cringley’s excellent 3-hour Triumph of the Nerds documentary. I wish there was a legitimate way to purchase/rent this, it’s a wonderful time capsule for the industry. It’s old enough that it originally came out on VHS, and apparantly the streaming rights are lost to the ages. 

  2. A month ago, I would have simply said “2020” but the COVID-19 virus has put a damper on production volumes, and could easily set things back 6-18 months depending on severity. 

  3. Credit to my now-former boss and mentor Asa Whillock for the colorful yet accurate historical reference.