Interview with Curt Thornton, CEO of Provision Interactive Technologies

Chatsworth-based Provision Interactive Technologies ( develops 3D, holographic display devices which it supplies to the retail market. The company was named recently as one of the finalists in Entretech's upcoming entrepreneurship awards, and we thought it would be interesting to hear about the company and what it does. Ben Kuo spoke with Curt.

What is your company about, what's the story on the company?

Curt Thornton: Provision is a five year old company, which was founded in 2001. We are a new media company that has a product called HoloVision. We provide a 3D holographic display device to industry, predominately used in point of purchase, retail, advertising, and marketing for companies and retailers. For the last 18 months, we have been going through a major launch period for the company. Retailers and advertisers are using our platform for what is commonly referred to as the digital signage industry, which is a subset of point-of-purchase advertising.

How far along is your technology, and is it shipping yet?

Curt Thornton: We are. We have been revenue producing since day one. From 2001 to 2004 was our development and R&D, when we started to market and see use of our product in industry, both domestically and internationally. In 2005 and 2006, we really began to pick up organic growth with retailers and companies around the world, who have begun to use it more and more--for everything from marketing tradeshows, displays, and kiosks in shopping centers and stores around the world. Now we're at the point where we're closing on the next round of financing to really exploit and take advantage of the open windows we see here in the market looking for our solution, in the arena of marketing at the point-of-purchase. That's been our major focus in the last 12 to eighteen months.

How is the company currently funded?

Curt Thornton: Initially, an angel group out of Toronto funded us, with a first round of $3.3M. In 2004, we got together with a merchant banker in Los Angeles called Millenium Hanson, and since 2004 they have been positioning the company and assisting us with merchant banking functions to position us for our current round of financing. You would probably consider it our first institutional round, though it's our third round of financing for the company.

That's quite interesting your first investment came from a Toronto angel group, how did that happen?

Curt Thornton: The easiest answer, is that it was through a referral--a friend of a friend of a friend. We had demonstrated our early prototype technology, and found this group in Toronto looking for technology like ours at the time. That's really how we got together.

Can you describe what your displays looks like, and the technology behind it?

Curt Thornton: The best answer, is our technology has to be seen. We try to do our best to convey what our product is, and the effect it has on retailers, consumers, and people around the globe. The best analogy we can give you is comparing it to what you understand from Star Wars, in the Princess Leia, R2D2 scene. Everyone has this image/picture of Princess Leia in space, out of R2D2's holographic projector. That's essentially what we have, we have a high resolution, bright, clear image which floats in front of our display, as far as 42 inches hovering in space. That's really how we best describe it. Despite the fact that we have a web site, and pictures with applications, pictures and websites are all 2D in nature--trying to convey 3D in two dimensions. We find that it's best for our customers to see it first hand. That's why we have a showroom in our LA-based offices, and most of our customers have to get in front of it. From a technology point of view, we use a technology that is commonly referred to as aerial imaging, holographic 3D technology that uses the laws of optics and physics to create an image floating in space. This is not a 3D technology that people have seen on 3D plasma screens and 3D LCD screens, which is commonly referred to as auto-stereoscopic. We have taken technology that is very bright, clear, and high resolution. That's how we've differentiated from other 3D or holographic companies.

What's the background on the technology--where did this come from?

Curt Thornton: The genesis of the company began when I came out of the entertainment industry. 3D and 3D projection has been around for many years. You see 3D, holographic images which have done very, very well at the theme parks. Disneyland has its own version at the Haunted Mansion, and Universal also has its own version. Those are very expensive, multi-million dollar attractions. The genesis of the concept came into our minds--wouldn't it be great to develop a product like that which could be commercialized? So we put together a team, developed a company out of that premise--take 3D holographic technology and turn it into a commercial product, using optics, electronics, and software, and when combined together creates what we refer to as aerial imaging technology.



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