DAQRI CEO Brian Mullins: ‘4D excites me more than anything’

Dec 10, 2013

Brian Mullins’ experience with human-machine interface and computer vision technologies led him to found DAQRI, a developer augmented reality software. Before founding DAQRI, Mullins transitioned to industrial robotics from the field of military command and control systems, after spending three years as a consultant to the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego. Earlier in his career, Mullins worked as an engineer at the Computer-Aided Operational Research Facility operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, supporting simulation and network technologies and working with some of the pioneers of those fields. Throughout his career, Mullins developed and implemented systems that employed some of the earliest vision-based mixed reality technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the United States Merchant Marine Academy, where he studied electrical and mechanical engineering.

Fortune asked him 10 questions about his vision for the future of technology—and what he does for fun in his off-hours.

1. What business or technology person do you admire most? Why?

Albert Einstein. I admire him for a lot of reasons, but especially because his work is accessible to all and doesn’t require a background in physics. His use of simple language and understandable metaphors to distill complex ideas is brilliant. I also love his belief that everybody is a genius. He saw the tremendous potential in every human being and that’s very inspiring.

2. What other companies do you admire? Why?

SpaceX took this crazy idea who would ever start a startup aimed at space exploration and completely shifted the mindset. Now we believe it’s accessible, and that’s a major accomplishment. I’m also a fan of Pixar because they are storytelling pioneers. They looked at the potential of a new technology that could power storytelling in a new way, and even though it was a big risk they absolutely ran with it. Now we can’t imagine a world without them.

3. What technology sector excites you most?

4D excites me more than anything because it has the potential to change so many industries and have a profound effect on humanity. I also think 3D printing, from a pure information theory perspective, is one and the same with what we’re doing with 4D. Beyond that I’m excited about advancements in medical technologies, wearables, and math-based currencies.

4. Is business school necessary for entrepreneurs?

If you don’t mind learning the hard way sometimes, and mistakes just steel your resolve, just get out and do it. Fill your network with as many smart people as you can find and mix it up with people who have different kinds of experience and perspective, especially if it differs from your own. Ask questions, recognize your mistakes quickly, welcome discoveries that challenge your assumptions, and don’t forget to be awesome.

5. What was the most important thing you learned in school?

I went to a military academy, and I think the most important thing I learned there was determination. There were so many times where we were challenged mentally and physically to try and unlock the potential inside of us, and I learned that sometimes, even when you are getting yelled at and told how much of a failure you are, the real accomplishment is learning to keep going in the face of adversity.

6. What do you do to live a balanced life?

Vocatio, which means calling in Latin. You have to do what you love, what you are passionate about, you have to find your calling. If you do that, then you will never work a day in your life, you will find that it energizes you, and while you should travel, vacation, and pursue other activities to broaden your horizon and inspire you with new perspectives and new ideas, you won’t have to. You could work every single day because pursuing your vocatio will energize you.

7. Describe an ideal day.

I wake up and spend quality time with my family, learn what they did the day before and what they plan to do today, then go to work and solve problems with the most amazing team of passionate people who all want to change the world together. On an ideal day, I would also show what we do to someone new and see what they think, and then have some time to rest and reflect before getting to do it all again tomorrow.

8. What was your first job?

When I was in 1st grade I started a door-to-door car washing company. I didn’t think of it as a job because it was my idea and I was so excited about it. I used the money I earned to buy my first robot. Later on, in junior high, I spent a short period of time scalping carnival tickets. The first time I worked for someone else was as a roofer when I was in high school. It was hard work, and I spent the whole time daydreaming of ways to automate roof assembly.

9. What is one unique or quirky habit that you have?

Just one, and I guess I’m more than a little bit OCD, so I incessantly organize things. I’ve gotten good at compartmentalizing it though, I can just organize the shit out of a few things in the room, making sure they are perfectly aligned, and it lets me find my zen about everything else.

10. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Well, since invincibility and the ability to grant wishes is probably too obvious, I would want the ability to heal people. It hurts to see people who are injured or sick and to be powerless to do anything for them. I also think it would be nice to be able to snap my finger when someone was being a dick and make them suddenly realize it.

Okay, I know this is three superpowers, but I would also like the ability to show people what the world is like from someone else’s perspective.

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