Alex Hern has been with the internet from the start. Like many may claim in retrospect, he actually saw at the time that this new phenomenon was anything but a flash in the pan, and everything the tech and computing industry would devote itself to in the following decades. Hern’s earliest successes online involved a then-burgeoning technology that has become a household term by 2019: search engines.
In “the era of Internet 1.0”, he explains, Hern began by licensing characters from the Marvel Comics universe to an up-and-coming, family-friendly search engine. This taming of the Wild World Wide Web displays the shrewd mind behind some of the most successful industry startups of past years.
Hern has specialized in the early stage development of technology and life science companies. By his own admission, “[his] focus has generally been in the incubation stage of startups.” Following his stint with the child-appropriate search engine, Hern linked up with a team out of UC Berkley. The team’s project focused on developing supercomputing technology, funded in part by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). By combining the UC Berkley team’s IP with his Marvel property licenses, Hern co-founded the company Ink To Me, the tech behind such major search engines as MSN, Yahoo and AOL.
After his initial successes with the UC Berkley team, which included NOW and COW (“network” and “collection of workstations” respectively), Hern went on to reapply their unique brand of sophisticated supercomputing capabilities to organize the quickly expanding early internet. This new “filing cabinet” for the web was known as “Enterprise system management” (ESM). ESM, founded mere weeks prior to the September 11th terror attacks, survived the rocky 2000s, eventually selling to Hewlett-Packard for $1.5 billion.
Consistently on the frontlines of internet progress, Hern’s latest venture is pushing the limits of virtual and augmented reality to a previously unimagined realm: cross reality, or, XR. XR has been described as “a reality to virtual continuum that encompasses everything in between.”
“XR is something that I want to explore and be at the forefront of in the near future,” Hern stated in an interview just last year.
Tsunami XR, Hern’s latest startup, has solidified their status at that very forefront of the cross reality field. Some of Tsunami XR’s most tantalizing features include full voice and video, an unlimited number of participants, and the ability to ingest over 300 file types, including 3D models of objects and environments.
Typically, gamers are assumed to be the target demographic of XR users. However, XR’s potential for business professionals is steadily proving to be the greatest appeal for the platform. Tsunami XR is providing greater flexibility and cost effective solutions to companies within industries like aerospace, health science and manufacturing.
Hern sums up the business application and appeal: “Think about it as ‘layers on life’. What’s going to happen as we move forward and all of this evolves, there will be these layers on the physical world that are sometimes literally layered right onto the real thing.”
According to Hern, these “digital twins” allow the user to extend themselves to “unlimited places that [they] can ideate in without taking up physical space.”
25 years into his entrepreneurial career, Hern is as sharp as ever, marrying tech and business to achieve greater accessibility for professionals across many different industries.