It’s 2019 and Krissa Watry is presenting to a room of U.S. Air Force officers in uniform. Watry, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, is talking to them about children’s smart toys, and no one in the room is batting an eye or raising an eyebrow. No, the U.S. Air Force wasn’t interested in tapping into the toy industry. They were, however, interested in what Watry’s tech startup, Dynepic, had developed: a secure digital infrastructure that enables kids to play with linked toys with their friends, all while protecting their personally identifiable information (PII). Specifically, Dynepic was competing against 120 other companies at the 2019 AFWERX Challenge, where tech firms pitched solutions to solve problems for the U.S. Air Force. Watry was explaining how Dynepic’s platform could be used by the Air Force for its immersive augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) training. “I was like, this is either going to fail miserably and they’re going to be like, ‘why is she talking about toys?’ or I’m going to win this thing,” Watry recalled. It ended up being the latter. “They said, we need this zero-data architecture and this entire infrastructure to power our immersive training,” said Watry, an MIT graduate who was also in the Air Force for seven years (2002-2007), culminating in serving as a captain. “The infrastructure that we built was exactly what was needed in order to have all these different extended reality companies join a common ecosystem.” In a nutshell, Dynepic’s DX-Platform technology enables the U.S. military and AR/VR vendors to join a common platform that powers immersive training courses with a single login and single learning dashboard. “What we do is bring an entire ecosystem of small businesses, big businesses and their products that can be delivered for the Air Force to train,” Watry said. “That’s maintenance training, pilot training, air traffic control … all of the different career fields. We’re really about powering the future of knowledge for a better tomorrow. And to do that, we’re organizing this extended reality space. And we’re democratizing participation in this ecosystem.” “It was super cool to find that product-market fit. As a company, you build all this and you have a vision for it, and if the market timing isn’t there, it can be crushing.” The pandemic, in fact, has likely accelerated the use of AR/VR training across many sectors, public and private.
An example of virtual reality training used by the U.S. Air Force in action, powered by Dynepic’s digital infrastructure. Courtesy: Dynepic
“I think COVID made people realize ‘I can do remote training, I don’t need everybody to be on site,” Watry said. RELOCATING TO RENO To that end, Dynepic has fully embraced the country’s shift to remote work. And when Watry, living in the Los Angeles area at the time, decided it was time to move somewhere with a more appealing and accessible work-and-play environment, she landed on Reno. “I like the outdoors,” said Watry, a native of Beavercreek, Oregon. “Mountain biking, hiking, trail running and all of those things. And I wanted to get back to a place like that.” The outdoors wasn’t the only reason Watry was attracted to the Biggest Little City. “I can see the growth,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of growth potential that’s already happening. And you have to grow those smartly. Charleston started to grow and they tried to make it a tech scene and it just didn’t work. You’ve got to have the university and everybody on board, and you’ve got to get that workforce pipeline and talent there. “I thought this could be a location I could come in and help spur that growth.” Watry said she’s currently in the process of filing the paperwork to officially plant Dynepic’s headquarters in Reno. She’s still debating whether or not it makes sense to open a physical office space. SEEKING TECH TALENT Dynepic has about 25 employees scattered across the U.S., Watry said. She added the company currently has several job openings, from proposal specialist to full stack engineer. The company’s LinkedIn page shows four open positions, with annual salaries ranging from $70,000 to $150,000. “One of the big things that we’re really challenged to find is amazing developers,” said Watry, noting she’s going to actively recruit in Reno. “I’m going to try to start building up some talent here. Maybe there’s an exodus from the (Silicon) Valley, with a better, nicer way of life, and we get some good tech talent.” Watry said Dynepic is profitable and has raised just under $2 million in capital, with plans to do another funding round this summer. This, Watry said, will help the Dynepic launch in the commercial space, which the company plans to do later this year. “The platform works across all career fields,” Watry said. “Were seeking those partners now to try to figure out what makes the most sense for the first customer base on our commercial side.” Since being selected as the secure digital infrastructure for the Air Force’s immersive training two years ago, Watry said the company’s revenue has quadrupled. “My goal is really to always be doing the things that are for the good of humanity, not just because they make money,” Watry said. “So far, that’s working.”