Zeius combines augmented reality, drone gaming tech

June 29, 2021

By Katie Aldridge

Imagine hanging out with friends and defeating virtual enemies while operating a real drone via a mobile app.

This is the experience Zeius is developing through their work to combine augmented reality into drone gaming technology.

Zeius was one of 10 companies tapped for the the second cohort of the Dayton Region’s Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) Defense Accelerator, powered by Launch Dayton partners Parallax Advanced Research and the Entrepreneurs’ Center. We recently caught up with company founder Max Gilson to learn more about his journey and his experience with the defense accelerator. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Launch Dayton: How did your company start?

Our company started when my business partner and I were in college at Wright State. We were working with drones and we both looked at each other and were like, “we could make drones a little bit better. Let’s gamify it a little bit.” We started developing after that and made the company out of it.

Why this idea?

My cofounder and I had been working with drones for a while. We got into it from a research standpoint, so we really got down to the nitty-gritty of what makes a drone work. Right now, flying a drone around is just taking pictures. My cofounder and I are kind of fun guys, so we wanted to make drones fun rather than a gimmicky camera on wings. We wanted to make something fun and enjoyable for people.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

Not really. It’s weird because it wasn’t ever something I really considered. When I was a kid, I thought big companies just existed. I got older and I realized someone sat down, created it, and put it all together. After I was learning about electrical engineering at Wright State, I thought, “if we want to create the products we want to create, then we’re going to have to start a company.” The way I think about it is that I like getting things done and doing things that I enjoy. The only way I could find to do that was starting my own company. I never thought about it as wanting to be an entrepreneur; I thought about it as doing the things I want to do.

What identities do you bring to entrepreneurship that helped prepare you for this lifestyle?

I had parents who worked while they were raising my siblings and me. I always think back to this. A lot of the stuff I had to get done, like homework, I had to figure out myself because my parents were so busy. I found that if I spend the time sitting down to learn something, I can get it done. I have the mentality of “if you set your mind to it, you can do anything.”

What is the biggest barrier you’ve faced in entrepreneurship?

I think this goes hand-in-hand with the previous question. Getting stuff done yourself is awesome, until there are too many things to get done at one time. The biggest things for me are time and having the resources to bring other people on. We’re trying to do other products, so we can hire a group of people to help us. Time is the biggest barrier though because we really want to grow this in the next five years to be a big player in drones and gaming. It’s challenging when you’re a three-man group.

Why do you love what do you?

Freedom is the biggest thing. Sure, I have a lot of responsibilities and I’m busy all the time, but I can work ninety-hour weeks here in my office on my business. I don’t think I would have the same passion, interest, or motivation to do that anywhere else. The freedom to make my own decisions that are very high-level and being able to act on that.

How was your experience with the OEA Defense Accelerator?

It is nice to step back and reevaluate some of the core fundamentals of running a business. Stepping away from whatever I’m working on to focus on high-level concepts has been really important.

How can the Launch Dayton community support you?

I would love for anyone who is interested in stuff like this and who see this going somewhere to reach out. If anyone wants to connect, there may be mutual benefits there. If someone believes they could help in some way, just reach out. We love building our network and connecting.

Learn more and connect with Zeius here.