In today’s installment of Internalising I’m interviewing the two people who brought me to this crazy city. Vivi Trujillo and Hernán Ortiz, founders of Fractal.
Vivi loves cats (particularly her cat Truffle), books and synthetic biology. She hates motorcycles, traffic, and people being late to meetings.
Hernán loves sci-fi (you can find some of his own work here) and coffee. He also hates people that take too long in meetings, though his unwavering laid back temperament means that I haven’t really figured out what else he hates.
Together, they’re a killer team. Vivi is a strategy queen (alongside keeping Hernán in check), while Hernán, with a mind straight out of a sci-fi novel, is in charge of execution.
Fractal might be one of the coolest companies in existence. When you combine a love of storytelling, technology, science (and science fiction), you’re in for a pretty wild ride. Simply said - they’re in the business of storytelling. Creating a narrative is at the heart of everything they do.
Vivi and Hernán opens minds, and keep them open. They’re always innovating and can create a story based solution for any situation. Some stories help brands communicate their goals, some provide entertainment, some are to explore the endless possibilities that emerging technologies offer to us.
And Fractal does not discriminate when it comes to mediums. They work with all types of stories, platforms, technologies, and people, giving personality to any brand or idea.
If you want to put on an event that’s never been done before, Fractal will gather a team together to create anything from facial recognition devices; ambient environments that allow you to time travel; or even create you some new 3D printed work uniforms.
Or you want something published? Fractal will gather the best creatives to make art to accompany it, and maybe even a soundtrack - you won’t find yourself simply reading the book - you’ll be experiencing it.
Maybe you’re a business needing to revamp your brand? Vivi & Hernán will quite literally write the story of your business, and help you to brand it according to the narrative. But that’s not all they do.
Encuentro Fractal (Fractal Experience)
As you can probably tell, these two don’t settle for traditional methods of anything. This includes events. Vivi and Hernán have founded Latin America’s first ever “design fiction” event: Encuentro Fractal.
The event has no set method, it’s reinvented constantly. Vivi and Hernán’s goal is to gather together international guests who are experts in their fields (science, technology, and the arts) to discuss emerging technologies and their potential implications.
What was once a “TED-like” conference has evolved into an event with fashion shows, DJ sets, 3D printing, augmented reality, and more. At recent Fractal events, experts have opened with a discussion about their area of expertise, before opening up the floor to guests who engage in stimulating conversations.
And what comes of these conversations is a masterpiece. Together, the community creates a collection of short stories that Vivi and Hernán edit as a reminder of the fantastic ideas that the events facilitate.
“Looking past third world limitations”
Vivi and Hernán were influenced to begin these events to encourage people to look past the third-world limitations that Colombia and many other countries are up against. “We want people to think past the strong cultural limitations and focus on what they want the future to hold,” says Hernán. These limitations extend past the ‘literal’ meaning of “third world” i.e being limited in what you can afford, but focus rather on the limitations that are placed on people’s minds, encouraging them to think about what the future could be - with the help of emerging technologies.
The future is not a Hollywood Blockbuster
Fractal encourages people to look into the real and probable future.
Vivi says that the image people have of the future has been sculpted by Hollywood films, T.V shows, and other people’s visions and interpretations of the future - not their own. That’s what Encuentro Fractal seeks to change. To encourage people to form their own perceptions of the future.
The ideas discussed at these events can truly help when negotiating some major issues and organise better societies. “One of the biggest problems that Fractal looks to combat is a lack of empathy,” says Hernán. By turning all the discussions into short stories with characters, people can say how they truly feel through the guise of a “character,” rather than admitting that it’s their true thoughts and feelings.
A few “What if’s…”
If you could choose one person to replace Donald Trump who would it be and why?
Hernán had a very abstract answer to this question. He started off by saying “anyone can replace Donald Trump and do a better job,” before diving into his version of a better idea.
“Why don’t we train an AI to take presidential positions? The AI can be morally trained by the people of the country. Everyone is subject to a bunch of situations where they must make a decision, and they vote on how they would respond (for example, questions on migration, climate change, etc.) Then all the responses are loaded into one AI. If the majority of humans in that country suck and their responses suck, then they deserve to have a president who sucks. In this situation, the President is simply a body that holds the perspectives of everyone in the country. You don’t vote for a person - you make the choices.”
Vivi’s response was a bit simpler: “If it’s not an AI, I would look for the kindest person in the world. That’s what we need the most, kindness, empathy and an ability to stand in other people’s shoes.”
If you could work with anyone, on any project, who would it be and what would it be?
Vivi took no time at all to think of a response. If she could work with anyone it would be Reshma Shetty from Ginkgo Bioworks. For those of you who don’t know, Ginkgo Bioworks is a synthetic biology business who use genetic engineering to produce bacteria and design organisms for customers in a range of industries. Some of the cool shit they’ve done includes recreating the genes of a Maui mountain hibiscus that has been extinct for over a century, bringing back its fragrance, and making it easier to create plant based meat. I gotta say, I think this is a company I want to work with too!
What else have they worked on?
Medellín Steampunk was the name given to the set of activities, carried out in 2015 during September, the month of heritage. One aspect of the events that Vivi and Hernán facilitated was a revamp of the statues. They commissioned an artist to essentially transform the statues into characters, linking each of them to a twitter account and even giving them a personality.
Vivi & Hernán worked as writers and producers of HYPER-REALITY, a concept film by Keiichi Matsuda. The film, which was one of Vimeos top videos of 2016, presents a “provocative and kaleidoscopic new vision of the future, where physical and virtual realities have merged, and the city is saturated in media.”
After all that futuristic pondering, I finished the interview with an easy question. Since these two are coffee snobs (but I love them because they take me around the city tasting all the best coffee), I got them to tell me (and you) their top three coffee spots in Colombia (this might’ve been the most difficult question I asked all day.)
One thing I really dig about Fractal is their trust and confidence in the people they work with. Partnering with talented people - and there is no shortage of them - is a huge part of the business. “We want to give talented people, of all walks of life, the opportunity to do what they do best, particularly when they wouldn’t be otherwise recognised,” says Hernán.
Thankfully, I’m one of the lucky people who get to be a part of team Fractal - even if it’s just for a short while.
And if you want to work with them too, or collaborate with them on an experience for your business/organisation/team - click here!