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Tampa entrepreneur expands immersive VR tech to Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue, more

Veronica Brezina

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A photo of Carole Baskin at the Big Cat Rescue. Archive photo.

Chris Vasilakis, the CEO of Tampa-based Guided Virtual Tours, built his platform to allow people to have “true” virtual tours inside real estate properties, but that has now extended to tours inside an aircraft to tigers in cages. 

Guided Virtual Tours was formed last year with the premise of giving virtual tours inside commercial and residential properties – but taking it a step further in becoming truly immersive. Rather than offering the typical virtual reality tours of apartments by clicking on dots to navigate through rooms, Guided Virtual Tours has 360-degree video tours that are narrated. 

“It’s a one-click property tour that takes you through the rooms and describes the property like you are actually there. You can even look outside patios and windows to see the view. The tour is accurate and is representative of the property,” he said, adding how users can have a full 360-degree view on their phones. 

Vasilakis is working in partnership with Matterport, a leader in 3D technology, on photographing the properties and creating the tours. 

He describes Tampa as a testing ground for this technology. The technology is being used for 75 different properties across the U.S., and Vasilakis says he is receiving more interest from Airbnb property owners. 

Through launching Guided Virtual Tours, Vasilakis founded a nonprofit called The Virtual Recess Foundation that provides “virtual adventures” to children who are ill and bound to hospital rooms. He has started to work with hospitals in Miami. 

The tours give children the point-of-view of flying over Davis Island in a plane from Tampa-based charter flight company ICON Aircraft to going inside Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue. 

“The foundation started taking off last year, but then the Covid-19 pandemic hit. We are returning back to it and we are looking at hospitals in Tampa Bay to partner with,” Vasilakis said. 

Today, his business has five employees. Vasilakis said Guided Virtual Tours is planning to hire for many more positions primarily in sales over the next nine to 12 months. 

Guided Virtual Tours previously had an office in Tampa, but due to the pandemic, the startup’s workforce is completely remote. 

The entrepreneur in the making 

Vasilakis has a diverse career history. He is originally from Brooklyn and left New York in the early 1990s to move to Florida, where he then joined the Marine Corps after graduating high school.

Christopher Vasilakis, founder of Guided Virtual Tours. Photo provided.

In the Marine Corps, he became a Sergeant and fought in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

After serving for just over five years, Vasilakis wanted to tap into his entrepreneurial spirit. 

He eventually started working in the music industry and states he worked with hip hop stars such as Ludacris. 

It wasn’t until Vasilakis’ brother introduced him to the emerging world of VR that he grew interested. 

He has bootstrapped multiple VR companies since, including Guided Virtual Tours. 

Readers can find his full biography here. 

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