Introducing Nanit

We loved the concept of Nanit as soon as we heard it – the first video baby monitor to use artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision to track a baby’s sleep patterns and behavior, to help the whole family sleep better? Yes please.

Our launch goal was to establish Nanit as a new parent’s best friend: a camera with sophisticated analytics that could send smart baby sleep data straight to their iPhone, sleek enough for the most couture nurseries – and not a “wearable.”

At the time, Nanit was a brand new company launching a baby monitor in a crowded parenting tech and wearables space. Plus, the industry had recently come under scrutiny for security breaches with WiFi-connected monitors and safety hazards associated with babies wearing a device. Many of these baby monitor companies also rooted their go-to-market messaging around parents’ insecurities and fears, which raised skepticism among adopters.

Our Launch Strategy

Our initial research revealed the immense need for improved sleep for both parents and babies. We learned that on average, parents lose 44 days of sleep during the first year of their baby’s life and nearly 3 in 10 babies is reported to have problems sleeping at night. Quality sleep is important for everyone, but especially for infants in the critical first two years of growth and development.

Sleep: After understanding the impact that lack of sleep could have on health and quality of family life, we built our campaign around two pillars: better sleep for babies and parents, and how computer vision could measure behavior without the need of an attached wearable.

We characterized Nanit as the most advanced baby monitor ever created, and the only solution that focuses on sleep instead of monitoring vital signs. We played up Nanit’s sophisticated sleep tracking technology that summarizes the baby’s night and sends a recap straight to parents’ phones. Additionally, we highlighted its use across “parenting teams,” as the ideal way for parent to share sleep information with grandparents, babysitters and other caregivers.

Technology: We emphasized Nanit’s pioneering use of artificial intelligence and computer vision technology (the same tech used in driverless cars) to measure and differentiate between behaviors (i.e., is my baby sleeping or lying motionless with eyes closed but awake?).  

Safety & Security: We leveraged the press and consumer backlash against wearable baby monitors, as parents were skeptical of putting unproven electronic devices on essentially new humans. Nanit was the first baby-safe camera – one that doesn’t touch the child and is designed to prevent injury – plus features the highest level of security encryptions and an un-hackable video feed.

Going beyond tech press: Beyond technology and business coverage, reaching parenting and women’s press was key. Through specific targeting efforts, our team mapped the social reach of the top mommy/parenting bloggers, tailoring our efforts to the most impactful influencers. Throughout, we highlighted Nanit’s elements of social collaboration with other caregivers and helping the whole family sleep better.

The Results

Nanit quickly became known as a leading smart baby monitor, surpassing its sales goals at launch (selling out of their first two batches of units within one month post-launch). The company received inbound interest and then struck distribution deals by several top retailers, including Amazon and Target, as well as key baby registry sites, including Babylist. As a PR firm, we even received an Honorable Mention in the Brand Messaging and Positioning category from PR Daily for our work on Nanit’s launch.

Post-launch, we helped Nanit maintain a healthy flow of orders and momentum through the holidays via gift guide features and top broadcast placements on the Hallmark Channel and the TODAY Show. In particular, the TODAY Show segment we secured (screenshot below) drove the biggest week of sales for Nanit since the day of launch:

Importantly, we took Nanit from just-launched startup to winner of gold-standard industry accolades, including being recognized for their artificial intelligence capabilities by CBInsight’s AI 100 and named by Business Insider as one of the 27 best startups that launched in 2016.

Accolades came in from our target press:

Business

Technology

Parenting press

  • BusyMommyMedia: “Nanit is more than a baby monitor. Saying Nanit is just a baby monitor is like saying sleeping is just something you do to pass the time. Nanit does it all. It doesn’t just detect motion. It classifies behavior. Think of it like a high tech sleep tracker for your baby.”

Reviews Program

Our press program successfully garnered more than 212 pieces of coverage in the nine months since the company launched, with a total estimated reach of 592 million. Nanit started shipping devices to its customers in December 2016.

SHHHHHHH!!!!!! Just don’t call it EdTech.

With $43 billion at stake for educational hardware and software, there’s a technology war going on in the classroom.

 

Key players like Google, Microsoft and Apple are paving the way for entrants, some of which we represent, to give teachers and students access to innovative classroom tech.

 

Over the last five years, we’ve grown our practice to specialize in giving upstarts their own unfair awareness advantage needed to close district contracts, grow teacher communities and engage millions of students with hands-on learning and immersive virtual reality (VR) experiences.

 

Specific within education technologies, we have built category leaders within their respective communities like Osmo, Nearpod, and ClassDojo, as well as building brands in family entertainment and educational gaming with Flybrix, Pixelberry and PlayKids.

Osmo is the award-winning leader of a new play movement, one that bridges the physical and digital worlds for the ultimate hands-on learn and play experience. Engaged prior to the company’s launch in 2014 and still engaged today, our agency designed a long-term media strategy to reach parents, families and educators. Starting at zero, Osmo is now in hundreds of thousands of households, is sold in more than 248 Apple stores around the globe, and is used in more than 20,000 schools worldwide. View our work with Osmo here.

We helped Nearpod, makers of an interactive classroom lesson planning platform, create a VR strategy and orchestrated the launch of Nearpod VR, the first of its kind virtual reality program for K-12 classrooms. The company has become the leading edtech platform that lets teachers find, create and distribute digital learning experiences, and is now used in 1 out of 10 US schools. Read more about our work with Nearpod here.

We launched ClassDojo, the educational tool to build positive behavior with her students in the U.S., to wide acclaim, helping it receive coverage across both tech (TechCrunch, The Next Web), education (Education Week, Classroom Aid) and consumer (Fast Company, Forbes, Bostinno) publications. We worked on long lead features, and saw placements in Marketplace (which was published online and broadcasted to 10M listeners), KQED, Charlotte Observer and CBS News.

 

Through our efforts and outreach, ClassDojo received several awards of recognition including a print placement in Forbes 30 Under 30 and inclusion in their “100 Most Promising Companies,” and Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies”.

 

Partnering with Flybrix, we promptly set out to build a bold narrative and go-to market communications strategy that differentiated them from other drone companies – all in advance of a highly-competitive holiday season. We focused on the unique “crash-friendly” nature of the drone that welcomed kids to “embrace the crash”, teaching them critical tinkering skills through trial and error. Flybrix became the first-ever crash-friendly, re-buildable drone made of LEGO® bricks that let kids (14+) build, fly, crash and rebuild their creations – all while honing STEM skills. Fybrix is now used in over 300 U.S. school as the go-to project-based learning drone. More about our work with Flybrix here.

Working with Pixelberry, we launched their mobile game High School Story which helps adolescents
and young-adults deal with the stresses of teenage life. The game received unprecedented coverage for a genre of its kind in some of America’s premier publications (Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Herald), VentureBeat, Fast Company), and others and led to thousands of teens using the game to click through to cyberbullying and suicide support services within the app.

 

Through our relationship with Y-Combinator and Social Capital, we launched CodeNow, a company focused on teaching programming basics to high schoolers – particularly girls, ethnic minorities, and other underrepresented groups. The launch made headlines in Fast Company, TechCrunch, and InfoWorld and the organization expanded their programs into additional markets to include even more students in New York, Washington D.C. and the Bay Area.

 

The classroom is getting flipped. Education is changing as we know it.

 

Just don’t call it edtech….that’s too boring a term for what’s happening here.

Congratulations to MightyTV on Their Future with Spotify

We had the pleasure of working with Brian, Alison and their talented team on one of the biggest app launches of 2016.

 

According to a Forbes story on the deal, “The company had received a fair amount of media attention for a project so new.”

 

Read about our work here.

 

Artificial intelligence is a hot space and MightyTV represents the second acquisition in this sector from within our network in the past year.

 

VSC Delivers as Zume Bakes Pizza on the Way

Zume Pizza uses technology to make and deliver pizza from 100% locally sourced ingredients. Co-created by restaurant developer Julia Collins and serial entrepreneur Alex Garden, Zume Pizza is on a quest to make healthier pizza more accessible.

 

Zume engaged VSC to establish the company as a legitimate competitor and healthier alternative to Big Pizza conglomerates by delivering fresh, healthy affordable food in an entirely new way. Additional goals included driving pizza orders and investor awareness.

Our challenge was twofold: breaking into a crowded market with Big Pizza who have a multi-decade advantage and spend billions on broadcast, digital and print advertising, while also educating Americans on the harmful effects their favorite fast food was having on their long-term health.

 

How We Did It

 

Making secret sauce not-so-secret: After conducting market analysis of the Big Four contenders – Papa John’s, Little Caesar’s, Dominos and Pizza Hut – it became clear corporate pizza is pumping their pies with preservatives and artificial ingredients in order to preserve shelf life at the expense of Americans’ health.

 

Our strategy was to set Zume apart from chemical-laden competitors in Big Pizza with the launch of the world’s first Food Delivery Vehicle that bakes pizza en route. It served as our news-driven moment to tell their bigger story.

 

 

The campaign focused on Zume’s key differentiators: commitment to fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, focus on employee wellness and benefits, all made possible by their technology-driven approach to baking and delivering the very best pies.

Food first, tech second: We sought to elevate Zume’s mission of delivering healthier pizza options at a fair price by re-defining the concept of “fresh out of the oven.”

 

While other pizza chains introduced square heat bags that aimed to keep already cooked pizza from getting cold, Zume introduced a GAME CHANGER: the ability to start and finish cooking a pizza in the vehicle, as it arrives to customers’ home using GPS and Uber-like mobile logistics. We coined the term “BOTW” or “Baked on the Way.”

 

Given the technology was unprecedented, we had to educate reporters on the concept of dwell time, or the period of time a pizza is spent outside the oven while en route for delivery. Reducing dwell time enables Zume to make pizza at half the fat and 40 percent fewer calories, without chemicals or preservatives typically used to prolong shelf life.

 

Happy employees make happy meals: In the broader pizza industry, employee health and safety is a serious issue – with pizza delivery one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Part of the strategy was to expose the safety shortcomings of traditional pizza parlors, while showcasing Zume’s innovative use of technology to create a safer work environment.

Show-telling: Instead of telling reporters about Zume, we invited them in to taste the difference. VSC understood that Zume’s mission-driven business were best seen firsthand as opposed to described over the phone or via a startup tech video. That’s why we planned a series of in-person briefings at Zume headquarters to educate food, tech, and business press by showing them the synergistic collaboration between robots and employees, the use of fresh ingredients and superior cooking process. The media witnessed our innovation first-hand and tasted the pizza themselves.

 

 

Results

The relatively small startup is now the hottest innovation in the pizza industry. Through our PR efforts, one single initiative generated more earned media attention from global press (100+ articles across online, print and broadcast) than any one of the Big Pizza chains for any product launch over Q3-Q4 of 2016.

 

The launch reached 500 million people. Among that audience was the CEO of Domino’s, who was forced to respond to Zume in a Reuters article by downplaying if “people want their food out of a machine.”

 

That’s right. The CEO of Domino’s Pizza was compelled to respond to a tiny Silicon Valley startup.

 

The press embraced Zume’s pizza-making robots and mission to improve the way food is sourced, cooked, and delivered, with national media coverage in outlets like NPR and the New York Times, food media like Eater and Vice’s Munchies, and a variety of other top publications. And in February 2017, Zume was named #1 on CNBC’s Upstart 25 List, honoring the fastest growing startups of the year.

 

For example, when Domino’s launched the ability to order via Apple Watch, they only generated five noteworthy stories. Or when Pizza Hut resorted to ‘stunty’ menu offerings like the pizza topped with gold and grilled cheese crust, they earned just seven placements.

 

After the launch, Zume experienced record week-over week order volume which not only spiked for the campaign but led to overall higher order volume ongoing. The campaign generated curiosity, interest, demand and repeat customers. A supreme publicity pie, if you will.

 

Here’s what the press had to say:

 

“Meats and produce are sourced locally, like cheese from Cypress Grove and tomatoes from Scott Park Farms, and prepared on site. And, as if one needed more convincing to ditch the chains, Collins says that each slice averages 178 calories, versus 320 calories per slice at Domino’s.” — Eater SF on Zume’s superior ingredients and food first, technology second model

 

“Startups like Zume provide an important modern example of how automation can impact employment in ways that aren’t immediately apparent, or necessarily negative.” — Quartz on Zume’s robots and job creation

 

“The company is committed to using robots for repetitive, mundane tasks to eventually move kitchen staff into the front office, and shift focus to what Zume Pizza considers its marquee innovation, a truck with more than 50 ovens that cooks pizzas while they’re out for delivery using special software.” CBS News on Zume’s commitment to worker safety

 

We also connected reporters with Zume pizza employees directly so that they could tell their story about the company’s commitment to their livelihoods. For example, Christopher Rognstad, Zume Pizza’s kitchen supervisor, spoke with Marisa Kendall, a reporter with the San Jose Mercury News and said: “I think there will always be a place for humans here,” to “We jokingly talk about the robots as if they’re our family and our co-workers,” Rognstad said. “So when they make mistakes we joke and say, ‘Bruno messed up.’”

 

The company received hundreds of inbound inquiries from investors, potential partners and prospective employees.

Launching Soothe: How VSC Helped Bring Deep Tissue to Your Doorstep

Soothe, a mobile service that sends massage therapists to your hotel, home or office in as little as one hour, came to VSC to grow in core markets, attract qualified massage therapists, and drive sales.

 

Through a series of strategic initiatives, we secured more than 50 spotlight stories on Today.com, The Ellen Show, Entrepreneur, Inc, Men’s Fitness, USA Today, Real Simple and the list goes on.

Our PR goal for Soothe was to position them as the premiere on-demand massage service – one that featured licensed and vetted therapists available in multiple markets both in the US and abroad.  We developed two distinct narratives for them, one tailored for consumer audiences, the other for business.

 

Starting with the general public, one who may love the idea of a massage at their doorstep but may feel uneasy about inviting strangers into their homes, VSC created a campaign that put Soothe’s rigorous vetting process at the forefront, ensuring consumers that safety was a top priority, both for them and the therapists.

Soothe’s exceptionally fast service was crucial to driving the consumer messaging, and one which resonated with target publications like Real Simple and The Gloss, which drove new user sign-ups and downloads. Our most lucrative hit was Soothe’s appearance on The Ellen Show’s “Mother’s Day” special, where we promoted the benefits of prenatal massage. With the likes of Mila Kunis and Kristen Davis showing their approval, Soothe was effectively cast as the go-to on-demand massage app for around 17M viewers, resulting in the company’s biggest sales week of all time

For business press, VSC took advantage of the “on-demand apocalypse” that was dominating headlines, as increased scrutiny over the countless startups that failed to deliver on the promise of “Uber for X” placed companies like Soothe under the spotlight.

 

VSC seized this as an opportunity to elevate Soothe, citing their then-recent $35M growth financing and rapid expansion across North America and internationally as proof that investors believed in the business model.  Our narrative positioned Soothe as an outlier among their floundering on-demand contemporaries, not only delivering on the promise of faster massages from their main competitor Zeel, but growing at an unprecedented rate.

Business and trade press were also instrumental in attracting massage therapists to the platform, so our outreach always included details about Soothe’s earning potential, noting that therapists could make 3-4x that of industry standard.

 

Our narratives converged to tell Soothe’s story as the more in-demand, on-demand massage app, resulting in continued growth in both cities and in the number of therapists employed. Since partnering with VSC, Soothe has enjoyed 11 months of double-digit revenue growth and nearly doubled its markets from 23 to 45 cities and 3 countries, hired more than 1,000 licensed and certified massage therapists and emerged as a company to emulate among the countless “Uber for Xs.”

Making news, not faking news

These are uncertain times, but we’re intent on doing what we always do – help entrepreneurs break out and tell their stories.

With that in mind, we’ve chosen a few principles to guide us.

  • In business as in life, diversity is a competitive advantage.
  • Immigration fuels innovation.
  • Despite our social feeds, it’s a historically good time to be alive.

Regardless of global trends, we’re grateful to our companies and recognize their work including eight exits in the past year.

WE JUST HIRED SEAN SPICER

Ok that’s fake news…but we did hire two execs that actually know what they’re doing.

We boosted our team with the addition of marketing and communication pros Archie Chattha and Julia Konstantinovsky.

Check out the PR Week story here.

RANKED TOP PLACES TO WORK

According to CareerCast, PR was rated as the 6th most stressful job. Yes, it may all look like fun and games, but Silicon Valley is a competitive place and the stakes are high.

This is why we take culture seriously and we’re proud that PRNews recognized us as one of the top places to work in our industry.

WARENESS

In 2013, we debuted Wareness, a marketing studio and seed investment fund devoted to helping entrepreneurs in hardware and connected devices. We’re proud to report that we have successfully launched 18 companies, including Navdy, Moov, goTenna, Osmo and Teforia – with a combined $120M in sales.
Now our doors are open to companies specializing in AI, robotics and computer vision.  Read more about it in TechCrunch.

We are already building brands in these focus areas – with clients like H2O.ai (open source machine learning), Nanit (computer vision & AI-enabled baby monitor), Zume Pizza (automating pie creation, shown above), and API.ai (speech AI interface, acquired by Google). And we’re making strides in the New Year, as three of our clients have made it to the CB Insights AI100 list.

GIVING BACK

We continue to dedicate ourselves to important organizations and causes that serve our community, locally and internationally.

Here’s a list of organizations we supported last year:

FREESTYLE

Interesting people who sat down with us:

MORE AWESOMENESS

Osmo was recognized as one of the most innovative toys for early school-aged kids

On demand massage app Soothe was featured as one of Ellen’s coveted Mother’s Day Giveaways

Leading fashion marketplace Poshmark expanded into men’s and kid’s categories

b8ta’s expansion spurred the question: Can Technology Save Brick and Mortar?

Lego-drone Flybrix was cited as one of the 14 Coolest Toys for the Holiday Season

Candy-bar-size goTenna turns phones into walkie-talkies and is featured as a must-have in any modern explorer’s survival kit

Legacy Republic named one of the “5 Modern Ways to Save Your Mementos

Spotify-backed Soundtrack Your Brand brings music to McDonalds in global partnership

Nanit was featured as a nursery must-have, and named by Business Insider as one of the top 27 startups of 2016

Nearpod’s education software, used in 10,000 US schools, launched virtual reality lessons

E-commerce fraud protector Signifyd was named to the Forbes Fintech50 for 2016

Mobile payments tech company Ezetap was named as one of the top 50 Disruptors of 2016

Case Study: MightyTV was one of the biggest app launches of 2016

Flywheel wins Best Travel and Hospitality PR Campaign of the Year.

Since no one actually reads any full article, we are rewarding the first five people who email here. You are entitled to a complimentary bottle of VSC Liquid Courage Wine.

VSC Swipes Right for the Biggest Startup App Launch of 2016 for MightyTV

We live in a platinum age of television: never before have there been so many high-quality TV shows to choose from. With abundance, however, comes the paradox of choice, and today’s viewers are more overwhelmed and frustrated than ever. The process of discovery is an especially huge problem for a new generation of cord cutters and cord nevers who have no way to get quality recommendations and find something good across all their favorite streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu, and iTunes. “Netflix and chill” has increasingly become “Netflix, Hulu, HBO overkill.”

 

Everyone understands the problem but no one has fundamentally solved it. In the past few years, there have been hundreds of attempts at video discovery from recommendation and video services, creating a crowded market of more than 20 apps in the category, with little to no differentiation between products.

 

Oversaturation of video discovery apps has created fatigue for journalists who cover the space, resulting in scant media coverage and low awareness among consumers, with recent video discovery app launches averaging roughly 2.3 original earned media placements per launch.

 

In order to rise above a sea of mediocre discovery apps, MightyTV partnered with VSC to launch the company and achieve two strategic goals: 1) differentiate from competitors, and 2) draw media awareness to help drive downloads and user engagement.

 

Strategy

VSC determined that any new product in the space needed to stand out from anything that came before it.

 

With this in mind, VSC immediately embarked on an audit of the industry, where we recognized that competitive apps weren’t great at solving for individual discovery, and those that focused around discovery weren’t good at solving for social.

 

VSC therefore recommended a launch strategy that MightyTV should wait until it had some aspects of social figured out that we could showcase to press, which would allow us to carefully craft product messaging that addressed two notable market deficiencies.

 

With sights set on a mid-April launch date, VSC conducted an aggressive national outreach campaign to pre-brief media to demonstrate why the app is truly a must-have for anyone who loves watching TV and movies.

Tactics

1. Brand Association – We advised the team to capitalize on heightened media attention and the popularity of social and dating app, Tinder, where MightyTV uses a similar swipe interface to hook you up with videos you’ll love, fast.

 

2. Product Messaging – Focus messaging around a new type of AI app for video that delivers hyper-personalized and intelligent recommendations based on you and your friends’ tastes so you’ll never have to waste time again trying to find something good to watch.

 

3. Pedigree – Leverage founder’s background as a technologist and entrepreneur who sold his last startup to Google for $400M and is now launching a startup that aims to put an end to your search for what to binge watch next.

 

4. Media Relations – Set up ‘sneak peek’ in-person product demos in SF and NY where key members of the press had a chance to try out the product first-hand to see how the service is approaching discovery in a way that has never been attempted before.

Execution

We overachieved all coverage goals, with 50+ pieces of coverage worldwide in top-tier outlets.

 

Here are a few of the major placements:

 

Wired: MightyTV Is Like Tinder, Only It Sets You Up With Movies: A new app called MightyTV (iOS-only for now, Android soon) aims to solve this problem using a unique concoction of Tinder-style swiping, machine learning, and a collaborative personalization mechanism that can not only find something for you to watch right now, but can account for the tastes of everyone on the couch and find something you’ll all love. The app is out today, it’s super slick, and it might have a chance to do what so many have tried and failed to pull off.

 

MightyTV is the invention of a team led by Brian Adams, an entrepreneur who spent much of his career working in ads. He sold his company, AdMeld, to Google in 2011, and then spent the next few years working on Google’s money-printing Doubleclick ad system. In February of 2015, he quit his job and started poking around things like local search before landing on video.

 

TechCrunch: MightyTV uses a Tinder-style interface to offer personal tips on what to watch next: To determine that taste, MightyTV presents users with a stack of movie recommendations that you can go through quickly, Tinder-style, saying whether you like, love or dislike each one — or if you just want to add it to your watch list. Over time, the recommendations should get smarter, based on what the app learns about your taste and about the taste of similar users.

 

Even better, if you’re watching with someone else, MightyTV can recommend programming that sits at the overlap between your taste and that of your friend/spouse/family member/whomever.

 

Mashable: Tinder-esque app Mighty TV wants to find your perfect streaming match: Now there’s a way to swipe right on what to stream. MightyTV — a new app launched by an ex-Google employee on Wednesday —  is a personalized video discovery app that gives consumers the ability to “swipe away the frustration of what to watch next.”

 

Using algorithms, the app helps users match with new content to stream based on their personal taste, as well as their friends’ tastes.

Evaluation

The launch of MightyTV was an instant success and one of the biggest startup app launches in 2016 based on media coverage and total audience reach.

 

After the press launch, MightyTV was twice featured in Apple’s app store, in the ‘Best News Apps Section’ on April 22, as well as ‘Apps That We Love’ in the Entertainment section on May 6th.

 

The launch was a global success appearing in 50+ publications and resulting in downloads in 60+ countries and the active users averaging 290 swipes per session.

Within the first two days of launch, MightyTV reached 290.9K accounts on Twitter and made 373.7K impressions.

 

The total reach of the earned media campaign within the first month including written, video, and broadcast coverage was 573M people.

 

Coverage included a wide range of business, entertainment / tech, and consumer / lifestyle press like Fox TV-New York, NY1, the front page of Wired.com, App of the week for GeekWire, E! Online, WSJ, Yahoo, MSN, Seventeen, Self, Mashable, TechCrunch, Engadget, TechHive / PCWorld, Lifehacker, NY Post / Decider, Daily Mail, Slate, Thrillist, Refinery29, Motherboard, Brit & Co, Consumer Affairs and a host of other influential media outlets and blogs.

15 Years and 800 Steps Down the Street – Two Friends Join Forces Again

I had the pleasure of working with Archie and Julia starting in 2001at Metreon, a futuristic entertainment center located in SF’s developing SOMA district. It was the first showcase destination for emerging tech, hot gadgets, and digital entertainment experiences in a brand new, non-traditional physical retail location.

 

2001 was a crazy time and San Francisco was a startup wasteland, having shed thousands of jobs as the web 1.0 bubble burst in a big way. Sony’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It offered a jolt to the city and set to create a technical hub in the South of Market district, which was primarily warehouses and nightclubs.

 

Archie and Julia were all part of the team that put Metreon on the map and San Francisco back in effect from an innovation and entertainment perspective.  The movement dipped into various segments from tech hackathons (now commonplace), video game launches, major movie premieres, and Billboard Top 10 music performers.  Working together with VSC (Metreon’s PR agency of record), the team also created a Mann’s Chinese Theatre tribute for Gaming, known as the Walk of Game, to honor gaming icons such as Nolan Bushnell,  Pong,  and Super Mario, among others.

Fifteen years and 200+ clients later, VSC is still in SOMA just a few blocks from Metreon. SOMA is a changed place. It is now the Sunset Boulevard of startups. Hundreds exist here and the neighborhood is one of the most bustling and thriving business districts in the world.

 

So it feels full circle to welcome these two back. Since our time working together, they’ve amassed a depth of experience that any agency would kill for. Now, they’re bringing it back home to VSC.

 

Archie joins us as Partner and Vice President of Networks, and helps us introduce a new kind of integrated service into our mix. She’ll focus on helping our clients make strategic business connections, leveraging her network to connect them with Silicon Valley influencers and entrepreneurs. In addition to her two decades of marketing and brand development experience, Archie also offers VSC her unique perspective as a startup angel investor and real estate developer. Plus the insight she will be able to give our partners about branding, franchises, licensing and retail distribution channels is unparalleled.  Archie is also an active philanthropist, works with several amazing organizations and is a founding member of Eden, Utah-based entrepreneurial community, Summit Powder Mountain.

 

Julia is our new Director of Client Strategy. After Metreon, she joined Atomic PR, an agency that specialized early in infusing data and analytics into PR strategy. There she worked with some genre-defining tech brands in both consumer and enterprise – and saw the practice of PR shift and change through the advent of social media, infographics and data, the explosion of smartphone and app use, all across economic upswings and downturns. Advancing from account management into a role as vice president shaped both her client and business management skills, and then a move to an operations position as Atomic was absorbed by global PR firm Grayling, strengthened her experience in marketing, training & development, budgeting and team utilization. We are excited to have her bring that experience to VSC where she’ll assist account with planning, mentorship and guide marketing strategy.

 

We’re really looking forward to this next chapter opening. Speaking of which – our door’s always open, so come by next time you find yourself in SOMA.

 

Read the full press release here: http://www.webwire.com/ViewPressRel.asp?aId=206311

Best Crash Ever? The Launch of the Lego-Based Drone Flybrix

LEGO®  have come a long way over the last 80+ years, but it wasn’t until this September that they’d take flight in drone form. Enter Wareness.io partner, Flybrix.

 

Introduced to us by Eric Klein of the hardware accelerator Lemnos Labs, Flybrix was co-founded by a former Nike and Adidas brand marketer and two legit Legomaniacs whose obsession for building started at MIT and Caltech, where getting creative with Lego blocks has a history.

 

LEGO®  are a century-old way for kids to learn fundamental skills like collaborative play, problem solving and planning by construction. But how could Flybrix differentiate from existing Lego-branded products, drive sales and build brand awareness in the ever-growing consumer drone market?

 

Recognizing the need for an impactful launch, Flybrix engaged Wareness.io to develop and execute the company’s go-to market communications strategy. We recognized the need to build a bold narrative that would be unlike other drone companies who conservatively messaged their stability and anti-crash features.

The data showed that drones were expected to be the go-to gift this upcoming holiday season. If we could offer the market a lower-cost drone experience than the major brands like DJI and Parrot, we had an opening.

 

With that in mind, we reverse-engineered our messaging and positioned the company as the first crash-friendly rebuildable drone made of LEGO®  bricks. We also advised Flybrix against any pre-sales or crowdfunding approaches and wait until the drones would be readily available to ship in time for the holidays.

 

The launch execution was designed to drive sales and engagement among our core constituents: hobbyists, prosumers and kids/classroom interested in STEM education. We strategically engaged the influencers and enthusiasts at global media publications with the company’s origin narrative and why Flybrix presented a major market opportunity, as well a great multi-generational bonding experience, much like our other VSC and Wareness.io partner Osmo.

 

The Flybrix™ publicity took flight and hasn’t landed since the publication of this post.

 

The launch has appeared in global media with an estimated reach of 400 million consumers, achieved 3,500+ tweets and 750k+ video views across the Flybrix™ YouTube channel and the publications that posted videos during the launch campaign.

Here’s what people love about Flybrix:

 

“But this might be the one drone toy you’ll actually look forward to crashing, since it means you get to design and build a whole new craft, and play with Lego.”

Gizmodo

 

“The best part, aside from getting to build your own drone, is probably the incredible crashability of these things… There’s never been a better time to be a good Lego-builder and a sub-par drone pilot.”

Popular Mechanics

 

“The goal is to teach pilots how to build and fly their own aerial vehicle. Or, more precisely: Build, crash, repeat.”

NBC News

Flybrix COO Holly Kasun discussing trends in the consumer drone market with Maria Bartiromo of FOX’s Mornings with Maria Live in New York City.

VSC and Wareness.io is proud to have helped Flybrix with one of the biggest consumer hardware and drone PR launches of 2016 from a publicity and sales perspective.

 

To learn more about Flybrix and enjoy Legos taking flight, go to: flybrix.com

Flybrix recently featured in AdWeek

Meet b8ta: The software-powered retailer changing the game for consumers and makers alike

When a group of Nest alums knocks on your door looking to launch a futuristic retail concept – you open it.

Through our sister brand Wareness.io, VSC has worked with a range of retail technology startups, consumer hardware and IoT companies. When we met with b8ta last fall, we knew they were on to something big – so much so we invested in them.

 

b8ta’s timing was impeccable – brick-and-mortar retail was taking a big hit, as seen with Macy’s and Walmart closing stores all across the US. Meanwhile, connected devices and the internet of things (IoT) were exploding from an online sales perspective. It was clear the physical retail industry was broken for new hardware brands making awesome products.

 

Why?

 

Ecommerce lacks a simple trait: the ability to experience products. We all know what it’s like to hear about a cool, new tech product, but are hesitant to buy because we have no way of seeing it and trying it out beforehand.

 

This is what b8ta’s core business was built upon – trying to fix these issues for both consumers and makers within the retail landscape.

 

After studying the competitive media landscape for big and small retailers, we created a comprehensive, strategic media plan to launch b8ta.

 

Our goal was to drive foot traffic to the store, as well as create awareness within the investment community, through a combination of local and national press. To so, we leveraged the store’s one-of-kind software-powered approach, sleek design and founders’ pedigrees to showcase distinction against huge corporate competitors like Apple and Best Buy. We also invited local media to the store to experience b8ta firsthand and made a national splash two days before the store opened to the public to build anticipation and capitalize on the holiday shopping rush.

 

b8ta officially launched last December, and since then has transformed the way consumers interact with products, resulting in millions of product engagements since opening its doors. It has become a prerequisite for all hardware companies and makers wanting to get into retail, and has featured customer favorites like Pepper The Humanoid Robot, Lily Drone Camera, Osmo, Teforia, goTenna, Tile and more.

 

Fast forward to today, b8ta has scaled its business and recently announced $19.5M in financing led by TriplePoint Capital, and joined by Khosla Ventures, Fifth Wall Ventures, Eniac Ventures, Graphene Ventures, and top national mall owner and operator Macerich. With the new financing, b8ta further developed its software platform and is gearing up for national expansion.

We couldn’t be more proud of b8ta pioneering a new retail model, and look forward to working with them as they open stores nationwide.

 

To learn more about b8ta, visit b8ta.com or its flagship store at 516 Bryant Street, Palo Alto, and stay tuned for the upcoming opening of its Los Angeles store in Santa Monica Place and Seattle store in University Village.

 

“[b8ta is] a unique approach to retail, one that’s pushing uphill against e-commerce trends and big-box incumbents itching to cash in on emerging tech”

re/code

 

“You won’t have to travel to the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas or be invited to a startup demo day any more to see some of the latest ideas being hatched by independent tech hardware developers.”

SV Business Journal

 

“An Apple Store-esque experience for connected gadgets? Yes please!”

Cult of Android

 

“When people come into the store, they’re able to immediately touch and interact with the products on display.”

TechCrunch

 

“b8ta…is a new startup trying out a different approach to retail.”

Forbes

 

“The new retail shop is unlike those around it and will offer unique items: It will sell the Internet of Things.”

LA Times

 

”b8ta…puts cutting-edge gadgets on its shelves within days of their release and provides sellers with instant feedback.”

MIT Technology Review