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When SPROCKIT Destroys a Company — much to the CEO’s delight

The transformation of SpherePlay

Emily Olsen, SPROCKIT 


No one likes to be told ‘no,’ yet everyone experiences rejection at some point. Being told ‘no’ by someone who does not support you leads to failure. But, being told ‘no’ by the right person at the right time can be the biggest benefit to a company’s innovation cycle.

SPROCKIT startup SpherePlay knows this firsthand.

When SpherePlay joined SPROCKIT for its first SPROCKIT Sync in Los Angeles—an event hosted by Verizon Digital Media Services—it offered a Virtual Reality 360 player. Founder Christian Eve-Levesque excitedly traveled 4,608 kilometers to present the new virtual reality media player, which was the first of its kind.

To his dismay and surprise, few agreed to meet with him. And those who did shared tough criticism.

“No. We don’t need something like that.”

“No. We can build our own VR/360 player.”

“No. Go find a way to monetize for the media company and publishers who use your product.”

“At first you take it with denial, saying, ‘what do they know,’” Eve-Levesque said. “But then we saw an interesting need. How do we integrate monetization into the technology that we build? As an entrepreneur, you can take the hard-truth feedback positively or break down in tears. I decided to take it positively.”

And so SpherePlay began to restructure its product.

“We transformed the industry when we came out with our very first virtual reality media player a couple years back. We enabled the media companies and publishers to distribute virtual reality experiences from within their apps and websites,” Eve-Levesque said. “Now we are transforming the advertising industry in the same way. With that same highly engaging VR/360 format. It is an ad unit that ad users are playing, watching and using as this completely new format. It is much different from the existing, boring rectangular format.”

The tipping point happened in the SPROCKIT Hub at NAB Show 2018 when SpherePlay proposed the idea of expanding into the ad tech vertical, creating an end-to-end VR/360 advertising solution.

“We formed the transition over the last year with the help of SPROCKIT program. All of the Syncs acted like milestones of validation throughout reorientation toward advertising technology,” Eve-Lesque continued. “Having direct feedback from key players in that industry is worth gold.”

“Collaboration is key,” said Stephanie Bauer Marshall, managing director, SPROCKIT. “Startups and corporate innovators recognize they need each over to innovate and grow. And we have fostered a trusting community that allows for dialogue that cuts through the noise of formalities and gets right to the solutions.”

“The political answer is, ‘oh it is an interesting product. Go back home and develop that extra feature.’ You can get caught in that loop indefinitely until you run out of money,” Eve-Levesque emphasized. “The early hard truth, saying that they didn’t need the media player forced us to get back to the drawing table and rethink our company. That is why right now we are having success.”

SpherePlay graduated into the SPROCKIT alumni program this past October at SPROCKIT Sync NY. The VR company has come a long way since the harsh criticism at SPROCKIT Sync LA in February. SpherePlay was requested by every corporate innovator for much-sought-after one-on-one time during the event. SpherePlay has metamorphosed into a top-performer in the industry and reoriented its monetization model, product and branding, exceeding three million downloads since its inception in 2014. CEO Christian even rebranded himself, now more comfortable in the SPROCKIT community as just Chris.

“The most positive thing, I remember being at the Verizon Sync event and one of the announcements was, ‘that startup closed a deal with that corporate today,’ Eve-Levesque said. “Instead of waiting in line for that industry to take off, if we package our media player into ad unit right now, we bring ad value right now.”