Zach Lewis: Welcome back to the State of Entrepreneurship event at the Bomb Factory, downtown. I’m Zack Lewis here with Kristin Merren and Heath Oakes. If you’ve listened to the past couple of episodes, we talk to people about AR and VR and we have somebody here to talk about AR which I am super excited about. Gary Haymann, CEO of NEXREF. Gary welcome to the show!
Gary Haymann: Thank you so much for inviting us in.
ZL: Gary I want to ask about your company. I know it’s centered around Augmented Reality. Tell me a little bit more about it. What do you do in AR?
GH: We’ve been in business for 5 years and what we’re really focused on is engaging fans with brands in a unique and authentic manner.
There’s a lot of different ways that you can engage people with Augmented Reality and I think that all of the large fan bases are trying to figure out, a great way to connect with brands. And I think that some of the hurdles that we’ve seen over the last 5 years with Augmented Reality is that you are going to need awareness, adaption, and distribution. These are three big obstacles to overcome. When it comes to engaging with large fan bases, we’ve done a lot of work with the Denver Broncos, with DC comics, Bud Light, Coca Cola, helping them to connect fans with brands.
ZL: Gary I’m curious. When it comes to AR, is your company more interested in wearable technology or you are looking more towards mobile phones? Things we carry on us already. On which track are you headed?
GH: It’s actually an excellent question. We’re focused on where the market is today. There’s a lot less friction to pick up your phone and engage with opportunities that are out there versus putting on wearable device. As soon as consumer behavior changes to move towards more penetration with wearable devices, we can easily adapt our technology to that.
We’ve been doing this for a long time. We pivoted numerous times and you’ve got to be where consumer behavior is. And we have seen a massive shift over the last few years, with now people scanning items, whether its barcodes or products. Whether it’s doing filters with photos. Look at the popularity with Snapchat, Poke’ Mon and social media. The consumer behavior now is completely different. It’s definitely the right time.
ZL: We actually have a pair of Snapchat spectacles on the table right now. I wanted to ask, yesterday, well two days ago, we sat down with Paul Bettner who has worked in VR to make Lucky’s Tale in Oculus rift. He said that VR is just “AR with the lights off.” I don’t know if that’s true and I wanted to ask somebody who works in the AR field about it. What do you think about that?
GH: I’m not going to contradict what he is saying but I think that a very simple way to understand it is this: Augmented Reality is the world that you are living in and you see, and there is layered animation on top of it. 90% of people have been looking at AR for about 15 years. If you watch the Monday night football game and you see the yellow line on the fields showing the first down, that is layering animation on top of video, that’s what AR is. VR is stepping into a virtual world. Whether it’s video or an animated world like walking into a video game.
Heath Oakes: You know what’s interesting, for us common people who are not as smart as you [laughing], that– that are really lost in all of this whole conversation. Very simple, why do I as a normal consumer need what you have?
GH: I think that everybody is looking for different types of experiences. Nobody wants to be marketed to. And people want something that is native and authentic. And people are looking for more. People want things that are just in time – on demand, so AR gives them the flexibility to have something on demand but also tailored and personalized to them. So, all the experiences really speak to the audience that they are looking to engage.
HO: Well—well here is what’s interesting, kind of a more in depth question you know—listen you know like the Kodak store. Everybody knows Kodak right?
GH: Of course.
HO: I mean Kodak lost it all when they didn’t adapt to digital media– digital cameras. They doubled down on what made their company and didn’t realize even though they knew about digital photography they didn’t keep betting on it. And they lost their company. What is the next thing that you bring to the table with this type of technology that is gonna change my life as a consumer in the future. Where, like today, you don’t go to blockbuster.
GH: I think you raise a really interesting point. I– I remember about 15 years ago the sales conference. We merge with another company, this was the previous business that I own and it’ very simple, you change or you die.
GH: I mean look at blackberries. They cornered the market but they didn’t evolve quick enough. Look at the Nokia flip phone, these are all media . . .
GH: If you are a brand and you want authentic brand engagement, putting your brand in front of a consumer in a very true manner, and be able to give them something memorable to talk about. What we really focused on at NEXREF as a digital agency focusing on augmented reality, is creating contagious behavior. You’ve ever read the book by Jonah Berger Contagious? It’s absolutely phenomenal but it’s creating behavior that lets people talk about it.
And the first thing that you do there is you create a social currency. Something that’s exclusive. Then you create something that is visible and observable. So, somebody can see you scanning something with your device and the immersive experience you have and how it lights up your face and it’s easy to replicate that. Looking over your shoulder kind of a “Oh what am I wasting at on theory?”. And all that creates a behavior that people can talk about.
HO: If I had to ask you for entrepreneur out there, would you say that “failure is a must” or “you can succeed without failure?”
GH: Anybody that tells you that you don’t have to fail is lying. You have to fail. Being an entrepreneur is getting up 21 times when you fail 20. We pivoted several times. Any company that tells you they had a strategy, they figured it out, they laid out a hypothesis and it worked the first time is kidding. It doesn’t exist. You have to overcome numerous obstacles, you have to stay focused, and you really have to stay positive. Believing on the next iteration is gonna help you be successful. And you have to get up one more time than the time that you fail.
HO: I tend to agree with you 100%. We appreciate you having on and taking the time with us out of this nice nod and Kristin and Zach as well.
GH: Thank you guys very much really appreciate it.
ZL: Before we let you go, where can people find out more about NexRef?
GH: Our website is NexRef.com.
GH: Thank you guys so much.
ZL: Alright Gary thanks so much We’ll be right back with more of Dallas– Dallas Startup Week Podcast right after this.