It all started with the idea to maximize DJs by letting them play multiple venues at once. Now, Ashley Crowder, co-founder of VNTANA, runs the world’s first interactive hologram company, with clients like Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Microsoft.
Here, she tells Women 2.0 how it’s done and what she’s expecting from holograms in the future.
How are you the world’s only provider of interactive holograms? What’s the leap from a regular hologram to an interactive one?
We founded VNTANA almost 6 years ago, being first movers in the space we are leaders in the AR industry always pushing the boundaries. Having listened to our clients, we took the leap from pre-recorded to interactive using IR sensors to track body movement as well as microphones and speech to text technology to listen to voice commands and respond to questions.
We love that you really sell the diversity of your people. You say that VNTANA’S diversity makes you more competitive. Can you give an example of that competitiveness-born-of-diversity?
We launched our AI Hologram Concierge in September 2017, this allows consumers to ask questions and the hologram answers. Our team consists of men and woman, native English speakers as well as Armenian and Vietnamese accents so we could easily test all different types of voices with the system.
Also, our clients range from beauty brands to sports teams to farm equipment companies, having a diverse team helps us come up with the best mixed-reality experiences for our large range of clients.
Tell us about competing in the Women Startup Challenge. What was the whole experience like and what’s the most important lesson you learned or improvement you made along the way?
Having access to fellow female entrepreneurs and investors has been invaluable. It’s so helpful to get input from someone who has seen a million pitch decks and understands what VCs are looking for.
Your clients are businesses. Will it always be that way, or can you envision a day when you’ll have private individuals as clients, too?
Yes, we see VNTANA always being a B2B business, however, most of our clients are B2C businesses looking to engage consumers so individuals will see more and more of the technology in stadiums, malls, banks and beyond.
When did the very first germ of an idea for your company pop up?
I always wanted to start my own company but wasn’t sure what. I started live streaming DJs on the weekend for fun. No one was making money selling records anymore, only doing shows so I said you could do 10 shows at once. My co-founder Ben and I started live streaming DJs to multiple nightclubs, which got the attention of Paradigm Talent Agency, but they wanted more. We pitched holograms and then had to figure out how to do it when Paradigm, Nicky Romero and Kia Motors said yes. Since then we worked with a number of Fortune 500 brands that have shaped the experience platform we have today.
Ashley Crowder, Co-founder and CEO of VNTANA, is a finalist in the Women Startup Challenge, which showcases women-led ventures (in partnership with Craig Newmark of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies). The Challenge puts capital, mentoring, and resources behind women who are creating the most innovative tech companies, like Ashley’s.