Building brands on Amazon, investing in customer success, quantum computing, and virtual reality

Extra Crunch student discount

It’s back-to-school season, and we’ve lined up a special Extra Crunch promotion for students. We are offering students a special subscription rate of $50 per year (regular price: $150) with similar discounts for international members. All you have to do is send an email using your school address to and our founder success team will get you all squared away. We also offer volume discounts for student groups.

How to use Amazon and advertising to build a D2C startup

It seems like every week there is a well-funded team launching another new direct-to-consumer (D2C) brand. From mattresses to pet treats, digital-native vertical brands are seeing peak attention and funding from both founders and VCs. Part of the reason for all that attention is that it has never been easier to use the tools of the internet to build these brands from the ground up, opening up formerly closed markets.

Ecommerce consultancy VMG Ignite’s Matt Altman and Tyler Elliston discuss their framework to using Amazon as a commerce platform with Facebook ads to build a new D2C brand. It’s a deep and lengthy piece filled with actionable insights that can really help jumpstart your new product or category, or at the very least, giving you insight into how many of these modern brands come into being.

3. Product display ads (Limited to Amazon advertising console users only)

PDAs live on each product page below the buy box and a few other spaces on the product page. These ads can be used in a variety of ways since they allow up to a 50 character headline and a logo.

Three great ways to use them are for defense, frequently bought together, and competitor targeting.

Defense – You can buy placements on your own product pages to keep competitors off your listings. These are great to keep customers focused on buying your product since there are several ads featured on each product page.

Frequently bought together (FBT)– This is a great opportunity most sellers don’t take advantage of. On every product page, there is an unpaid placement of items that are FBT. With the click of a button, all of these items will be added to your cart and it takes very few actual sales to claim these positions. FBT can be used to target your own products to increase basket size or complementary products to drive incremental sales from future placements on product pages.

Competitor targeting– You can also target competitor ASINs (Amazon Standard Identification Number) to be the last ad a person sees before adding a competitor’s product to their cart. Make sure to use your 50 character headline to call out why your product is the better choice. Bonus Tip: Add coupons to the products you feature in these ads to grab attention and increase click-through.

The Void’s Curtis Hickman on scaling, creative IP and the future of VR experiences

What can you do with virtual reality when you have complete control of the physical space around the player? How “real” can virtual reality become?

That’s the core concept behind The Void. They take over retail spaces in places like Downtown Disney and shopping malls around the country and turn them into virtual reality playgrounds, They’ve got VR experiences based on properties like Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and Wreck-It Ralph; while these big names tend to be the main attractions, they’re dabbling with creating their own original properties, too.

By building both the game environment and the real-world rooms in which players wander, The Void can make the physical and virtual align. If you see a bench in your VR headset, there’s a bench there in the real world for you to sit on; if you see a lever on the wall in front of you, you can reach out and physically pull it. Land on a lava planet and heat lamps warm your skin; screw up a puzzle, and you’ll feel a puff of mist letting you know to try something else.

At $30-$35 per person for what works out to be a roughly thirty-minute experience (about ten of which is watching a scene-setting video and getting your group into VR suits), it’s pretty pricey. But it’s also some of the most mind-bending VR I’ve ever seen.

The Void reportedly raised about $20 million earlier this year and is in the middle of a massive expansion. It’s more than doubling its number of locations, opening 25 new spots in a partnership with the Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield chain of malls.

I sat down to chat with The Void’s co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Curtis Hickman, to hear how they got started, how his background (in stage magic!) comes into play here, how they came to work with massive properties like Ghostbusters and Star Wars, and where he thinks VR is going from here.

Greg Kumparak: Tell me a bit about yourself. How’d you get your start? How’d you get into making VR experiences?

Location-based virtual reality goes to the mall as The Void plans a rollout in 25 more locations

The Void, a developer of immersive virtual reality entertainment centers, is partnering with the multi-national, multi-hyphenate mall developer Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield to build twenty five new locations around the world.

Location-based virtual reality has become the default gateway into the consumer market for virtual reality headsets given that adoption of the consumer wearable device hasn’t been all that robust.

Utah-based The Void has some big intellectual property behind its immersive experiences including ‘Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire’ from Lucasfilm; Walt Disney Animation’s ‘Ralph Breaks theInternet’; and ‘Ghostbusters: Dimension’.

Through the partnership with Westfield in the U.S. the company intends to launch pop-ups at the Westfield World Trade Center in New York,  the Westfield San Francisco Centre, Westfield Santa Anita in the outskirts of Pasadena, and Westfield UTC in San Diego. The Void notes that all of those locations will become permanent going forward.

The companies also intend to take the show on the road with openings planned for Paris, London, Amsterdam, Chicago, Cophenhagen, Oberhausen, San Jose, Calif., Stockholm, and Vienna.

This partnership between the two companies reflects some harsh realities for both businesses. For virtual reality it’s the limited home adoption of headset entertainment and for shopping malls, it’s the rise of ecommerce and the conversion of these public spaces from shopping destinations to broader entertainment hubs.

It’s a fact that Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield chief executive Chrisophe Cuvillier acknowledged in a statement about the partnership. “Over the past years, our industry has evolved dramatically. In a connected world, shopping is not enough anymore,” Cuvillier said in a statement. “Today, our customers expect to be entertained and brought together to share memorable, engaging sensory experiences.”