VNTANA is doing ground-breaking work in the field of AR – Augmented Reality a.k.a. holograms. CEO Ashley Crowder and COO Ben Conway have introduced the way to make the technology accessible and fun by using a “B to B to C” model – business-to-business-to-consumer. VNTANA’s customer base consists primarily of large corporations, utilizing the technology in a manner allowing the corporation’s customer experience to be realized through the AR platform. VNTANA then delivers valuable data to the corporation based on the user’s experience and engagement with the technology.
As co-founders of VNTANA, Ashley and Ben both graduated from USC – Ashley with an undergraduate and graduate degree in engineering and Ben with a degree in business. As college students, Ben had his own business selling USC-branded sunglasses, Ashley had her own business designing high-fashion 3D glasses. They were in the same social circles, but never met personally until mutual friends suggested they connect based on their similar business endeavors and entrepreneurial aspirations. Their original idea for use of AR technology was to allow artists to play multiple venues at the same time to increase their revenue while delivering concert experiences to those unable to attend the actual events. After launching their first product they quickly started working with Fortune 500 brands including Kia and Microsoft. They capitalized on the opportunity, to deliver a Microsoft Nokia concert directly through their AR platform. To everyone’s surprise they set a DJ booth on ‘fire’ using the hologram technology. The crowd reacted in shock and disbelief, not realizing at first it wasn’t real but that it was delivered using augmented reality. Ashley and Ben knew then, that they were on to something, allowing brands to engage consumers like never before.
Their combination of engineering smarts and business savvy has delivered what could be a far-reaching, intangible product into something in which companies like Lexus, Nickelodeon, and Intel are finding great value.
For example, kids could throw a football to hologram SpongeBob or Patrick at a Nickelodeon Super Bowl display; car enthusiasts can build their ideal luxury vehicle via the AR platform at Lexus activations at the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles and other stadiums across the country. They’ve created value to a corporation’s communications strategy by extending the reach of the corporation’s PR campaign, engaging employees in training exercises, building brand recognition, expanding social media communities and engagement, and in the process, capturing data to deliver leads. These key components to a corporation’s customer engagement has resulted in VNTANA having a solid product offering and a financially-stable company. They are currently in growth mode, expanding their offices and hiring more employees.
Ashley is from Virginia and Ben is from Orange County, yet they are bullish on the LA market, stating that the LA region has played a key factor in enabling the business to thrive. Their experience has been that LA County has the talent, the extensive network, the entertainment infrastructure that is key to their supply chain, and the collaborative culture lacking elsewhere – including in Silicon Valley. They pull regularly from the LA County college graduate pool, relying on and benefitting from the region graduating more engineering students than anywhere else in the country.
As a female CEO of a technology company, Ashley is a rarity in a male-dominated industry. She uses her unique position to inspire women and girls across the country, speaking at tech events geared toward women in the industry and at high schools to help students realize the opportunities in her field. Her journey from a USC Industrial Engineering graduate, to a Petroleum Engineer, to a Light DJ, and now CEO serves as an inspiration. Her work with Ben at VNTANA is a shining example of the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in LA County.
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