Website clicks, social media likes and smartwatch integration aren’t the only measures of how deeply a company embraces digital. In 2015, perhaps they aren’t measures of digital integration at all, but instead a side effect of surviving in this era. A digital presence is table stakes for a company to be successful in the 2010’s, not the differentiating factor that it was 10 or 20 years ago. So, let’s not talk about websites and apps. Let’s talk about something different… Something cutting edge. Let’s talk about virtual reality.
Palmer Luckey pioneered the virtual reality space when he launched a Kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift headset in 2012. Over $90M later and a “Best of E3” nomination, Oculus has still not delivered on its promise to ship a commercialized Rift headset in 2013 [latest news from the company pegs the release date as “early 2016.”] Nevertheless, a reasonably well socialized prototype exists and Strivr is taking advantage of its access to Oculus’ new parent, Facebook, to create new value with the headset. Despite the Rift NOT being commercially available, Strivr has managed to put its Oculus-dependent virtual reality training platform in the hands of the Stanford Cardinals football team, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, and New England Patriots. Recently, the Washington Wizards, Washington Mystics, and Washington Capitals signed with Strivr to become the first teams in their respective leagues to train with virtual reality.
WHY STRIVR IS WINNING
Anyone who has played a sport at or above high school level has watched game film. It’s valuable to see exactly what happened on a specific play, but the effectiveness of viewing film is hampered by bad camera quality, poor camera angles, spatial inaccuracies, and lack of sound. Strivr allows players to step into a play again and relive that moment. It allows players to step into a strategy practice without being in practice. Now, players can step into game situations repeatedly and gain the exposure, comfort, confidence, and experience that comes with repetition. There is immense value to this… Since studies show that being a big play, clutch superstar comes down to repetition and routine, coaches are willing to pay big bucks to get their players as many game situation reps as possible.
How much are the teams willing to pay? Well, for now, Strivr is charging $250,000 for their virtual reality training program. That includes the Oculus headset, a 360-degree camera, and a few other components. The package also includes some short-lived consulting to ensure that teams get comfortable and up-to-speed quickly with their new training routine. Could Derek Belch, co-Founder and CEO, charge more? I’d vote ‘yes’, but I think his penetration approach is better in the long run since I don’t see his VR training package as a “flash in the pan.” More teams will want this over time, and he will be able to charge much more.
WEB OR VR?
Strivr’s website stinks. It’s not going to win any awards any time soon. The company has an iPhone app and a Twitter handle available for public consumption, but they’re both pretty darn bad. So, if digital means “web” or “social media”, Strivr is a loser. However, this company has taken an age old construct (the game film), made it infinitely better (by taking players back in time to experience plays again), used technology that is limitedly available (making barriers to entry that much higher), and signed on formidable clients (that give Strivr a lot of credibility in the VR space). Strivr has revolutionized physical sports using a digital medium and I think they deserve to win just as much as their clients.