My prior role was as Head of Strategy at Sky Media, Sky’s $1.5B ad sales house. One of the major projects I worked on there was the implementation of ads into NOW. We worked really hard to ensure that the advertising experience was delivered in a way that didn’t disrupt the content, and I think we did a good job of doing so – after launch, we saw no increase in content drop-off or subs.
When I left to start a company, I started focusing on the future of content consumption and where we’re going to spend most of our time in the future. 10 years ago it was TV; nowadays it’s on-demand (looking at you, Netflix ads); and I think over the next 2-5 years we’ll spend more time in the metaverse – although it cannot be applied to everything; I’m a firm believer that certain things are better done in person.
Once I’d started digging more into immersive media and the metaverse, I found that creators in the space were very short on tools to monetise, so I decided to start building Versadex. I wanted to do it in a way that didn’t disrupt all the great content that was starting to be produced, so we focused on native ad units – stuff that’s designed to look like it belongs in the space.
Tell me about the product?
- What is our product? – Immersive ad units, think 3D objects that you place into a virtual world, which changes depending on who’s looking at it. These are native to their environment, think band posters in a music venue.
- What does it do? – It helps creators in virtual worlds generate revenue from their content and experiences, in the same way, that a YouTuber turns on AdSense.
- Who do we work with? – People producing metaverse experiences. Think games, music venues, art galleries and event spaces.
- How do we reach customers? – We spend a lot of time hanging out in discords and on metaverse platforms.
- Our USP? – Our vision is to be governed by the creators that use our product, and we want them to share in our success too. In the future, when you generate ad revenue through Versadex, you’ll be able to provide direction to our product roadmap and business decisions.
- Here’s a demo video, or go and check them out for yourself in Decentraland.
How has the business evolved since its launch?
We only incorporated in February, raising a small pre-seed from 7 percent ventures, and we’ve grown pretty significantly since then. On a product level, we’ve introduced new formats and features that make it easier for us to understand how people are interacting with the ad units. As a team, we’ve gone from just me to finding my co-founder and CTO, Chris, as well as adding 4 other people to our team. And as a business, we’ve added lots of customers, meaning we reach ~7% of Decentraland’s WAUs now. Early days but it’s good to prove the model.
What is your favourite thing about being a founder?
Total autonomy and responsibility. If I have an unproductive day or half-arse my work, then I’m the one who suffers, as it’s my business. Similarly, I have the freedom to work on what I decide is important, and that freedom comes with the responsibility to spend enough time making the correct decision. For me, this has been a huge step-change in how I can motivate myself professionally.
Which founders or businesses do you see as being the most inspirational?
One shout out would be Cam Brookehouse at Quell. He’s a friend and a former colleague. They’ve got a really cool product, and from it appears they’re having a lot of fun building it. Also, zero tolerance for bullshit which I value.
Which other figures in your life inspire you?
Maybe obvious but family and friends. My parents have been a huge influence on me personally, and my sister does a good job of keeping my ego in check. Some of the most inspiring people I’ve worked with are those I consider friends. Shout out to Otto at FirstVet, who showed me how to be a great boss.
What has been your biggest business fail?
I went through Entrepreneur First and failed to find a co-founder. Given that was the main reason I joined that programme, it felt like a big failure.
What are the things you’re really good at as a leader?
Being stressed. But on a serious note, I think I’m quite good at coaching and feedback. I spend a lot of time with both the team and my co-founder, Chris, discussing what went well, where their strengths lie, and dissecting some of the less-good stuff and areas to work on.
Which areas do you need to improve on?
I’m really bad at articulating stuff on the fly. Sometimes I’ll ask the team for a piece of analysis and they just look at me like I asked them in a foreign language. Only once I’ve actually spent 5 minutes thinking through what it is I’m after, and sketching out what it might look like, am I able to describe it in a coherent way. I’m glad the team is patient with me.
What’s in store for the future of the business?
Expansion into multiple worlds! Our core product started as a proof-of-concept in Decentraland. We’re now starting to prove the model and get to product-market-fit there; however, to make this venture scale, we need to repeat this across all virtual worlds, both current and future.
What advice would you give to other founders or future founders?
Ignore 99% of the advice you receive as a founder (including this). There are more formulas for how to build a startup than there are startups. Get conviction over a big problem and run as fast and as hard at it as you can. Everything you need as a founder (customers, talent, capital) is attracted to momentum. Early momentum can be in the wrong direction and still get you closer to your end goal.
And finally, a more personal question! We like to ask everyone we interview about their daily routine and the rules they live by. Is it up at 4am for yoga, or something a little more traditional?
I’m actually terrible with routine. I try to get into the habit of waking up at 6am, and doing some exercise before I start the day, but I rarely succeed. On rules to live by: make time to switch off and unplug.
Ed Bramwell is founder and CEO of Versadex