What’s the inspiration behind Arlene?
Companies specialize in 3D modeling, 3D/AR product preview, social filters, and VR experiences, but they all lack cohesion and scalability. My co-founders Bob, Hermes, and I built Arlene to centralize 3D creation, development, deployment, promotion, and data collection—all while delighting and providing utility to end users.
Why are you so drawn to the the AR industry and how did you get started?
While working in app monetization at MoPub, I started to learn about AR, VR, and 360° experiences from our publisher and advertiser partners. I was also an early fan of Niantic, Magic Leap, and Oculus VR. Immersive experiences were a new canvas with visually stunning, dynamic, and viral elements, even though they were overhyped and didn’t take off as people expected. We founded Arlene with the mission to democratize immersive technology and turn it into something that is useful and results-driven, while maintaining the magic.
What’s your favorite part of working in the adtech sphere?
What drew me to adtech was the data and ad serving mechanisms. Adtech is a massive marketplace with various supply/demand layers, and I love the challenge of balancing app monetization with user experience. You could ingest many data points, determine the most relevant ads, run an auction, deliver an ad under 200 milliseconds, and collect performance-related metrics at massive scale.
I started at AOL working in Business Analytics for their network business, Advertising.com. That gave me a great peek under the hood during a time when advertising was shifting from direct/network buys on a desktop to app-focused programmatic RTB. I joined MoPub during the rise of apps and was fortunate to monetize some classic apps—Words With Friends, ESPN, The Weather Channel, Flow Free, and many others.
How do you see AR and 3D technology changing the face of marketing?
As brands aspire for more personalized and efficient shopping experiences, they’re hindered by limitations related to GDPR, iOS 14, and data privacy regulations. Physical shopping dynamics have also changed considerably due to the effects of COVID-19. We see opportunity because AR and 3D technology provide a new channel for brands to tell their story, engage with consumers, bridge offline to online experiences, and connect with younger Gen Z/millennial audiences.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenge(s) you’ve faced while launching your company?
Our biggest challenge was initially being anchored to the advertising and app industry. Developers were interested in AR advertising solutions, but the creative side was still too big of a hurdle to make it a seamless programmatic process. We started offering cross-channel experiences that existed across the marketing stack (eCommerce, experiential, advertising, social, etc). We immediately increased traction and learned deeper pain points which we incorporated into platform development.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
While starting a company has its perks, there are also taxing elements: no/little income, constantly questioning decisions, being ghosted by prospects and investors, toxic hustle, global pandemics, hiring good people, and the pressure to return to a normal job. I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the link between physical and mental health. I did Couch to Marathon my first year into Arlene and am now a proverbial “gym rat.” I also limit my phone usage and carve out time to hang out with my fiancée and my dog.
What’s your team culture like?
The Arlene team is a tight-knit crew. We’re in the trenches together and have forged great working rapport and friendships. We rely heavily on candid communication, transparency, and respect. Arlene’s team has been distributed since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Our developers are based in Medellin, Colombia and we try to all meet in person several times per year.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd?
With accessibility as one of Arlene’s core drivers, we believed in Republic’s mission to democratize angel investing. Republic’s community is massive and we’ve met valuable investors with great perspectives and networks. Beyond fundraising, Republic powers marketing across relevant audiences for our product.
What is your superpower?
I have a memory of trivial facts. I love learning new things and can pull useless facts/anecdotes out on a whim. I wanted to be on a trivia game show growing up.
What’s your kryptonite?
Ice cream. When marathon training, I started consuming a lot of Ample Hills. I live near their Gowanus location and love the flavors. It tempts me whenever I walk by, but also motivates me to keep the exercise going.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I have 100+ houseplants in my one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment. It’s a bit excessive, but I love them.
Are there any apps or gadgets that you can’t live without?
UpWork has been essential for Arlene. We’ve sourced great talent across projects spanning development, design, sales/marketing, and other aspects of the business.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
I like spending time with my fiancée and dog, digging for music, and exploring NYC, searching for the greatest taco and sushi spots.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Create more, whether it be media, product, side project, or any other medium. Experiment, build, and iterate.
Create more, whether it be media, product, side project, or any other medium.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
If it always smells like sh*t, check under your shoe. Negative energy attracts negative energy. Be self-aware and stay cool.
Colin Jacobsen's Arlene makes immersive technology accessible and results-driven