First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Phil Elias: It has definitely been challenging as it has been for most everyone these days. For instance, when the schools shut down back in March, it was quite an adjustment to become a part-time school teacher alongside my other Buzznog duties. I’m glad though that we were all able to adapt and make it work as a family.
For the most part, I feel grateful to say that we have been doing just fine in the past few months. It’s been a blessing of sorts as we have spent more time together as a family than ever before.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Buzznog.
Phil Elias: I grew up in Oklahoma and later attended the University of Oklahoma before jumping into the business world. For my professional career from college onwards, I have been an entrepreneur to some degree. I’ve also been extremely fortunate to have made amazing connections and supported some pretty cool projects that are mostly within the Fortune 500 corporate space.
Buzznog actually came about as an offshoot idea based on how to better connect audiences with their passions by cutting out the clutter and noise of information constantly being pushed out to the public these days. The real genesis of that concept stemmed from how my prior company linked Fortune 500 companies with their reseller partners and then provided the resellers with a way to stay better informed and up-to-date with relevant information provided by their publishers. When we applied those concepts to the live entertainment and music industries, Buzznog was officially born.
How does Buzznog innovate?
Phil Elias: The team has always prided itself on our ability to be extremely agile, as well as quickly adapt to both client needs and changing industry landscapes.
Above all else, we’re really good listeners in that we apply client wants and needs into innovative solutions to ultimately provide something deeper and more meaningful than they originally expected. Buzznog not only focuses on client issues, but we also think beyond those obstacles to create scalable solutions that can help others.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Phil Elias: Prior to the pandemic, Buzznog had, for the most part, focused on in-person live events. Furthermore, as our company centered around fan engagements and brand activations at live events while utilizing real-time data to strategically target fans through enhanced experiences, it was a natural progression to apply this knowledge into the music festivals space. Buzznog was, in fact, forecasting a massive jump in music festival clients this year before COVID-19 hit.
Fast forward to this past March when the pandemic hit, Buzznog was extremely fortunate in that we could quickly reach out to all our existing clients to talk through their new needs in the face of unprecedented circumstances. We then began suggesting other ideas heavily focused on AR, VR, XR and other mixed reality technologies involved with virtual performances. All of our experience told us that livestreams were going to be the next major frontier so to speak for the events industry to explore, so we wanted to immediately separate ourselves from the cluttered and competitive landscape.
Once Buzznog as a company had a new and clear path set involving livestream technology, we then decided as a team that the ultimate goal should be to support all facets of the entertainment industry including music, film, performing arts, comedy, and beyond. We are now aiming to supply solutions that can directly help artists, venues, agents, talent buyers, sponsors, and other key members of the live events ecosystem by recreating as much of the in-person experience as possible, but in more experiential and immersive ways.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Phil Elias: Luckily, Buzznog was not forced to downsize this spring once the pandemic hit. We did have to take fewer risks though with respect to what we thought would resonate in the current times. We invested heavily in R&D to make sure we weren’t developing innovative technologies that only apply to what’s going on now, but opportunities that will likely continue on as things go back “to normal”.
The most difficult decisions centered around hiring and the order of the product rollouts. We needed to ensure we were focused on key phases that resonated best with the industry.
As far as lessons learned, this entire situation has made my team and I really realize that we as an industry are all in this together. Because of this, we are now focused more on partnership opportunities with each client as compared to the typical vendor-client relationship. By aligning with the right partners, we’re able to release more robust solutions that appeal to a broader audience.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Buzznog in the future?
Phil Elias: Outside of work, focusing on quality family time and spending time outdoors have both helped to keep me somewhat sane.
I also have recently created a new pattern where I set as many of my daily conference calls in the morning and take each call while on outdoor walks. This not only helps with focus during work meetings, but it also supplies me with time to get in some much-needed exercise without jeopardizing the safety of others. I live in Texas, so there is always plenty of wide-open space to take a breather from the stress.
Regarding Buzznog specifically, I really try to do everything with a group buy-in mentality. I do not want to just make decisions by myself on what I think is best because everyone on our team has a different yet equally valuable viewpoint. Gathering everyone’s ideas to collectively make more informed decisions is in our best interests long-term to remain as a big player in the space, especially as we continue to navigate these ever-changing times.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Phil Elias: There are a ton of players right now in the livestream and virtual concert space, especially since March when events went were paused across the country, and tons of new companies began popping up. But we have always tried to carve out a more niche space for Buzznog and stay in our own lane so to speak, which is centered around AR, VR, and XR experiences that complement existing livestream events, in addition to providing our own entirely unique and immersive virtual experiences.
Nowadays, there are a countless number of competitors, especially when you consider the potential for a crossover of certain technologies and within various industries. This is why we are internally in a mode of continuous innovation to help make sure Buzznog continues to carve its own path while also protecting our IP with new patents. We feel strongly that this forward-thinking approach is the best way for Buzznog to constantly provide clients with next-level solutions and maintain our longevity as a business.
Your final thoughts?
Phil Elias: To start, thank you! I really appreciate this opportunity to talk a bit about us, what we do, and how we’re surviving in these crazy times.
Secondly, it is important to remember that at the end of the day, we are all in this together and are interconnected in more ways than one. With that said, Buzznog as a company wants to do its part to bring innovative solutions to not only the entertainment industry but other verticals and industries that are looking to provide memorable experiences and unique content to their connected audiences.