Technology and Tenacity Dominate the Haste & Hustle Conference

On February 9-10, hundreds of entrepreneurs and marketers braved a blizzard to make their way to Ontario’s Niagara region for the first annual Haste & Hustle conference. An impressive and eclectic speaker line-up shared their expertise and the stories of their success including Gary Vaynerchuk, Casey Neistat and MetaVRse’s own Alan Smithson.  

A last minute relocation of the event to the Bethany Community Church ended up being a fitting venue for the inspirational presenters who shared wisdom that could only be accumulated through true entrepreneurial sacrifice. New communication technologies such Virtual and Augmented Reality and Chatbots were also a consistent theme throughout the show with many speakers highlighting how tech can help aspiring entrepreneurs reach their business goals – but how there is no substitute for good old fashioned hustle.

Outside of the “chapel”, attendees were invited to try the latest in Virtual and Augmented technology in MetaVRse’s Mixed Reality Experience Zone (generously sponsored by HTC Vive) and try the latest consumer gadgets in a Tech Hub curated by gadget guru Marc Saltzman. Haste & Hustle was host to activities that highlighted the Niagara Region, featuring a marketing crawl of local businesses and an evening gala at the world famous Jackson Triggs winery.

The real highlight was the collected wisdom being shared from the stage. Here are a few of our favourite moments:

Alan Smithson’s Presentation on how VR & AR Will Be Used by Businesses

MetaVRse CEO Alan Smithson opened his talk with a personal story about the toll his previous business took on him and his family and the lessons he learned from the experiences that have carried over into the success of MetaVRse.  The talk turned to his current passion for Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies and the way they’re already being used by innovative businesses. Among the most amazing predictions for the technology, Smithson predicted that in five years from now we’ll be viewing the world through a pair of glasses rather than looking at our phones!

Gary Vaynerchuk – Vayner Media

The main event for many of Haste & Hustle’s attendees, Gary Vaynerchuk almost didn’t make it to the event because of a severe snowstorm. His DailyVee Youtube video for that day actually focused on the story of getting to the event and how the journey is the most important part of any accomplishment.  

Vaynerchuk has built his brand around entrepreneurial hustle and his talk didn’t sugar coat the amount of personal sacrifice needed in order to achieve the kind of success that he aspires to. Gary will join Gwyneth Paltrow and on Apple TV’s new reality show “Planet of the Apps” about app developers.


Casey Neistat – YouTube Star

Casey Neistat is one of the most popular creators on Youtube and it seemed like as many Haste & Hustle attendees were there to see him.  Casey shared his hustle story of what made him strive for more: He was scrubbing a clam chowder pot 50 hours a week to support his family when he started making his popular videos. Neistat mused that the path to success is undefined and you get the tools you need from different places. On being an influencer he shared the memorable analogy: “I hate the word influencer. It talks about the effect, not the cause; like calling a musician an ear-pleaser.”


Erin Bury – Eighty Eight Creative

Erin Bury is the managing partner of Eighty Eight Creative, a leading Toronto based communications agency. Bury blew minds with her talk about Chat Bots and how these simulated conversations get smarter and more human the more we use them. The talk included surprising insights like how chatbots live inside the platforms customers already use like Facebook messenger and Whatsapp and will automate things that we’re currently paying humans to do: analysts predict that 85% of customer service interactions will be handled by chatbots by 2020!

Greg Murray – Pfizer

Greg Murray is a product manager at Pfizer and an advocate for creativity within the biggest corporate settings. His talk focused on how creativity shouldn’t be reserved for artists or a so-called “creative class” and how it can be incorporated into all roles. Keeping with the technology theme that ran throughout the event, Murray reminded us that as AI replaces more routine functions we’ll be entering a more creative economy as the remaining jobs require human creativity.

Giovanni Marsico – Archangel Academy

Giovanni Marsico, the founder of Archangel Academy shared an inspirational talk about his own entrepreneurial challenges to found his organization and used an effective superhero metaphor to share his approach to how entrepreneurs reach their full potential and make an exponential impact on the world.

Marsico shared a memorable analogy of how we use four currencies over the course of our careers: Our Time, Our Gift, Our Relationships and Our Reputation. When we start out, Time is our only asset. We then trade our time to develop our Gift which we use to form relationships with other people when we use it to add value for them. Finally we exchange our social capital for Brand capital to develop our reputation as the most valuable asset of all.

Manjit Minhas – Minhas Breweries and Dragon’s Den

Best known as one of the new generation of Dragons on Dragon’s Den, Manjit shared her story of the tenacity required to secure her first big deal for her company Minhas Breweries. The story involved Minhas getting her client to sign an agreement on a napkin after negotiating terms in a restaurant! She offered the audience the advice: “Do not have a “Plan B”, it will only distract you from “Plan A”.

Paul Copcutt – You, Inc.

Paul Copcutt is a master of personal branding on LinkedIn  and offered some pro-tips for the Haste & Hustle audience to  help them use the professional network to better market themselves. One of his most effective pieces of advice was to identify the the one word you’d use to describe your personal essence and build your profile around it.


How to fit Virtual & Augmented Reality into your 2017 Marketing Budget

Now is the time when marketing teams from every industry, everywhere in the world are setting their 2017 budgets and deciding where they are going to get the best bang for their buck.  If you are like most who went to CES or read anything about it, you will know that Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) is going to be HUUUGE (spoken like Trump).  The real truth is that 2016 saw the launch of many of the major VR headsets (GearVR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Playstation VR) and also two new AR headsets (Microsoft Hololens, Meta2) but very few companies actually used this technology to market their products.  The ones who did found an added benefit of generating a ton of media impressions simply by being there first.  2017 promises a new wave of practical VR/AR applications for training, entertainment, brand engagement and sales, but before you jump in head first, I want to show you how to dip your toes into the VR/AR pool so that you can begin to see benefits and metrics before committing a larger portion of your budget.  

At MetaVRse, we saw the opportunity to become the trusted VR/AR Agency of Record for brands advising them on their long term strategy on how to use this new communication medium across their entire business, but before we could even start, we had to show people what VR was and why it was important which is why we have deliberately taken a shotgun ‘spray and pray’ approach to using this new medium.  We started by introducing VR at events (Art of Marketing, Royal Ontario Museum Friday Night Live, PwC Partners Conference) then we did a bunch of 360° videos (Groove Cruise, Pride Toronto, Queen’s Plate, Niagara Falls Tourism) and we have learned by teaching using our white paper “Virtual Reality for Marketing, 2016” and most recently we are producing custom VR and AR apps for clients to drive customer engagement that will be released later this year.  

The most common questions

We saw the opportunity of VR and AR for business early on, but like many, we did not know how best to capitalize on it.  Questions like “What is the ROI?”  “Who else is doing this?”  “Can you show me examples of this?”  have left us stumped and that is why I have decided to write this series of articles to help answer some of the questions that we found so difficult to answer and honestly still struggle with because this technology is still on the bleeding edge.  

“What is the ROI?”  – This is impossible to define right now for a number of reasons; 1. There is no critical mass of headset adoption yet so most experiences are leveraging traditional media to amplify their VR strategy.  2. The systems for gaining metrics for VR/AR have not yet been developed (potential opportunity).  3.  There has not been enough people using this to get a real understanding of the metrics.

“Who else is doing this?”  This one gets me a lot.  Brands want to do something completely novel and outside of the box, but want to know who else has done something similar.  The very fact they ask this, makes me question if they just want something new and shiny or they truly want to be a pioneer in their industry.  It takes a certain leap of faith to earmark part of your marketing budget to pioneer something new, but look at the first companies to harness the power of the internet or mobile, they ended up WAY ahead of their competition and VR/AR is no different.  

“Can you show me examples of this?”  While we now have a list of case studies of our own and there are a few other business examples from other companies, the truth is that brands who are jumping on this are creating novel communications that will reward them in many ways; 1. Being seen as a leader in their industry, 2. Getting additional traditional media coverage, 3. Gaining experience to harness this technology so when VR/AR becomes mainstream they have a distinct advantage, 4. Winning awards together (my personal goal is to win a Cannes Lion Award) VR and AR are new, but already there are award categories for it.

I have compiled a list of projects you can start right away that won’t break the bank and will get you the experience that you are going to need to ask for bigger budgets moving forward.  If you get stuck or want some help, I am available, feel free to email me;

Here are some options for getting into VR and AR in 2017 (lowest to highest)


Branded Google Cardboard

Branded Google Cardboard

One of the tools you are going to need in-house is a high quality, mobile VR headset.  This will give you a great resource when asking your CEO for more budget towards VR. Check out: GearVR or Google Daydream View VR Headsets ($1200 and up, including phone)

The question for you as a marketer in 2017 is will you be seen as a leader or a follower?  OK that is a little harsh and presumptive, but in all seriousness, VR and AR are coming and they are going to be as disruptive as the mobile phone so if you want to get ahead of the curve, I suggest you find some room in your 2017 budget to at least dip your toes in the water.  For more information, case studies and pricing, please reach out to me directly,

How to use Virtual + Augmented Reality for Marketing, a tiered approach

2016 was the year virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) hit the world stage in a big way. With the commercial launch of Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Sony Playstation and Microsoft Hololens, brands began dipping their toes in the waters testing to see how best to use this revolutionary new medium. From the invention of the printing press through radio, television, internet and mobile, brand managers and CMO’s have always entered new technology slowly sometimes taking years to adopt, but it feels like now the world of technology is moving at such a pace that if you blink you might miss out on some incredible opportunities that your competition is certainly thinking about.

So the question is simple, ‘how can I use VR/AR right now without compromising my budget while proving that it is an effective communication medium’?

After working with over 50 different brands and organizations using only VR/AR, we have noticed a pattern of acceptance and experimentation that will both mitigate the risk while keeping your organization ahead of the technology curve to be seen as an industry leader. The natural progression thus far has unfolded like this.

Showcasing Virtual Reality at an internal meeting or event

By using off the shelf content, brands can get their employees excited about VR/AR without breaking the bank and without investing in custom content which is still pretty expensive. This also gives brand managers the opportunity to get buy-in from senior management and this goes a long way when developing a new VR/AR concept for external use. (ex. PwC Partners Conference, Telus Sales meeting)

Using VR at a trade show or event

VR is so new that brands still have the ability to wow consumers and customers simply by having the technology available for people to try. Finding content that is engaging and relevant is an interesting challenge since most brands at this stage are not ready to spend $100K on a custom experience yet. Knowing what games and experiences are available and then knowing how to use the technology to maximize throughput is the key here. (ex. Art of Marketing conference). VR was the number one on the 10 top industry trends to implement in 2017. Here is a brief interview about how VR/AR will be used in events.

Producing a 360° video

One of the easiest ways for brands to start using this new immersive technology is to create some simple 360° videos for use on social platforms. Facebook, YouTube and now Twitter (Periscope) support the format. There are even companies that offer pre-recorded footage for purchase (Blend.Media). Using 360° video to promote your brand is a really great way to prove to the C-suite that VR can generate measurable results. One example of a computer generated 360° video/VR experience that is completely on brand is the Boursin Sensorium VR experience.

Filming lion cubs with the Samsung Gear 360 camera
Samsung Gear 360 camera with 7 week old lion cub, Samira at Jungle Cat World.

Using AR for packaging

A simple way for brands to begin embracing augmented reality is to use their existing packaging in a more digital way. Without having to change the packaging, this becomes an elegant, low-cost solution that can have a big impact on consumer engagement. Something that we are working on now is an AR scavenger hunt that allows users to collect points simply by scanning their favourite products and interacting with them. This is a marketers dream as the data collected by these interactions can give great insight into the people who buy your products. One downside is that you still have to download an app to do this. There are three main platforms for AR marketing; Blippar, Vuforia, Augment and Marxent Labs.

Virtual Office Tour

One of the best ways brands can begin to use VR technology is to do a 360°, VR, Google Tour of their space. This has the added value of making their office searchable from Google Maps and eventually Google Earth VR will allow you to enter spaces. The best available system for doing these types of tours is called Matterport, a combination of hardware (camera) and software platform that allows users to visit inside your building and also create hotspots where people can learn more about your office, company and team. We did one of these tours for a very forward thinking digital marketing agency in Toronto, Symbility Intersect just did this with great results. A company that has done an excellent job at creating virtual tours for Colleges and Universities is YouVisit.

Matterport “dollhouse” view of Symbility Intersect 360° office tour.
Matterport “dollhouse” view of Symbility Intersect 360° office tour.

Fully Immersive VR experience

The pinnacle of virtual reality at this point is a fully immersive game or activation. Brands have a unique opportunity to give attendees at trade shows a look into the matrix or down the rabbit hole where the laws of physics and reality no longer apply. Car companies like Volvo, Audi and Lexus have all jumped on the ability to put people into a fully rendered car and drive it anywhere (even on the moon!). Another great use of fully immersive VR for brand marketing is the Merrell Trailscape VR in-store experience where consumers were given the task of walking across a rope bridge while rocks are falling all around them. This is perfectly on brand and well executed.

As you can guess, the possibilities of VR and AR for marketing are literally endless, but taking a pragmatic and tiered approach is how brands will keep pace with technology while staying within budget and also see the best ROI. My recommendation is to take a slow, tiered and sustainable approach or go feet first, all in and make something world shattering. Whatever you decide to do, understand that it is no longer a matter of whether you will do VR/AR, it’s simply when.

360° Photo Booth™ Nominated for 2 Marketing Awards

We are proud to announce that our 360° Photo Booth™ has been nominated for two awards;  the Marketing and Atomic Award.

The MetaVRse 360° Photo Booth™ at Yorkdale Shopping Center, dressed up as a time machine from Global’s new TV show, Timeless

Shoppers at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Center had a chance to enter a time machine to travel back through history and still make it back in time for a trip to the food court. In a first-of-its-kind promotion of Global TV’s new time-travel drama Timeless, fans were invited to view the show’s trailer in a VR headset before entering a life-size replica of “the Mothership,” the show’s futuristic, spherical time machine. Once inside, rather than the show’s complex array of dials and displays, time travelers entered a bright green room with a central column of light containing a very different kind of advanced technology – a 360° camera. As the passengers disembarked from the time machine, they were invited to a large touch screen to explore a 360° scene of themselves standing on a country road as the Hindenburg airship explodes above their heads. The unique 360° photo keepsake (containing a subtle brand message for the premiere of Timeless on Global TV) was then sent to participants in a format easily shared to social media.

Over 1000 visitors entered the booth over a 3 day activation that captured over 300 360° Photos which were sent to guests to share on social media. Many of the guests shared their photos to Facebook and Twitter generating over 50,000 media impressions attracting more awareness to the series premiere of Timeless.

This video was submitted with the award submission:

Top 10 Marketing uses of VR/AR & 360° Video in 2016

2016 was the launch year for VR and these marketers got it right before anyone else – this is how you do VR at the start of VR.

Star Wars – Trials on Tatooine

Star Wars - Trials on Tatooine

While not really an ad for Star Wars, giving people a chance to become a Jedi-Knight and use a lightsaber in VR has to be one of the most engaging ways to connect a brand to a real life experience. Download this mini game for free on Steam.

Read more

Merrell Trailscape

Merrell Trailscape

Hiking across a ricketty bridge high on a mountain side is not something that many people would want to do in real life which is exactly why Merrell hit a homerun with this campaign.  By combining real elements of a rope bridge with virtual reality, they put guests into the action in the one place that they know their products shine through.  This is a prime example of how experienced based VR marketing is going to help sell products.

Watch the video

Marriott Transporter

Marriott Transporter

In a trial of VR by Marriott Hotels, a 4D sensory experience was created to ‘teleport’ guests to different destinations including beaches in Hawaii and downtown London. The brand created the virtual travel experience delivered via a specially crafted ‘travelling teleporter’, which toured eight US cities last September. The phone booth-shaped structure featured the Oculus Rift DK2 virtual reality headset, wireless headphones and a suite on 4D sensory elements.

Marriott Hotels brand marketing VP, Michael Dail, said the exercise was about giving the next generation of travellers “the clear cut notion that more amazing travel experiences are coming and to encourage them to co-create the future of travel with us on, where their best ideas enter Marriott’s innovation pipeline”, he said. “Together, we are pushing the limits of what is possible.”

Read more

Lowes Holoroom

Lowes Holoroom

The Lowe’s Holoroom is a virtual reality home improvement design and visualization tool that empowers homeowners with an immersive, intuitive experience in the room of their dreams. Visualizing a home improvement project is hard – the Holoroom is here to help.

The Lowe’s Holoroom was introduced in 2014 as the first concept from Lowe’s Innovation Labs, and was available for six months in two Toronto stores. The next iteration of the Holoroom was available in 19 stores across the U.S. beginning in November 2015. Lowe’s Innovation Labs will continue to refine and evolve the experiences as technology continues to evolve and we gather real-time feedback from customers and employees.

Read more

IKEA VR Experience

IKEA VR Experience

The IKEA VR experience lets you walk in an Ikea kitchen, where you can open doors, walk around and explore the space. IKEA even added the ability to cook their famous meatballs in the VR kitchen. Check it out on Steam.

Timeless 360° Time Machine

Sony Pictures and Corus Media partnered with Toronto-based Virtual & Augmented Reality Innovation Agency, MetaVRse to create a unique, one-of-a-kind launch activation that used 360° photography to transport guests back in time to an iconic scene from the new show Timeless where the Hindenburg is exploding above your head.  Once taken, guests were emailed their photos and could interact with the photo on a large touchscreen and also see themselves in virtual reality for the first time.

Watch the video

Old Irish – Journey to Ireland

Old Irish - Journey to Ireland

Old Irish, a craft beer hailing from the Eastern European country of Georgia, decided to have some fun blurring the line between virtual and reality. Their video proves that sometimes it’s not what happens when you put on the virtual reality goggles that matters — it’s what happens when you take them off:  This mind altering activation put a VR headset on people and while they were taking a 360° Virtual Tour of Ireland, a complete irish bar was assembled around them so when they took off the headset they were in an irish bar without moving at all.

Watch the video

Lexus VR

Lexus VR

Lexus partnered with VR company, to create at the world’s first VR Car Configurator and Simulator for the Oculus Rift DK2 headset in alignment with the new Lexus NX launch campaign.

The experience was created for Visualise and Amaze using the latest CGI virtual reality technology which immerses the user within a virtual world where they can fully configure an NX to their own specification and then take it on a test drive through an alternate dimension, which mirrors that of the campaign seen on all other media. The reaction of a first time user is all we need to see how successful the experience has been.

Read more

Tom’s “Giving Trip” in 360°

 Tom’s “Giving Trip” in 360°

This story-based 360° video takes you on a journey to Peru where you see exactly how Tom’s one-for-one shoe program impacts the lives of school children in underprivileged countries.  This short video gives a great impact to how the brand is helping the world.

Watch the video

Boursin Sensorium

Boursin Sensorium

Boursin Sensorium is a fantastical tour of a magical fridge filled with life-size celery, garlic and onions (the key ingredients in Boursin cheese).  This 360° video is best viewed on a Google Cardboard, GearVR or Google Daydream, but is just as impactful on a phone.

Watch the video

Nissan Micra VR Tiltbrush: Savant Stephen Wiltshire Draws Nissan Micra in Tilt Brush from Memory

Nissan Micra VR Tiltbrush Video

Stephen Wiltshire, a British architectural artist who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, has garnered fame for his ability to draw detailed recreations from memory — oftentimes of complex cityscapes he’s only viewed briefly.

In a new ad for the 2017 Micra, Nissan puts his chops to the test. But instead of equipping him with his usual arsenal of pen and paper, in this case, Nissan tasks him with authoring his recreation in VR using Tilt Brush, which he’s never used before. Talk “Stephen is not able to filter anything,” says his sister in voice-over. “He absorbs everything. Detail is the highlight to his drawing.”  Stephen recreates the nuances of the car in stunning detail using VR as his artist tool.

Honorable Mentions

Jimmy Fallon’s Virtual Reality Pictionary

Jimmy Fallon’s Virtual Reality Pictionary

Using the popular VR title Tiltbrush via HTC Vive, featured guests Michael Che of SNL’s Weekend Update and Andrew Rannells of Girls went head-to-head in a game of futuristic Pictionary in VR.

After selecting a random number hung on a wooden board, the players were tasked with drawing their chosen subject in a 3D space via Tiltbrush. It was then up to their partners to guess the correct answer within the allotted time. For the sake of simplicity, the ‘artists’ held only the painting brush and not the palette controller that’s used to switch through different colors, textures, etc. The segment was a perfect example of how virtual reality can be as much a social experience as it can an isolated one.

Video here

White House 360° Tour with the Obamas

White House 360° Tour with the Obamas

Michelle and Barack Obama take you for a virtual reality 360° tour of the iconic White House.  Produced by the always amazing Felix & Paul, this 8:30 video gives some history and insight into what life is like in the most famous house in America.

Read more

Augmented Reality Dollar Bill

This genius app idea can be used with any American one dollar bill and uses augmented reality to show the white house in 3D complete with Presidential helicopter.  Touch parts of the house to learn more about different presidents.

Read more


Marketers, take note: this is the beginning, you can and will do better, and we would love to help.  Connect with me and let’s start working on your next project together: