December 17, 2021Comments are off for this post.

What is Parallax? (An Arlene Extended Reality Glossary Post)

A standard definition of parallax: the effect whereby the position or direction of an object appears to differ when viewed from different positions, e.g. through the viewfinder and the lens of a camera.

In Extended Reality (XR) applications, Parallax is a 3D effect observed when images and other elements in the foreground of a screen move at a different rate than those in the background.

XR developers use parallax techniques to make the virtual world look more realistic. By adding in a parallax effect, the 3D world seems to behave much more like it would if the person were actually in that environment.

September 1, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Lessons Learned From Crowdfunding From Arlene’s CEO & Co-Founder, Colin Jacobsen

In today’s world, technology is growing at an all-time high. Immersive experiences—like AR, VR, and 360—are used in almost every industry to engage customers and drive sales. Arlene is taking this technology to a new level with a self-serve, immersive platform that lowers the barrier to entry for brands looking to generate data-driven experiences at scale.

Arlene has grown quickly and is backed by leading MarTech VCs: MathCapital and Same Page Capital. Launch partners included Coach, Macy's, Revo, Flowcode, and United Imaging. 

In today’s post, we speak to Colin about Arlene’s recent raise through the crowdfunding platform, Republic.  Before co-founding Arlene, Colin was a digital marketer with years of commercial experience at Twitter, MoPub, and AOL.

What made you want to raise capital via crowdfunding?

Our team had a negative stigma around crowdfunding and was hesitant about the quality of these types of platforms. Once introduced to Republic's team, we learned more about the platform and applied.

We liked that Republic scrutinized companies during due diligence to best feature high-potential companies. We also liked the support that Republic provided for fundraising campaign creation and optimization, to help maximize value.

How does Republic help companies like yours raise capital?

Kicking off the process, they help you create your campaign on their site. They give best practices and offer account management which makes the process easy. They assist in surfacing key metrics, strategies, clients, and other aspects that are attractive to Republic investors.

Republic's team also helps coordinates interviews, features, and other pieces of content that are separate from the campaign page. Their guidance helped our company meet our fundraising goals. 

What does Republic get for helping companies like Arlene?

Republic takes 8% of your raise (6% cash, 2% in the form of a SAFE). It’s something to consider before getting started, but our team felt that it was the right move.

What were some of the growing pains you learned by doing this?

There were a few pain points, but since Republic is also a startup, that was to be expected. The biggest initial hurdle was a requirement to raise $25k on Republic before they assist with any marketing. We hit this amount quickly, but it could be limiting for businesses that don't have a strong friends/family/advisor/investor network.

We expected to be featured on the homepage, which drives considerable funds. After our campaign launched, Republic required companies to trend to be featured on the homepage (>100 investors in less than 48 hours).

We also had concerns that priority was given to bigger companies with more revenue-raising later stage rounds (e.g. Gumroad). Regardless, we're still happy with our raise and it sounds like Republic is working on improving some of these processes.

What would be your advice to another startup that might be considering crowdfunding their investment?

Crowdfunding is time-consuming and requires active management to be successful. You'll be answering lots of questions, frequently messaging with potential investors (who might only invest as little as $150), and posting regular updates.

Build a community and clearly communicate why you’re running your campaign. Investors want to understand what they're signing up for and it's essential to calibrate your messaging and value proposition. Define your campaign goals. Some companies are looking to raise large rounds, others are more interested in marketing their name to the Republic audience.

Have a strong social presence. Many Republic investors will follow your company on social. Showcasing your work and wins goes a long way.

A couple investors didn't invest right away, but they posted about us and/or brought us onto podcasts. This helped bring Arlene into the spotlight. The investors also ended up investing.

Crowdfunding is great if you have people interested in investing smaller amounts (<$5k). Instead of a crowded cap table with fewer strategic investors, Republic consolidates smaller investors (unaccredited included) with a single entry point.

Final question: explain what you mean about “the democratization of investment” and why that clicked with you in terms of Arlene's mission to democratize immersive experiences.

Arlene takes complicated immersive technology and lowers the barrier of entry so any company can successfully utilize it. Arlene sees parallels with Republic, which is taking limited investment opportunities and making them available to all.

It's in Arlene's DNA to elevate the smaller players who are looking to achieve great things.

Interested in learning more about Arlene?

For more information on how you can build immersive experiences with Arlene, please contact us to set up a brief chat.

August 18, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Adapting to the New Normal of Business with Immersive Experiences

The global pandemic pushed more and more of the consumer’s purchase path online than ever before as they shopped via the Internet for essentials and ways to keep their family safe and entertained during lockdowns. According to McKinsey, the adoption of e-commerce over the previous 10 years doubled in the first three months of the pandemic

Whenever there are paradigm shifts in the market, it’s the brands that are able to quickly adjust who can maintain and grow their market share. The ones that don’t—well, there’s a reason why 88% of the Forbes 500 from 65 years ago are no longer in business

With consumer shopping behavior forever changed by the pandemic in such a short amount of time, brands are struggling with the new reality of business.

Crossing the digital divide to enhance the customer experience

With more of the purchase path (discovery, research, transaction) moving online, one distinct area that brands are struggling with is how to replicate the customer experience when the consumer isn’t in the store. 

Brands have long understood the value that customer experience has to their bottom lines. In a groundbreaking 2014 study, this effect was quantified. What researchers found was not only did it have an effect but there was a direct correlation between the customer experience and sales. The takeaway was clear: the better that a brand can engage and educate customers on their products or services, the revenue per customer increases

And there are the issues brands are facing with today’s rapidly evolving market. How do you efficiently manage the digital customer experience to drive sales when you’ve been so focused on the in-store/in-person experience for so long? 

Beyond engagement: digital immersive experiences help brands sell  

Immersive experiences such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 360 experiences (360), and other innovative customer interactions are helping brands to bridge the gap that is lost when physical customer experience shifts online.

One of the advantages of shopping offline is that shoppers can look at the products as they research. They can read the packaging, see the product up close, and make a decision without having to assume anything. Immersive experiences enable online shoppers to examine products in detail from their homes.

Product previews—or “try before you buy”—are also a popular use case with immersive experiences that can even eclipse the in-store experience. Consumers can see how an item looks in their home whether it’s furniture, exercise equipment, or other large items. They can also try on glasses, makeup, and apparel before they buy. 

Virtual tours are giving real estate and event marketers the ability to put the viewer “inside the space” with editable touch-points and interactive elements. The use cases for immersive experiences are innumerable, and new and amazing executions are appearing every year. 

Years ago when immersive experiences were just emerging, early brand adopters of these technologies used them to engage customers with flashy innovation. However, now that most consumers are familiar with AR/VR/360, brands are moving down the funnel and using them as strategic levers to drive revenue.

But today, consumers do not just engage with immersive experiences, they expect them. 75% of customers now expect retailers to offer at least an augmented reality experience to help them find more product information or learn about products. The market is primed and ready:  3.4 billion phones have advanced AR capabilities, and the number of devices ready to accept these experiences is growing. 

Here are some stats that illustrate the growing trend of immersive experiences transforming the customer experience:

Immersive experiences are no longer an emerging tactic. Don’t get left behind

In the past, immersive experiences took a lot of development time, were expensive to produce, and could be complex to manage. However, with new innovations, over the years they have become faster, more affordable, and easier to produce than ever before. This is key because the immersive experience production process must be streamlined and efficient to fit into the rapid timing of today’s promotion calendars. 

Around 64% of marketers are expecting to use AR and VR in the near future to capture more audience attention. Our mission at Arlene is to lower the barrier of entry for brands and marketers to utilize immersive experiences as a strategic function to enhance websites, ad campaigns— virtually anywhere their customers are able to engage with them. 

With the pandemic driving more digital business, more and more brands are leveraging immersive experiences as part of their strategic go-to-market plans. If you’re not using them right now, chances are that your competitors either are or will soon. 

What is your immersive experience strategy?

For more information on how Arlene can help your brand or marketing organization leverage these technologies to drive business success, please reach out for more information or to schedule a brief meeting.

July 21, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Apple Is Making 3D Imagery Much Easier For Brands

While Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology have advanced considerably in the last few years, 3D creation remains a pain point for companies. 

Creating assets is limited to hiring 3D designers, purchasing or contracting expensive photogrammetry/scanning rigs, AI-powered 2D to 3D conversion for common products, and purchasing and downloading from platforms like Sketchfab, CGTrader, and Turbosquid. For brands with limited budgets, it’s tough to justify high 3D costs, especially if they lack knowledge on how to execute an effective campaign. 

Apple recognized this problem and recently launched a product to facilitate easy 3D creation. With RealityKit Object Capture (currently in preview/beta), users can convert high-quality images into 3D representations more easily than ever before, through Apple’s next macOS. Right now, anyone with an Apple Developer Account can download the new OS and try out the photogrammetry.  

Wait, how does all this work?

Using multiple well-lit, high-resolution photos from various angles, users can drop the photos onto their Mac desktop, and using the Object Capture API can generate the 3D model from the images. Any digital camera including iPhones and iPads can be used. A lidar camera is not required for the photos, but it’s recommended. 

While camera type doesn’t matter, the picture quality does. Apple recommends diffused lighting for photographs, as flashes or direct sunlight cause harsh shadows that interfere with the object capture. 

Maintaining camera settings between shots is a must. This allows for consistency between shots and makes the transition from 2D to 3D easier. Apple advises using an image editor to clean up a photo’s brightness, contrast, exposure, or unnecessary background images. 

A quick, step-by-step guide

In an article published by Apple, they list an overview of their latest tech, followed by a detailed list of how to approach both the software and the photography to ensure RealityKit works for you. Summed up, it reads as follows:

  • Select a static object to photograph. Avoid objects that are soft, translucent, or overly reflective.
  • Choose your approach. You can move the camera around the object, or place the object on a turntable to allow for multiple angles. 
  • Make sure sequential images have about 70% overlap to allow for maximum quality and consistency.

This program allows even the technologically unsavvy to quickly grasp and master its process. 3D modeling has never been easier.

Visual representation of how to photograph an object for RealityKit

Now it’s easier than ever to make compelling VR and AR experiences 

RealityKit’s achievements don’t only represent a new dawn for augmented reality—it also signals a world of changing possibilities for Arlene clients.

Through this technology, we can automate 2D to 3D imaging more quickly and easily through our platform, while continuing to deliver on our promise of accessible, results-driven immersive experiences. 

Arlene wants to make it as simple and straightforward as possible to bring 3D, immersive experiences to your brand. By utilizing Apple’s API, we will provide our clients with the ability to offer more accurate, realistic AR activations, experiences, 360 tours, virtual processes, and more at a fraction of the cost and effort. 

Interested in learning more about 3D and its ability to elevate your brand? 

Contact us to learn more.

May 4, 2021Comments are off for this post.

VR/AR Benefits for Education and Training

VR used for job training purposes.

When people talk about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), it’s often in the context of gaming, entertainment, or Snapchat filters. And while those applications have seen mass adoption, they barely scratch the surface of what is possible for VR and AR. 

Numerous industries have already used these virtual mediums to enhance and streamline their existing operations. One of the most useful ways that often flies under the radar is implementing VR and AR for education and training. 

VR and AR technology have the capability to help students, front line workers, surgeons, or basically anyone who needs on-the-job training or education. 

The VR Effect in Schools

While technology aids can help students of all walks of life be more engaged and involved, special needs students can benefit significantly from this cutting-edge technology. 

For students with visual impairments, VR and AR give students the ability to manipulate the size or change the contrast of a video, thus making it easier to see. Other applications give them access to an as-needed audio commentary—which can bridge the learning gap if they have trouble understanding what’s on the screen. Likewise, pairing 2D barcode scanning technology with VR screen readers allows students to hear that which they can’t see

Oculus VR headsets worn during class.

For students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), understanding the emotions of others, especially facial expressions, can be a challenge. A recent study paired ASD students with an AR system. Here, they were presented with basic 3D facial expressions in AR and presented them with problems they had to solve requiring emotional judgment. After the study, the students’ ability to recognize and identify the emotional expressions of others improved substantially, showing real potential for future AR educational programs for ASD students.  

VR/AR In The Workplace

The pandemic enforced social distancing and remote work. For some, this was a minor adjustment. For others—especially those “hands-on” careers—it meant reimagining their job entirely.

Front line workers risked their lives daily for the greater good. Thankfully, VR and AR allowed them to mitigate some of this risk. Alongside engineers and scientists, front line workers engaged in on-the-job training using VR and AR systems, which made their learning safer—not just for them, but also for their coworkers, patients, families, and anyone they interacted with. With VR and AR, frontline workers were able to practice on virtual patients and experience, especially in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) situations—conditons common with extreme COVID-19 infections.”

The applications extend beyond the pandemic. VR and AR can be used to make any training simulation completely safe and consequence-free. Surgeons, for example, use VR to help them plan how to navigate new procedures, in a video game-esque simulation. IATA is leading the way in airline safety with their RAMPVR tool and VR training initiatives.

VR equipment used for medical training purposes.

Even big corporations like Walmart, that deal with the consumerism horror stories of Black Friday, have been using VR to train their employees in successful customer relations. The training provides a framework for employees to provide increased customer satisfaction in a safe and realistic learning environment. 

In short, on-the-job training in a virtual space has a host of applications, especially in high-skill, high-safety, or high-stress careers. 

How To Start Your Company’s VR/AR Experiences

The premise of creating your own VR/AR experiences may sound simultaneously promising and daunting. The potential is surely there---but it’s not as difficult as many think to get started. 

Here at Arlene, we’ve helped multiple companies begin their VR/AR activations, from global corporations like Coach and Macy’s down to small startups looking to break into the virtual world. We offer self-service and managed services that enable results-driven VR/AR at scale.

The beauty of VR and AR is that they’re highly visual mediums that are easily accessible and easy data-rich. We’re only in the nascent stages of this medium---so the only limit to the types of education and training you can create lies within your imagination. 

If you’re curious and want to explore ideas on how we can work together, reach out to us. We want to help you to make your training and education soar. 

Want to learn more? Contact us

March 29, 2021Comments are off for this post.

The Power of 3D/AR Visualizations: Boost Engagement, Generate Purchases, Minimize Returns

All too often, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications are seen as novelties. It’s not that the experiences aren’t impressive. Most companies fail to see the raw potential and big-picture applications of 3D/AR visualizations.

Today, VR and AR aren’t just a novelty act — they’re serious marketing and advertising channels that can deliver incredible ROI (if properly implemented). Brands taking part in this immersive revolution are seeing compelling increases in every engagement metric, from product click-through-rate (CTR), to average order value (AOV), to unique views.

Let’s take a deeper look at the utility 3D/AR visualizations provide and why they might be a good fit for your brand.

Boosting engagement and purchases with 3D/AR product previews

The big advantage that brick-and-mortar shops had over e-commerce was the ability to show products in person. Customers could use devices or try things on before buying them. For some time, this wasn’t the case with 3D/AR applications.

But 3D/AR product previews have now bridged that gap.

Try-on these Revo sunglasses anywhere you want.

Take the sunglasses above. If you click this link on your mobile device, you can see how the sunglasses would look in real life. They’re rendered in 3D, so you can actually try them on in augmented reality. Rather than relying on human models (who have obvious limitations), customers get to see how products fit their unique features.

You can also rotate the glasses, make them bigger or smaller, and place them in your room. It’s about as immersive an experience as you can get without holding the physical product in your hands — and it’s way more convenient.

Of course, sunglasses are just one example. Everything from clothing, shoes, bags, hats, and accessories are all fair game in the AR space.

It’s never been easier to shop confidently from your phone or from home.

But the possibilities for AR applications extend far beyond fashion and accessories.

AR technology is already helping people consider how things like furniture, art, and decorations will fit into their homes. It’s practical not just for aesthetic considerations, but also for practical decision-making on things like size, placement, and proportionality. If you’re changing up the decor in your room or moving to a new apartment, for example, AR visualizations are a great way to plan your interior design.

If you don’t believe us, the proof is in the pudding: AR ads carry a conversion rate between 20 and 80 percent, which is heads and tails above industry standards for e-commerce products.

AR not only helps increase engagement and sales, but it also protects against buyer’s remorse and product returns. And product returns are a serious issue.

3D and AR reduce the rate of returns

One of e-commerce’s biggest issues is product returns. Product returns are an expensive endeavor, costing the industry an estimated $550 billion each year.

But if your customers are able to try things on and see how a product looks in their room before buying it, you mitigate the risk that they’re going to return your product.

This isn’t just wishful thinking. Numerous companies have reported substantial reductions in returns after implementing AR and 3D visualizations. The largest is Shopify, which recorded a 40 percent drop in returns. Other big companies like SeekXR (25 percent reduction) and Build.com (22 percent reduction) are seeing serious ROI as well.

Considering product returns are a $550 billion problem, even a 25 percent reduction would save the industry $137.5 billion annually.

For companies, getting started with AR is easy

While the idea of bringing your company into the virtual reality landscape may sound like a massive expenditure of time, money, and resources, it’s actually not as daunting as you may think.

For starters, there are multiple ways to convert product SKUs to 3Ds (i.e., putting your products into VR or AR inventories):

  • 3D graphic designers
  • Photogrammetry
  • 3D scanner apps
  • AI for converting 2D photos to 3D
  • 360 photography (an alternative to 3D rendering)

However you decide to convert 2D products to 3D, once you have the 3D models, integration is a breeze — it’s just a matter of pasting a JavaScript code snippet into a webpage.

That’s where we come in. At Arlene, we can help you build ROI-generating VR/AR experiences for your brand. We’ll help you boost engagement and reduce your product returns. More importantly, we can help you create and manage a highly engaging, modern, and compelling new sales channel that could deliver incredible ROI.

Want to learn more? Contact us for a meeting.

March 22, 2021Comments are off for this post.

Utilizing Virtual 360 Experiences for Brands

Coach’s “Escape to Forever” virtual pop-up built by Arlene.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are on fire — and they’re just getting started. While the market is currently worth $15.3 billion, some projections have the industry growing to $188 billion by 2027, a staggering 43.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next six years.

This is exactly why brands should consider investing in virtual experiences. The increasing adoption of VR and AR marketing technologies, such as Zillow’s recent virtual home tour revamp, simply cannot be ignored. The brands that familiarize themselves with and leverage VR and AR for marketing will have a huge edge on the competition in the near future.

A new, fully virtual sales funnel

Remember when e-commerce was in its infancy and people were baffled by it? “Why would I buy a shirt on the internet? You can’t even try it on.” Fast forward two decades and e-commerce is now a $3.53 trillion dollar market led by Amazon. Countless brick-and-mortar stores that were thriving in the early 2000’s have been swept away by the e-commerce wave.

VR and AR experiences are going to be just as transformational — which is exactly why now is the time to enter the market early and experiment enthusiastically. Featuring your products in virtual 360 showrooms, for example, wouldn’t just be a unique branding opportunity, you could also create an entire A-to-Z sales funnel within the virtual experience.

Enterprising brands can create full-stack e-commerce platforms within a virtual framework, integrating existing APIs into these new and exciting user experiences. That means payment integrations, add-to-cart functionality, and personalizations based on order history — all working together seamlessly in VR and AR experiences.

Why not capture these brand new sales channels for your business?

Strong metric tracking and results

Sponsored content in its current form leads to plenty of customer trust issues. In a recent study, 67 percent of participants “felt deceived” when they realized an article or video was, in fact, sponsored content.

No one’s going to buy from you if they don’t trust you.

Virtual 360 experiences don’t have the same stigma, though. While no one wants to be sold to while reading the news, they’ll have no problem with products featured in a virtual, immersive space like a showroom — because it’s not intrusive or disconnected from your current experience.

And that’s exactly why virtual 360 experiences can have very high conversion rates. The virtual showroom referenced above features 3D product previews from Coach, which saw a 23 percent product click-through-rate (CTR), a 16 percent increase in average order value (AOV), and over 300,000 unique views.

Ease of accessibility and implementation

As far as best practices are concerned, VR and AR marketing is still the Wild West. But that doesn’t mean they’re impenetrable for brands willing to learn on the fly.

On the consumer side, these novel experiences are already easily accessible through desktop and mobile browsers without specialized headsets or glasses. Arlene’s mission is to make these experiences accessible to everyone.

Implementing your content and advertisements into VR and AR spaces is much easier than you might think. For simple projects, it’s often just a simple copy-and-paste job, adding existing code into an HTML template.

Repurpose existing physical and digital assets

As the pandemic (hopefully) becomes a distant memory in the near future, more and more exhibits, festivals, galleries, and experiences will open back up. This is a great opportunity to use AR in physical spaces. With some development and strategically placed QR codes, you can create some memorable, meaningful experiences for patrons.

Virtual 360 experiences also support livestream video integrations, audio, 3D/AR previews, deeplinks to social AR filters, and other interactive elements. Not all of these use cases have to include a “digital” element. The MLB already hosts a weekly VR game, and Justin Bieber hosted a virtual concert on New Years. Tickets went for just $25, making it arguably his most accessible paid concert ever.

Partnerships to enter the space

You may be curious, even eager, to explore how your brand could benefit from offering virtual 360 experiences…but you just don’t know where to get started.

We totally get that. We were in the same place ourselves, which is why we created Arlene. We can build complete end-to-end VR/AR experiences unique to your brand. We can also provide templates and CMS frameworks for clients who want to manage VR/AR experiences from their end.

We customize our integration layer to fit with each customer’s backend. That way, you’re not just creating one-off experiences — you’re setting up your brand for long-term success in this new, dynamic scalable marketing channel that will only grow in popularity over time..

Want to learn more? Contact us for more information.

January 11, 2021Comments are off for this post.

The Evolution of Arlene

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October 5, 2020Comments are off for this post.

The Effectiveness of Social AR Filters

Augmented reality (AR) is helping companies forge deeper connections and experiences with target consumers. Social platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat have large, engaging audiences that respond well to brand messaging. These channels have been the leading form of consumer-based AR usage with 40% of Generation Z (born 1996–2005) using social AR filters regularly.

The filters have benefits for the brand and the consumer. They (1) create unique experiences; (2) elevate the sales process; and (3) generate results.

Creating a unique experience

Social filters complement current social media trends by allowing users to post about day-to-day activities in more engaging ways. AR filters create personalized experiences that use augmented reality to visually stimulate and elevate content. As platforms make AR effects more ubiquitous by infusing them into content, brands are presented with a dynamic new way to engage with audiences.

Snapchat stories have seen the most usage since January 2015, however, they were eclipsed by Instagram in early 2017. Instagram recently confirmed that over 500 million users post stories daily.

AR filters captivate the customer’s attention and provide a new dimension of interactivity. Paid endorsement over Instagram stories is considered the most effective form of social media advertising by 73% of marketers. For every $1 they invest in social media marketing, their ROI is $5.20.

Additionally, content with logos and messaging for direct promotion (e.g. putting a logo on a mask) provides a new channel for brand awareness. It immerses consumers in a memorable sponsored experience and empowers audiences to self-express. This offers a unique layer of personalization that effectively resonates with consumers.

Elevating the Sales Process

As analog brick and mortar experiences shift to eCommerce, AR filters enable brand awareness, gamification, product visualization, and organic reach. 3D/AR product preview filters optimize a company’s ability to make incremental conversions and reduce purchase returns by allowing consumers to digitally try before they buy. This exudes a level of reliability that adds stickiness to the customer experience.

An added positive externality of AR filters is that they carry a built-in network effect with the social platforms. Users like and share posts, especially if the content is engaging. With a large percentage of younger generations using filters, brands have the opportunity to lock in long-term customers.

In physical, socially distanced destinations, these experiences are also available through QR and shortcode activations.

Positive results and future opportunities

As brands further explore social AR filters for marketing purposes, early campaign results are promising. A few highlights:

  • Sessions lengths for AR filters average 75 seconds
  • Compared to static experiences, AR generate a 70% higher memory response
  • Purchase conversion rates increase 250%
  • Snapchat AR usage increasing 37% year over year with 163M daily active AR users

While metrics are strong and brands are interested, resources remain limited and expensive for testing social AR filters. Most basic solutions require brands to shell out thousands of dollars or outsource work in exchange for limited revisions, black-box pricing, and sparse support.

Arlene recognizes the value of social AR filters and has created a platform to further democratize the experiences for brands. Through templates, verticalization beyond walled gardens, and new forms of data, Arlene has simplified creating and pushing filters to social, programmatic, and eCommerce channels. Furthermore, Arlene has lowered the barrier of entry by enabling this technology affordably at scale.

Want to learn more? Let’s talk.

September 9, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Balancing a Startup and Mental Health

Photo credit: Tim Foster

Starting a company is a challenging process requiring perseverance and determination. What is often not discussed is the emotional toll it can take on budding entrepreneurs. Too often a reasonable work-life balance is replaced with the hustle porn culture of “fake it till you make it” and “always-on.” This leads many entrepreneurs down the path toward depression and anxiety.

Launching a new venture is burdensome enough without the traditional toxic, workaholic lifestyle. Quite often entrepreneurs don’t pay themselves in the early stages, but to the surprise of many, still have to pay their bills and function as adults. Add to the mix the constant rejection from early client prospects as well as fundraising leads and suddenly self-doubt starts to creep in. Am I sure I made the right decision? Should I just take a corporate job and either give up or make this a side hustle? I wonder what my family and friends will think if I fail? Can I take a guilt-free vacation?

If that cocktail of sadness wasn’t enough, COVID-19 comes along causing demand to subside in nearly every industry. Overnight, revenue and fundraising become speculative at best. You try calming yourself by going to the bodega and supporting a local business, only to be yelled at by a maskless patron who tells you that you’re a sheep for listening to public health officials (true story).

These negative emotions and experiences leak into your business and lead to bad decisions and outcomes. That is why we’ve developed a number of strategies at Arlene to help cope with what we’re all dealing with and make sure every team member is comfortable and working to their optimum capacity.

First and foremost, Arlene employees maintain a division between work and home life to avoid burnout. We recognize that each team member is human and facing a once in a lifetime challenge. Time with family and friends is key to keeping each of us happy and balanced.

Eating healthy and exercising are good ideas when there isn’t a global pandemic. But while there is one, it’s more important than ever. We encourage our team to take care of themselves and carve out time for physical activities when possible. Arlene also recognizes this is an area where the company can continue improving. As the business grows, Arlene’s P&L has a line item for self-care/wellness.

Regular 1:1s and using each other to vent have also been cathartic. Too often entrepreneurs are told to always be hyper-positive. That if you aren’t relentlessly optimistic 24/7, you should quit and join a bigger company. But as Allyson Chiu from the Washington Post wrote, that “toxic positivity” is counterproductive.

Rather than encourage our employees to conform to being fake happy, we have check-ins to make sure they’re okay and troubleshoot anything they are battling with. We see venting as healthy and necessary. We encourage employees to try therapy as we don’t believe mental health should be stigmatized and that people should seek help when needed.

We try to stress-reduce through socially-distanced group activities. As nice as it is to see everyone on Zoom, there is nothing that can replace human contact. Given it’s hard to have everyone travel during the quarantine, we do smaller, gatherings based on the geography of our team members.

Building a business is difficult mentally, emotionally, and physically. Trading health for a company’s success is counter-productive and hurts the business in the long run. It’s important to recognize weaknesses, imperfections, and anything else that makes us human. At Arlene, we hope to support one another and make the startup experience positive.

If you would like to learn more, please check out the following resources:

And feel free to send us a message if you would like to talk or have feedback.