MediaTech Ventures’ Community Spotlight Ep.11 – Amber Allen

Meet the Phygital mastermind, eSports trailblazing, immersive universe guru, Amber Allen – CEO/Founder Double A Labs.

From humble beginnings of rural Texas, Amber became fascinated at a young age with video games as it provided a way to connect with her siblings and father who was a pastor and entrepreneur. After donating their time as a family to prepping meals or visiting nursing homes, she was able to bond with her father at a local Pizza Hut playing Galaga, while celebrating their time well spent giving back for the day.

Those early experiences of selflessness and connecting through digital experiences, stayed with Amber as she pursued a degree in marketing/advertising, eventually landing her first big opportunity working at Disney. Her child like curiosity combined with her impact driven focus, helped her move beyond Disney to Warner Bros. then Riot Games, and ultimately launching Double A Labs, helping lead the way for immersive experiences for some of the largest brands in the world.

During our time together we talk about how immersive universes can help industries beyond gaming, we explore what to do in toxic gaming environments, and discuss what the entertainment industry landscape will look like post pandemic. Find out Amber’s thoughts on these topics and so much more during this Community Spotlight.

Double A Labs, is a paving the way for Generational Infinity. “It describes the ageless demographic that is excited about learning and adopting new technology and ideas. We gear our experiences towards that audience since it encompasses such an inclusive wide net of people. This allows us to draw in a higher number of attendees and engagement levels widening the data and understanding of our new age consumers.

What inspired you to pursue a degree and this career path towards marketing and advertising?

Amber: I’ve been very fortunate in my career to get to work at companies like Disney and work on the technology side. Same with Warner Brothers, I had Netflix as a client when they were going digital. And then right before I started my business, getting to work on eSports, and being a strategist that helped build out some of the esports the arena-style events. So because of that I definitely have and I’m a nerd at heart. So I definitely had loved the merging of marketing proof that something works and technology.

Your video gaming started at a young age, I’m a huge fan of Mario Bros. & Galaga too. How did those games change you?

Amber: I know, it’s funny, even in my own house, I have a thing that says your princess is in another castle from Mario Brothers.  My dad was also an entrepreneur and the way that we didn’t always have a lot of time together. But we would go to Pizza Hut, and like play Galaga and the different video arcade games. And I think it just learned the biggest piece was the connecting, it was being able to, as a gamer, getting to interact, and to connect on a different timing level. And so I think doing that with my siblings, and dealing with that with my dad definitely built that into the kind of the culture of just who I am as a person.

Day one as you walked into Disney then after that, Warner Brothers, eventually Riot Games, were you hoping those would be your permanent homes or did you always know that it was a stepping stone towards Double-A?

Amber: Yeah, it’s interesting, as I was a corporate kid, I love the stability of that. I love my Warner family. And in my Disney one, I’ve learned some really valuable lessons that I’ve definitely put into the culture of Double-A, what I feel is, I always laugh because there’s no way that I knew that this was what I was going to do that seems to change as a CEO, being able to kind of change and adapt and accelerate a company in your career, right. So I didn’t know that, what I did know, is that I love connecting and helping. As a small-town girl, to get information sooner than 10 years when it is about how long it took before it came out, that’s too long. I think that is a big thing for your question. I have definitely been a part of who I am, of how do you spread knowledge and information to a larger audience? Can’t change the world’s opinion with only 500 people.

Do you credit your time spent as a teenager spending weekends serving food, visiting nursing homes, as well as reading biblical stories, to how you generously give back now with mentorship? Is that a big part of who you are because of where you came from?

Amber: I think my parents did a great job. And in that area of not only always keeping us busy, but we’re also always doing some kind of learning and coaching. But making sure that we are here for a much bigger purpose, not just for ourselves. And that is definitely something you see even in my culture deck in the company. We are always doing something that is helping and I don’t believe in helping in a small way. We should be using the same principles that we do for eSports and gaming. We should be doing that as well for the charities and how are we making a big impact?

Where do you really see these immersive experiences helping in the way that you just mentioned, either on the charitable side or the healthcare side?

Amber: It’s interesting with the digital world. The reason it’s called that by the way, people ask its physical and digital collide. Yes, we trademarked it. I think that the reason we did that is I believe that both are super important. And honestly, we’ve already seen it work with eSports, we have the live events, and we have the digital and the audience is watching as different athletes perform and play. And then they also are learning how to play themselves. But they also want to be in the room. And so this is a great way to see what is going on in the room right? So the thing is it’s a platform is exactly that it is not one-off worlds, it is worlds that are created as an ecosystem. And you as a person are not just one dimensional, right? You have multiple things. I mean, I’m a big gamer, you can see behind me in the music, and I love my Prada and Burberry. And I love cognitive learning like I’m multidimensional. And I think right now if you watch social dilemmas, they very much are trying to put us in buckets, which is creating bigger divides and lesser education. And what our platform actually does is it builds worlds on top, and they port to each other. So if you are over here watching the awesome Dell University world that we’re doing, you can actually port to the music world. And someday there will be thousands. So you actually get to have the choice to choose which worlds you want to go and then go explore and how it works is think of it a fortnight, but a website. So no gaming engine, no special computer, you can actually do it through Web GL. So this platform is an equalizer. It is something that can educate in a visual way. I read somewhere we learned 60% faster when we visually see it.

Who are the people currently in the immersive technology space that really inspire you that you either read up on or you follow, or podcasts that you listen to?

Amber: I like to in multiple different areas, right, one of my favorite podcasts is Business Works, I just really listened to that one. Just because I love seeing how companies build things and how other companies seem to get complacent. And that’s when the real competition begins. And so I find that very fascinating. And, and I also find that I read a lot up on I like Elon Musk, I find him interesting, I think he thinks differently in many different areas. And I think it’s important, we shouldn’t just be in one bubble that we’re learning. And, and another mentor of mine is Ron Bloom, I sent some really great stuff in the media space and understanding what our code of ethics is, and how as we build these things, we are looking forward and looking at these digital platforms that we’re creating. It is up to us to build the foundation correctly. And so that doesn’t become something we wouldn’t want our name tide too.

What advice would give to people on how to mitigate that experience, or make it a better environment for all the players involved?

Amber: It’s interesting in gaming because I personally block people if I ever get that today, some of my bubbles, but I know that I am a gamer that likes to play with my friends. So the audience that I play with is people that I am in my world. I’m playing a MOBA or Battle Royale under people playing I’ve got my tribe that I play with. And if we get connected to other people that are like skilled and I think it’s just one of the big things I just don’t put up with it personally, I’ll just block. And so I just wrapped it all myself in areas that I play in.

What’s some advice that you would give somebody, especially today, where there’s a lot more out there now, a lot more companies a lot more competition, somebody that wanted to pursue a career path similar to yours?

Amber: I would have to say it’s fast, I’m gonna tie it into kind of what you asked in the very beginning, did you know that this is exactly where you were heading. And if I had done that I have too much of a perfectionist on it would have been like you have gotten like this and this and I would get very discouraged. I think the best advice in that area is to be flexible. I really always felt that I had a mission. Like I always say personally, for my business. And for me, I fall in love with the problem, not the solutions. And if you do that, you’re really kind of focusing on where your core is, and the solutions will change. Therefore I take it as a career as well. If I know that I want to be in a certain media space or gaming space, or even if I’m and I’ve done it being the janitor at a certain company or an assistant or whatever, and knowing that that gets me in that world and that environment, I really feel strongly but it’s being in the environment that I want showing people and if it’s a smart company, they’ll see the talent they have. And if it’s not, it’s probably not one I want to roll my career in anyways.

When people think about Double-A labs, what are you hoping comes to mind for them?

Amber: I feel very strongly about immersive technology a lot of times. Physical and virtual are colliding when we stand in perception. And I think that’s the exact thing. There’s this beautiful world of technology, augmented reality coding, but it’s still a language we’re all learning. And then there’s this beautiful storytelling and art and music that has its own love as well, right. And that’s why I’m a massive fan of steam. We know if both of them are not connecting and creating a world you become a perfect story on that my business card is augmented reality. You hold it, and I’m Princess Leia, it’s me. My hair isn’t in buns. And it has little bubbles that float around and you push the bubbles and it tells what we do with some of the technology is advanced. And it shows it in a visual way. Do you know what it was? Like? Two years ago? It was Spiderman.

And it’s hilarious that because of the physics and engineering behind how the animation came up and it would go off the card and everything was really amazing. But from a storytelling perspective, nobody wants spiders climbing all over them right. Tell me nothing about my business, am I an exterminating company. A perfect example of why we need both creative and that right and left brain?

Where do you see entertainment after the pandemic? Do you think that the show space and the venue space is going to go back to normal or is there going to be this kind of split now between digital experiences and in life experiences?

Amber: I believe that those that grow and take this time to actually, but the world is, I mean remember QR codes? Nobody was using that. And now they’re on every menu, and I love it, and it’s built-in our camera phones. Well, it’s been that way for about a couple of years. But now everybody knows it, right? And that adapting to technology is accelerating. I do believe that the physical world will open back up, I do believe it’ll be smaller events first, and then it will go back to the large there’s something human about us that likes to be with people and connect, I think people are always thinking if this or this, and I have found the five years of eight and a half years, nine years of Esports, and this company, of the worlds collide. That’s why we call it Phygital. You know, we worked on twitch play live. And we saw that if we created a digital experience and a physical experience, the worlds could play together 3.7 million people clicked on buttons to change what happened in a physical space. Why? Because not everybody can be in the room, but they can be a part of the room that can be a part of the experience. And we are going to be a much better society. Seriously, if we can actually help people be in the room and educate and share knowledge and share experiences. That only makes us better because we understand it more. So why wouldn’t we want to look, we’re in the virtual worlds. Now, these are though even the ones that we’re doing are really, really great, and the technology is there. So you can still interact. But there will come a time. And that’s why we call it our digital world where they live events will happen. And the digital one lets you be there and still experience parts of it. And I think that is the biggest thing that I hope. And we’ve seen it already happen in the gaming space that I want to keep, building toward an accelerating for people. Because one person doesn’t have all the knowledge we are always going to be smarter as a team and collaborating.

If you could go back and build it all again from day one, when you had the idea of pursuing Double-A, what would you have done differently?

Amber: Well, I mean, I’m a huge fan, and even have this in our company culture as a huge fan of learning from our failures and learning from those and not holding it internally but sharing it. If we cannot learn from our failures, we’re due to repeat them. And so I think one of the things is I have learned over the last few years, is continually surround myself with mentors. So I don’t have to keep redoing the wheel. There have been too many times in the first part of the years of my company where I’d be like, oh, I’ve got this, this is a brand new idea. I’m gonna create this. And I didn’t lean more because I don’t have investors. I don’t have, you know, a board. I don’t have a partner. So when I started this company, it was me and it’s, again, I go back to we’re smarter as collaborating. And so I think that’s one of the biggest things from day one. And I advise people is get a good smart mentor friend board around you as mentors that you can lean on and don’t waste their time but ask questions and have people that you can learn from so you’re not having to always recreate.

What are some books that you that really inspired you? Are there books that really stand out to you so far along with your career in your path?

Amber: I would have to say it almost changes on a monthly. There are a few books, though, that I will actually reread. I get to the point sometimes. So I gave myself permission to read 40 to 50% of the book. All right, I got it. And felt like your parents would eat all the food after a while, let me get more nuggets of knowledge that I felt really helped. I love the book Essentialism. I think we live in a society and I am definitely that early adopter that has a little bit of that FOMO. And so being able to learn how to say no and that’s what talks about is just as important. A more so than Yes. And I love there’s book synchronicity I just finished I really enjoyed brain rules. The 25 brain rules, I think are great. And then I love like the five temptations of a CEO and the Five Dysfunctions of an executive team. They’re easy reads, but they’ve got a lot of really good nuggets.

What are you doing differently, to engage with your students versus the education that you received?

Amber: It’s interesting, I actually don’t have a bachelor’s degree, I have the hours that match up to one but I found that I wanted to learn certain subjects that were not a part of the program, and the plan, kind of went off learning. I love the program, the game design program that I’m a part of, and get to be a part of UT. I’m actually on their board now for that. And they do an amazing job of creating exactly what we were talking about the game design, as well as the storytelling and, and the art creative side. And so I feel very fortunate to be a part of that program. And same with like, FIT. I’m on their board, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and I love what they’re doing to merge technology, and the fashion world and the art. I just like when people can curriculum programs can be put together that is not as structured, it’s obviously a structured program, but it’s letting you think of things differently sometimes I think that the education system, in my experience, and maybe it’s not everywhere, and my experiences where it has it and it’s been built, but it’s not adapting and changing as much as what we as CEOs and people that are hiring need in our companies.

If you had a superhero power, what would it be?

Amber: Teleporting. I could be in so many more places, many fun conversations, and get more in. Or freezing time.

How do people get a hold of you?

Amber: We’ve got a great website and I am trying to be more active on Twitter and LinkedIn and I have an Instagram and Facebook I’m out there kind of sharing different things. We’ve got fantastic I love the social team that we’ve brought on and Double-A and they’re really helping me stay on top of that. And one of the interesting things is that you can be really good at some things and not the best so you hire smarter people.

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MediaTech Ventures’ Community Spotlight Ep.11 – Amber Allen

by John Zozzaro time to read: 13 min