home June 23, 2020

Startup & Innovation Research, Strategy & Education

My passion for startups and tech innovation dates back to childhood, when I worked summers for my uncle Rob Sim, who took a gamble on a new technology with my aunt Peggy Sim to found Sim Video out of their basement with a single Ikegami “Handy Look” tube camera. Over the coming decades Rob treated me to a behind-the-scenes account of growing Sim Video into Sim International, with over 500 employees on three continents. Sim provided camera, lighting, grip, post production and studios for film and television, from experimenting with James Cameron in the early days of digital cinema to servicing high-end productions like GAME OF THRONES out of Sim’s flagship facilities in the former Kodak building in Hollywood, to a billion dollar merger with Panavision that fell through, to near bankruptcy during the pandemic shortly thereafter, to the bitter-sweet sale of the company in 2023.  

Another professor in the business school of life was Cervélo cycles’s pioneering co-founder Gerard Vroomen, for whom I co-created three seasons of the groundbreaking BEYOND THE PELOTON (BTP) pro-cycling series about the Cervélo TestTeam’s historic Tour de France-winning run in the late 2000s (along with all video content, including Cervélo’s hit Tour de France commercials). My creative pattern Joe Finkleman and I reported directly to Gerard, who also shared with me what it’s like to find product market fit as fledgling startup (as makers of the fastest, most innovative and coveted racing bikes at that time). I had the pleasure of watching Gerard and his team build Cervélo into a world-class brand with exponential growth in a few short years (thanks in part to BTP and Joe and my related transmedia strategy and content), until its acquisition by bike conglomerate Pon.

As Vroomen puts it: “Booker with the rest of the crew of BEYOND THE PELOTON…made a small piece of history together with the Cervélo TestTeam. The documentary series was the first of its kind… and fans and riders loved it. Nowadays, many teams have documentary series, but the brilliance of the original has never been matched.” It’s also not lost onin part fans that BTP paved the way for Netflix’s TOUR DE FRANCE: UNCHAINED. During that period, I was approached by a BTP fan at Tesla to create a similar style series about Elon Musk’s mission to revolutionize the auto industry, but had just received financing for my own startup. 

In 2010 I co-founded MaRS-funded music tech startup Legitmix, and put together a team of music industry vanguards like Biz3 co-founder Kathryn Frazier, Sacha Jenkins of ego trip and Mass Appeal, The Turntable Lab, Fools Gold Records, Mad Decent Records and Giant Step, releasing PR projects with Diplo, Pusha T, El-p, Danny Brown, Kon, Dave Nada and DJ Earworm. This is when I developed my passion for lean startup methodology, having led problem space research, user testing, artist onboarding, value proposition messaging and buzz-worthy PR launches covered by Billboard, Pitchfork, Complex, Bloomberg, THE MIT Technology Review, and called one of the “coolest startups in NYC” by Time Out New York. Although we clearly defined a problem space the market was fascinated with, we failed to build a solution with product market fit. 

In 2014 kicked off four years with leading digital studio Jam3, creating innovative content and experiences about innovation for Success Academy, Google ZOO, the CBC, Mozilla and Microsoft, as well as Webby, Canadian Screen Award, D&AD and Cannes Lion-winning interactive documentaries like SONS OF GALLIPOLI, CHANGE GOUT and NUCLEAR DISSENT. Not to mention telling Jam3’s inspiring startup story from BEAR 71 onwards through award submissions and case study videos for a slew of other interactive winners I did not lead, like the NFB’s Bear 71 VR, along with supporting internal and client R&D and production.

Recent related work includes a founder education series for startup incubator MaRS (who co-funded Legitmix), storytelling strategy for Detroit-based cannabis startup Common Citizen, and engineer-led carbon-neutral vodka distillery and DRAGON’S DEN winner Vodkow, founded by my Legitmix co-founder Omid McDonald. Together with leading cultural strategist and mentor DCX.NYC founder Doug Cameron, I’m currently supporting Omid on his initiative to build a $50 million state-of-the-art facility to transform Michigan’s dairy waste into aviation fuel with a fraction of the carbon emissions of conventional fuel, which has caught the attention of the Biden administration.

2023 saw me flex my documentary skills for casting, writing, directing and producing a brand doc series for Superf.ly about Microsoft users in four countries, adding to my extensive user-centric work at Jam3 for Microsoft, where I spent weeks embedded on the Redmond campus amongst product managers and their internal marketing studio.

That same year, I joined fandom startup Biom.studio to provide culture, tech and market research and strategy in support of the company’s founders, two former Jam3 colleagues and the head of digital gaming studio ZeMind, builders of the Biom platform, which provides an elegant solution to web3’s UX/UI problem. I also serve on the advisory board with Jam3 co-founder Mark McQuillan. 

Concurrently with Biom, I provide strategy and production for premier ZeMind client work, like an app for the Unit9-produced launch of Meta’s Quest 3 VR headset with the WALKING DEAD transmedia franchise and a case study trailer that helped human trafficking awareness game IN YOUR SHOES VR clinch a 2024 Canadian Screen Award nomination.

Decades of lived and work experience contributes to my ever-evolving qualitative methodology, in turn informed by constant research for a Seneca Polytechnic class I teach on the theory and practice of transmedia storytelling and documentary co-creation at the nexus of emerging tech like AI and (proto-metaverse) XR. Now in it’s fourth year, I invite industry leaders from my Jam3 days to support my theory with praxis from cutting-edge interactive documentaries we’ve made together and exciting new projects on the horizon. 


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