Collab/Space Chicago 2016: The Business of VR

Focus on media-related VR startups and projects

VR at ISOJ 2015

Virtual Reality has been gaining steam in the media space, from the New York Times giving away Google Cardboards to McDonald’s showing how it sources its food. But how can we get beyond the hype and make sure that these projects — as well as VR-related startups — survive and thrive as a business? That will be the focus of our next Collab/Space Chicago 2016 workshop on September 30, 2016. The workshop is sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and hosted by TechNexus. It will be an all-day, hands-on workshop focused on entrepreneurship. We will choose seven innovative startups or projects at media companies, which will present their work to-date in lightning fashion followed by directed questions from the audience.  We’ll do collaborative exercises — using improv comedy techniques — to learn how to work better together, and break out into groups to help these projects get past their challenges. Our diverse group of participants includes entrepreneurs, journalists, publishers, technologists, designers, marketers, investors and major players in the VR scene.

Thanks to Google News Lab, all attendees will receive free Google Cardboard units, with training at the workshop by Sam Stewart to learn best practices.

Register for the workshop now!

Collab/Space Chicago is a production of MediaShift, with premier sponsorship from the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism and hosted by TechNexus.

Presenting Startups + Projects

BuzzFeed 360 Video
CNN’s Courageous
InContext Solutions
Nvelop Media
Snips Media

To learn more about the presenting startups and projects, go here.

Key Speakers

Ryan Pulliam headshot
Ryan Pulliam is the co-founder and CMO of Specular Theory, a Venice, Calif.-based award winning studio that creates virtual reality content and develops immersive technologies to drive the next generation of storytelling. She brings extensive agency and client-side experience in digital marketing and brand strategy. In her role at Specular Theory, she focuses on marketing, business development, and building relationships based on a deep understanding of needs and technology. Ryan is a member of The CLUB Silicon Valley — an incubator of women leaders — and a published expert in the “Seven Pearls of Financial Wisdom,” which was named Top Business Book in 2012 by The Library Journal. She has been a speaker on a number of industry panels, including Further Future, TEDx, Singularity University and CES. In 2016, Specular Theory returned to Sundance for the second year in a row this year with “Perspective, Chapter 2: The Misdemeanor,” which also screened at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. Their recent work includes an eight episode 360 series for YouTube creator MatPat that invites fans to immerse themselves in the real-world environments of eight hit videogames. Follow her on Twitter @DigitalMediaPR.

samaruddin_stewart headshot

Samaruddin Stewart works as part of the Google News Lab / SPJ Trainer Network which aims at empowering journalists across the country in utilizing Google tools in research, reporting, and immersive storytelling. Prior to his work with the Trainer Network, Samaruddin was a recipient of a 2015 Knight Foundation Prototype grant focusing on image verification of user generated content. He was also selected as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University in 2013 and the 189th Franklin Fellow with the U.S. Department of State. His prior roles include senior managing and visual editing roles at AOL News, Agence France-Presse, and the Arizona Republic. Follow him on Twitter @SamSends.


Andy Boyle is a full-stack web developer for NBC News Digital Group’s Previously, he worked at the Boston Globe, St. Petersburg Times and the New York Times Regional Media Group, where his work was cited in the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. Most recently, Boyle was a news applications developer for the Chicago Tribune, where he built projects for the 2012 and 2014 elections, built tools for user-generated content, created new ways of tracking shootings and crime in the greater Chicagoland area and crafted other data visualizations. He also regularly writes and tells jokes throughout the greater Midwest. Boyle was a runner-up in the Chicago satellite round of the Great American Comedy Festival, and was a featured comedian in the Orlando Indie Comedy Festival. You can follow him on Twitter at @andymboyle.

Mark Glaser Collab Headshot

Mark Glaser is founder and executive editor of MediaShift. He is a longtime freelance journalist whose career includes columns on hip-hop, reviews of videogames, travel stories, and humor columns that poked fun at the titans of technology. Glaser won the Innovation Journalism Award in 2010 from the Stanford Center for Innovation and Communication. Glaser has been a guest on PBS’ “Newshour,” NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” KALW’s “Media Roundtable” and has been a speaker and moderator at many industry conferences. He has been running events for MediaShift and acting as the MC since 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.


Reynolds Journalism Institute

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute works with citizens, journalists and researchers to strengthen democracy through better journalism. RJI seeks out the most exciting new ideas, tests them with real-world experiments, uses social science research to assess their effectiveness and delivers solutions that citizens and journalists can put to use in their own communities. Learn more here.

If you’re interested in sponsoring the event, get in touch with Mark Glaser at mark [at] mediashift [dot] org.

Improv exercise at the last Collab/Space Chicago in 2014

Improv exercise at the last Collab/Space Chicago in 2014

How It Will Work

VR-related startups and projects in Chicago and beyond will apply to present, and we will choose 8 innovation projects at various stages of development, who will do presentations to the group and answer questions. The group will help identify their 3 biggest challenges, whether that’s financial, technological, marketing, distribution or some other major challenge. Later in the day, we’ll divide into breakout groups around each startup or project and develop solutions for their challenges. Solutions will be shared with the full group at the conclusion of the day.

The goal will be to collaborate to help those projects succeed in the long run, creating interest groups for them on the spot (and afterwards), while also networking between the tech and media communities.  We’ll end the day with a mixer which is open to the community, to encourage further discussion and networking.


Early Bird Registration costs $99 for professionals and $59 for students, and includes a light breakfast, box lunch and drinks and appetizers at our mixer afterwards. Deadline for Early Bird Registration is August 22, 2016. Thereafter, registration will cost $129 for professionals and $79 for students.

Please go to this Eventbrite page to register now!


You’ll get to hear from media innovators, and work with them on teams, too!  Also, we expect key people to attend from local media organizations, journalism and communication schools, investment firms and other people active in the entrepreneurial and media scenes.


Friday, September 30, 2016
9 am to 5 pm for the workshop
5:30 pm to 7:30 pm for the mixer

technexus logo grab


Location: TechNexus, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 1200  |  Chicago, IL 60606
Google Map for the location

TechNexus Venture Collaborative bridges the gap between the global entrepreneurial ecosystem and leading corporations, catalyzing meaningful engagement between the two. Blending elements of venture incubation, capital, and corporate innovation, TechNexus invests in venture growth in collaboration with closely aligned corporate partners. Over 400 ventures have grown with TechNexus to date, and it operates a global network through which it sources, filters, and engages venture activity. More information is available here.


See the final agenda here!

> Targeted talks on collaboration and media innovation in VR.

> Selected media startups and projects present their work and list their challenges.

> Networking lunch

> Break out into teams for improv exercise

> Work collaboratively to help solve challenges for the projects, and present that to the group.

And a Mixer Too!

After the workshop we’ll invite the public to join us for a MediaShift Mixer with drinks and snacks at MakeOffices in The Loop about 6 blocks from TechNexus, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. It will be a chance to share with we’ve learned with friends and colleagues.

1 North State St.
Suite 1500
Chicago, IL 60602
Google Map location

Top image of VR demonstration at ISOJ 2015 from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, under Creative Commons license.

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