The multimedia and events market is fast and ever changing. Agencies are required to constantly adapt, either by expanding their portfolio, or by entering into new territories that still offer a significant chance to grow. But what does it mean to tap into a different culture? How do you make an impact in a market that doesn’t know you and maybe isn’t familiar with what you have to offer? These were the questions that Czech agency Xlab had to face when they decided to venture outside of Europe a few years ago.
The first steps onto other continents came quite organically, said Lukáš Koberna, CEO at Xlab: “Our first experiences abroad came through customers who we worked with in the Czech Republic but who then wanted to take our services on the road – global music tours, roadshows and the like. This allowed us to get an idea about how other territories operate. Wherever we went, it seemed that partners and audiences were impressed by our work. This gave us the necessary boost to try and go global.”
As a respected multimedia agency with their headquarters in Prague, Xlab enjoyed a good reputation in the Central European area as experts for real-time stage graphics, corporate presentations and projection mapping. They adopted Ventuz into their workflow in 2006 and still use it for most of their projects. “In Europe, Ventuz has definitely given us an advantage compared to our competitors”, said Lukáš. “We were eager to find out whether this would be true for the rest of the world as well.”
The decision was taken three years ago, when Jindrich Trapl, who shares the CEO-position with Lukáš and founded Xlab, vacationed in New York. He remembers: “I loved the city and immediately thought about what I could do to spend more time there. Ventuz Technology had also recently opened an office in New York, which gave me the confidence that we might not have to start from scratch. So, I called Lukáš, and in our usual fashion we took about ten minutes to make our decision.”
Indeed, the fact that the US market was just starting out with Ventuz turned out to be a real advantage for Xlab. “Our first assignments came through other agencies who needed support with Ventuz”, said Lukáš. “We did a lot of training and programming work – a good chance to network and learn about the players and characteristics of the new market.” In fact, these assignments included projects for a national sports league and a few Fortune 500 companies.
But in order to build a strong customer base, some marketing work is required. The Xlab team decided to focus its attention on production companies instead of end customers. With a solid Google campaign and lots of canvassing, they quickly gathered many valuable contacts. “Nonetheless it took a while until we could actually acquire projects”, said Lukáš. “US clients are very loyal to their suppliers, much more so than in Europe. When they have a partner they trust, it is hard to convince them to try something new, even though we might have a wider range of services to offer.”
But in the end, Xlab’s solid portfolio proved to be convincing, especially in the field of corporate presentations. Making up about 20% of the company’s gross revenue by now, the team was able to equip stages in Chicago, Anaheim, Phoenix and other cities with stunning Ventuz-powered graphics. One presentation even featured former president Bill Clinton as speaker. “US production houses are magnificent show makers, and they love the versatility that we can provide due to Ventuz”, explained Lukáš. “Everything comes out of one box, and the quality of the graphics is oftentimes higher than what they are used to. Real-time in itself – the on-the-fly changes, the speed of production, and the extensive connectivity – are a gamechanger for our new clients here. We are happy that we can help them bring their productions to the next level.”
But America is not the end of the journey for Xlab, it is merely the beginning. “We are currently thinking about expanding into the Middle East”, said Jindrich. “Our goal is to maintain our back office here in Prague with our amazing staff, and establish smaller offices in different locations across the globe where we slowly hire new talent.” For Lukáš, this means a lot of traveling in the near future. “I recently filled out my paperwork for the US business visa, and I had to list all the countries that I had travelled during the last two years. It ended up being 42. I’d say I’ve seen a fair share of this planet.”