How Did She Do It? A Q&A with Oksana Sokolovsky, Cofounder & CEO of ROAR Augmented Reality
By Janet DeFrino, Managing Director of Golden Seeds and deal lead for ROAR Augmented RealityFebruary 11, 2021
Passion is everything to Oksana Sokolovsky, who left a successful Wall Street career to pursue a dream: creating a platform that bridges the physical and digital worlds. She realized her dream as the cofounder of ROAR Augmented Reality, a company that enables individuals, brands and businesses to monetize their own passions by creating immersive augmented reality (AR) experiences. Oksana is about to launch the newest iteration of her software-as-a-service product, PerformLive, which brings together live streaming, augmented reality and commerce in a single, unified marketplace that now serves more than 50,000 clients.
Oksana recently told Golden Seeds Managing Director and deal lead Janet DeFrino how she realized her vision of enabling the passion economy, how her business has evolved and where she sees it going. Her story offers inspiration for other entrepreneurs pursuing their own dreams.
JD: Tell us about the origins of your company.
OS: Prior to starting my entrepreneurial journey, I led technology initiatives on Wall Street. I left because I wanted to create something innovative to merge physical and digital reality. In 2015, I cofounded an incubator that spun off several successful products. One of those products was ROAR.
ROAR started as a platform to augment the physical world with digital content viewed through the lens of a user’s device. Over the past year that has evolved into PerformLive, which helps individuals, brands and companies monetize their audience and give their followers an interactive live experience.
JD: What market need are you solving, and how is your approach different from how others have addressed this need?
OS: We realized there was no end-to-end experience for people who wanted to reach a global audience and monetize their talent or product. They can attract tons of followers on social media, but it’s hard to make money when you’re limited to fractional income from thousands of likes. There was no single platform for both talent and product, or for streaming and commerce, that provided low commission income.
PerformLive brings together the gig and passion economy in one place, combining live shopping, live content, AR, commerce and social communities. Users can shop and try things on — for example, see how a watch looks on their wrist, play with makeup or place a physical item in their room. They may have live interactions, then complete a transaction all in the same live stream. PerformLive is a low commision and ad-free, so the person who is live streaming retains most of the earnings.
JD: What challenges have you encountered along the way? How have you overcome them?
OS: For any startup, getting significant traction is a challenge. It’s also a challenge to position yourself as a reputable brand in an industry where everything is touched by big tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. What if they try to do the same thing? They can certainly build the same technology, but you must not let that scare you from building your own. You need to differentiate yourself and protect your intellectual property, believe in your vision and be driven by passion. Approach challenges as opportunities to learn. For example, when COVID-19 hit, it impacted our initial use case, so we accelerated our product vision and introduced features we’d planned to add much later on. The result is PerformLive.
JD: What’s coming up next for your company? What big milestones are on the horizon?
OS: On February 15, 2021, we are launching PerformLive, the evolution of ROAR. We are going to beta test it with 100 or so customers, then scale it for viral growth over the next 12 months. Those interested in trying the platform can join our exclusive waitlist here.
JD: What advice do you have for early-stage founders?
OS: Listen to feedback from customers, markets and investors, but stay true to your beliefs, and iterate and pivot if you have to. Stay lean and mean as a company — move fast, but keep expenses as modest as possible. Don’t give up even if it gets hard. Focus on traction and key performance indicators. You can’t be shy — instead, be bold and passionate. Passion is everything to me.
JD: Tell us about your experience with Golden Seeds. How has the Golden Seeds network been helpful to you?
OS: Our experience with Golden Seeds has been incredible. We get so much support, personalized attention and advice that it feels like we’re working with family and friends who want to support us. This was our first official fundraise, and I’m happy Golden Seeds is our lead investor. We learned a lot from them. We iterated our pitch, strengthened our financial model, made great connections and gotten better along the way. The Golden Seeds network of women supporting women just blew me away.
For more wisdom like this from other incredible female leaders, read more on Golden Seeds’ blog.