This month, we were lucky enough to catch up with a man who has developed an ingenious shower thought into a business with limitless potential. Chris Newlands, from Glasgow, is the CEO and founder of Spelfie, which means ‘space selfie’. Ironically, as the CEO of a space company, Chris suffers from motion sickness, which is almost like the owner of an ice cream parlour being lactose intolerant! But thanks to modern technology, Chris can run Spelfie 100% from the safety of Earth.
The beauty of Spelfie is that you can experience Earth from space, with your feet firmly planted on the ground. This weird and wonderful business model is going to change the way we engage with space, forever...
So, what is Spelfie?
To put it simply, it’s the ‘use of earth observation satellites to engage with humans from space’. It’s currently used as a marketing tool for events. Attendees at events being covered by Spelfie are able to take a selfie at the exact time that a satellite will capture an image of them at the event, from space. The Spelfie’s are then shared on social media as experiential content.
"They did say if it hadn’t happened, you’d be in the top four or five!"
How does it work?
Spelfie is offered to events as a completely unique technology, to give them extra coverage and brand exposure. Chris then details that ‘we task the satellites to be available at the time that it passes over…we then create a countdown from that point forth to when the satellite will pass over that particular event on that particular day, building anticipation for the attendees’
‘5 minutes before, a minute before, 30 seconds before, 3…2…1, take your selfie, as the satellite passes over. We then use GPS, associated with your phone, to identify you in the crowd and we put a pin above your head so that you’re in the actual satellite image that is taken in real-time from space at that moment. We then have to download that image from space… we then send a mash-up of your selfie, with your location and the satellite image to the consumer, who then shares that image on social platforms to say ‘I’m here.'
How to take a Spelfie
Unfortunately, Spelfie’s aren’t currently something you can take at your friend’s birthday party or on your prom night. Chris explained to us that new technology is like a prototype. Because you’re only producing a few, each one is super expensive but once scaled up they can become really cheap.
‘With time you’ll be in a position where you can take a Spelfie for free at any time. Just not yet. That may take three to five years from now. That’s how fast technology changes.’
So, for now, to get the opportunity to take a Spelfie like many Broadway stars, singers and TV stars have already done, you would have to attend an event being covered by Spelfie. But you may not have to be physically at the event anymore.
Chris was keen to add that one bonus that has come from the pandemic is that they have made it possible to show support for an event from home, by taking a Spelfie: ‘let’s imagine there was a big climate event happening this year sometime. There’s the potential to show your support remotely, as it could be something you’d want to participate in because we need to change. So, the ability to put your face alongside an event that’s changing the planet could be something that would be very, very positive.’
Spelfie as a business
As with all businesses in 2020/21, Spelfie has felt the effects of COVID, but that hasn’t stopped them from working hard and earning their position as number 17 on the TechRound 100! Chris said he was ‘pleasantly surprised’ to be recognised alongside big names like TikTok, Peloton and Joe Wicks. But that didn’t take away from his boundless ambition, ‘Actually, we would have been much higher had COVID not hit us. They did say if it hadn’t happened, you’d be in the top four or five!’
Aside from COVID setbacks and global recognition, there have been some other challenges and achievements that Spelfie have faced and reaped in.
Chris and his team have found that the path to finding Spelfie’s place in society has been a real challenge. ‘The biggest challenge is interpreting what millions of people will do with it. You might lay a path out in perfect right angles, but very often people will take a shortcut across the path. It’s just trying to second guess that’.
Luckily though, with the challenges come great rewards. Chris had nothing but praise for his team and investors who have helped the business survive (and thrive) in the pandemic. But his biggest achievement so far has been capturing the inauguration in the States from space. ‘That was a super test for us and a great example because it was kind of a social distance event on the back of that political unrest at the time’.
It’s also really exciting to hear that Spelfie are already in the top 10% of all app downloads in history, after just two events. You can already see where this is heading, right?
The future of Spelfie
While talking to Chris, we were getting more and more excited about the future of Spelfie and wanted to get some insight on where he could see it heading. His responses were suspiciously secretive but hinted toward the fact that something very big and exciting was coming very soon...
He claims that there will be something that will be announced later this year and it will ‘transform every single sector in the world and create some really amazing societal benefits, as well as some financial benefits for all parties that use that data going forward.'
"With time you’ll be in a position where you can take a Spelfie for free at any time"
We’re just as intrigued as you are, but he did promise to keep us in the loop, so stay tuned! But we couldn’t let him go without probing for some more information. The most we could get from him before the announcement goes public is that they are ‘going to set some guidelines and I’m going to talk about how we can influence the biggest brands on the planet [to be more accountable in terms of their climate impact]’.
He also hinted that the announcement is to do with a patent that they have just secured, which gives them the exclusive ability to engage with mankind from space using Earth observation satellites.
What we took from this is that we really need to be keeping an eye on Spelfie and the future role they are hoping to play in combating climate change.
In the meantime, make sure you follow Spelfie on social media to keep up to date with their events and announcements: