The Future Is Now: Nikki Shum-Harden Of Subspace On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Working at an agency can be fun, and it provides a great starting point for a marketing career. But, make your exit before all your experience is agency-based because it will be hard to transition after more than 5–7 years. I found this to be true when I was in the job market after a decade at one agency with 12 years in the agency-side overall. I’ve also been passed this advice from other agency veterans as well.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Shum-Harden.
Nikki is a strategic marketing executive with nearly 20 years of experience in technology, media, entertainment, gaming, and digital marketing. Nikki currently serves as the Vice President of Marketing for Subspace, the world’s fastest, most secure, real-time optimized network. As the first marketing hire at the company, she has been instrumental in brand evolution, overall company growth, and the development of each marketing function. Her proven background as a cross-disciplinary leader creating, managing, and integrating teams across multiple business functions has led her in her success working with and driving results for a wide variety of iconic brands including The Walt Disney Company, Nike, Microsoft, Samsung, Netflix, ESPN, Under Armour, Bud Light, Budweiser, GoPro and Ubisoft. Nikki has a BA from UCLA in Sociology with a certificate in New Media Management from USC. In her free time, she’s an avid golfer, wannabe foodie, and Peloton enthusiast, all while being a mother to her two daughters Vivienne and Rosalie.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Growing up, my inspiration came from my father who is a serial entrepreneur and an electrical engineer. He took his first company, a VOIP startup, public in the mid-90s, sold his next company to Pioneer and won Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. Because of his tenacity, I grew up with a startup mentality and a passion for technical innovation. When I joined my first tech startup, he was beyond proud and excited for me and I couldn’t wait to keep exploring a career in this industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was part of the core team at Super League Gaming that helped build and lead it to go public in 2019 which was a huge career moment for me. This was my first startup, and one of the big goals for many startups is an “exit” like an IPO. We went from a lesser-known startup with experiences for a few game titles, to the first esports company to go public. From all the publicity, along with the scrutiny of the public eye, that comes with an IPO to the addition of new titles, experiences, venues, and partners, it was an unforgettable experience. I learned that going public has its advantages and its disadvantages.
Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
At Subspace, we are creating a new internet. Literally. This includes all 7 layers of the open systems interconnection (OSI), hardware and software. The new internet is focused on prioritizing dynamic, real-time traffic which is a breakthrough from the outdated version we currently use. This innovative technology has an immediate impact on the way we communicate today in our video calls and multiplayer online games, but it also paves the way for truly interactive, digital experiences like the metaverse.
How do you think this might change the world?
Without an internet built for real-time, we can never have truly real-time experiences like what virtual reality is trying to emulate. When you experience jitter, lag, and packet loss which manifests as dropped calls, gaps in voice/video feeds and slow connectivity, you’re not interacting in real-time. There are many delays which make it such that virtual experiences can’t be seamless, and therefore, can’t feel real. But, with Subspace, connections happen securely, stably, and at the speed of light so the world can communicate faster and realistically in a virtual space. When this happens, anything is possible and autonomous driving, remote surgery and the metaverse are just the beginning, becoming truly achievable.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
The main problem we face in this technology is access. Right now, it is cost prohibitive for an end user to get on Subspace. We work in the B2B space with massive companies who can afford to use our infrastructure. Eventually, this will also be a problem with individuals, as some people can afford better internet than others creating a gap in access to experiences — both critical and not. And in the future, when we do move into the metaverse, we have to establish appropriate social behavior and ethics. We already are seeing this as a major problem in video gaming. This issue will only be amplified tenfold when our entire world is essentially evolving inside a video game.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
The global pandemic accelerated the need for Subspace. Suddenly, everyone was meeting virtually, and the internet was taxed. This made us realize the time for Subspace is now.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
The number one piece we need from people, companies and end users is acknowledgement that the current internet is not suitable for the way we communicate and interact today. Subspace is creating a new market and in order to demonstrate our solution, we first need the world to understand the problem.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
Unfortunately, we are not allowed to disclose that we work with our game company customers because of strict NDAs. But, we know that game companies are influenced by what the gamers say. So, we’ve leveraged influencers to create video content and take to social media, complaining about lag and asking for Subspace. This took off in the Middle East, where gamers there have become and are huge fans of the company. We have also partnered with prospective customers to run their traffic on Subspace, as a means of showing, “the proof is in the pudding.” For example, the live stream for Avaya’s ENGAGE conference (https://avaya-engage.avaya.com/avaya-engage-2021) was executed by us and provided the evidence needed to back up our claims. We also spearheaded the initiative to create a Metaverse Advisory Board that’s in partnership with VentureBeat. Participants have included Epic Games CEO, Tim Sweeney and NVIDIA CEO, Jensen Huang.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Instead of just one individual, I’m grateful for a group — my content marketing agency, Foundation Inc. I came from the agency space, so I have a critical eye when it comes to agency partners, and Foundation Inc has exceeded my expectations time and time again. The company has been with Subspace since we had a budget of around $5K a month all the way to our significantly higher spend now. They have completely immersed themselves and truly became part of the Subspace team. I’ll never forget when their VP of Operations, Melissa Hughes, once gave me such critical feedback that I’m forever grateful for. It was a bit shocking at first, given that I’m her client, but I learned and grew greatly from it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As a result of bringing more connectivity to the Middle East, which has large geographic areas of desert sans internet, we were able to enable completely new esports teams to participate in a massive, high-level tournament for the first time ever. This is just one of many examples of what bringing greater access to the world can do.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Ask for a company’s mission, vision and values before you join. If they don’t have them, it’s a red flag. You should feel passionate and aligned, especially if it’s an early stage startup, because the ride is going to be bumpy.
- Decide if you’re a pre- or post-product-market fit (PMF) marketer, then find out which stage your company is in. Your experience and required skill set is going to be vastly different depending on whether the company has achieved PMF or not.
- Link in (LinkedIn) with everyone you meet. Assistants, customers, agencies, friends and family. You never know where people will go, what they will do or how your paths may or need to cross. I’ve leapt from job to job all from connections in my network.
- Working at an agency can be fun, and it provides a great starting point for a marketing career. But, make your exit before all your experience is agency-based because it will be hard to transition after more than 5–7 years. I found this to be true when I was in the job market after a decade at one agency with 12 years in the agency-side overall. I’ve also been passed this advice from other agency veterans as well.
- Experience with sales/selling is useful no matter what specialty you choose in the long-term. Learning how to pitch based on the audience has applications to personal life and all job functions. Then, you can pitch yourself in job interviews, pitch an idea internally, pitch an opportunity to a customer — or even pitch an alternative solution to your family, partner or toddler.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d hands down say the movement I hope to see adopted is supporting employees who are parents in the workplace. As evidenced by the sharp decrease of mothers in the workforce during COVID-19, companies do not amply support parents to be effective in raising their children while working. A solution to this is to allow families to disclose their family planning with their employers and feel like their employers are an active, helpful part of making their home lives positive. Additionally, governments should give companies resources to keep their businesses thriving if their employees choose to have a family. Children are our future, as Whitney Houston said, and what better way to engender positivity in humankind than to empower parents to raise their children to be good people?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The quote is, “dress for the job you want to have, not the one you already have” but I don’t take it literally. While I believe the quote is speaking about appearances and clothing, I think it applies to aiming higher, providing more value and acting the part. I’ve been promoted every two years and given more access and exposure because I acted for the part I wanted to have before it was given to me.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I’m a Swiss army knife and a chameleon. I know a little bit about a lot of things, adapt to situations and figure things out quickly. From new media to esports to the metaverse, I have a history of learning the new-new; bringing opportunities to market and then accelerating significant growth. All of these are traits I consider to be critical in a high-growth environment, and yet very hard to capture in bullets on a resume.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
The Future Is Now: Nikki Shum-Harden Of Subspace On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.