CEO Wants to See More Women in Tech and Engineering
VNTANA’s Ashley Crowder shows that it’s possible for women to be leaders in the tech world
VAN NUYS, Calif. – In the business of mixed reality, interacting with holograms is just another day at the office.
“They can actually design a ring, upload it to our software platform, and it automatically creates a 3-D version that they can push to one of these displays,” said Ashley Crowder, who pointed at a hologram of a ring created for the jewelry company Shah.
Crowder is the CEO and co-founder of VNTANA, a Van Nuys-based company that launched in 2012 and engineers hardware and software for mixed reality platforms.
Crowder is one of a growing number of women making a name for herself in the tech world.
Ever since she was a kid, she wanted to start her own business.
“I was like five and selling granola bars on the bike trail, constantly,” Crowder said.
Her journey started at USC, where she studied engineering more than a decade ago.
“When I graduated the engineering program was 18 percent women, this past year the freshman year class was 45 percent women,” said Crowder.
She says VNTANA plays a strong role in the industry.
“No one had the 3-D assets needed for hologram AR/VR. They were going to CGI companies and paying thousands of dollars to build these from scratch,” she said.
The company sets up hologram projects for all kinds of corporate functions, conferences, and brand events. Fans can interact with movie characters and celebrities who look like they’re right there.
Then, there’s the marketing aspect, while people are having fun with the holograms, their clients are getting valuable information about the person’s reaction and feelings.
“So clients, like Lexus…know you’re happier looking at a blue car than a red car,” Crowder explained.
In 2018, VNTANA was named one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. by INC Magazine.
“When I discovered the mixed reality/AR/VR industry, I was like, ‘Wow, this combines my love of technology and art and creative side,'” Crowder said.
She wants other young women to know there’s more to engineering than aerospace and oil.
“It doesn’t just have to be that masculine, I’m building a fighter jet,” said Crowder.
And though she hasn’t faced as much adversity as some, her advice…keep fighting.
“I think every founder hears lots of no’s, you know? In the beginning, you’re so excited about this idea and it’s finding those people who believe in your vision,” Crowder said.
She’s proud of what she’s built so far with just 13 full-time employees and is poised to continue shaping this rapidly-growing industry.
“What really motivates me is getting to be one more example of another woman CEO,” Crowder said.“What really motivates me is getting to be one more example of another woman CEO,” Crowder said.
It’s an idea that once seemed out of touch…now a reality.
“At the end of the day, kids want to see something that’s cool and if I can show them a hologram of Kobe Bryant, and [say], computer science allowed this to happen, hopefully that inspires a few more.”
You can find some of VNTANA’s holograms at the Linq Casino in Las Vegas, Two Bit Circus in Los Angeles and the Grammy Museum downtown.
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