THE STORY OF VERSE ENTERTAINMENT
B. Van Randall’s story; it is the story of Verse. It is the story of the future of stories…
Who is Verse?
Verse Entertainment began its journey in 2016 as Strait City Productions and Strait City Publishing. The company’s name was later changed to Verse Comics USA. In the beginning, the company was primarily focused on developing comic books and graphic novels with celebrity rappers and influencers as the protagonists in each story. To date, Verse has developed six comic book titles with their own expanded universes accompanying them. However, a plethora of other titles have been unproduced and remain as IP for the silver screen and beyond. Hence, Verse Comics has now evolved into Verse Entertainment as an intellectual property development producer for tv, film, podcasts, and games. Verse Entertainment exists to provide free access to comics and visual media and a production and distribution platform for independent creatives. Free, equitable, and widespread content access is the foundation upon which Verse stands. The open-access vision to rich content is a premise grounded by its founder, B. Van Randall. This vision’s foundation has roots in Randall’s early years.
Verse’s Origin Story
The Chief Creative Officer and founder, B. Van Randall, grew up loving Hip Hop and comic books. So, the next evolution was discovering how comics/graphic novels, and music could come together. From that premise, the idea of Verse was born. “Let’s partner with our favorite musicians and celebrity personalities to create content around their celebrity.”
So, let’s go down the rabbit hole with this thought experiment; imagine yourself as a child. You are the world’s biggest comic book fan, yet, you don’t know it yet. With an unassuming disposition, you ask your mom, “Can we please buy this comic book? It looks so cool!” Your mom replies, “You’ve never even read a comic book before, and I can’t afford to buy you one.” You sulk away and take a seat as your mom continues shopping. You know her shopping will take a while, so you sit next to the comic book stand. Filled with curiosity, you sneakily grab a title from the shelf. Without a security wrapping to prevent opening the book, you think, “I could just read it and put it back by the time she’s done shopping!”
Your world explodes; everything you thought you once knew has been shattered, and your life will never be the same. The story grips you to your core. You’re ready to grab that next issue off the shelf and read it, but your mom grabs your arm. “It’s time to go…”
This single day has created two existential problems for you. First, you don’t have access to comic books due to cost. Secondly, you go down the path of writing comics—but you have no way to develop or distribute them. However, you’re left with an epiphany. “I was able to read that comic book for free! All I must do is keep going back, and I can read as many as I want!” That’s B. Van Randall’s story; it is the story of Verse. It is the story of the future of stories…
While the overarching premise of Verse is unique and timely, the current market does offer some challenges. The nascent stages of Verse in the intellectual property market are rife with longer-standing competitors. Verse Entertainment’s direct competitors (from a comic standpoint) are Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, Stranger Comics, and Black Sands Entertainment. All these companies create stories of and by individuals whom the federal government would note as traditionally underrepresented or underserved populations. However, the largest competitors are Marvel and DC Comics—Marvel holds 31.7% of the market share, and DC holds 27.1%. Yet, if one looks to assess Verse’s health against free streaming competitors, the only company that is most correlative is YouTube. Yet, the larger overarching streaming competitors include Alibaba, Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Baidu, Balaji, and Eros. Due to the novelty of Verse’s business plan, Verse’s competitors are an amalgam of the aforementioned. With podcasts in the future for Verse, music streaming services like Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and Anchor also rise as competitors. Given ad-focused free access, Facebook is another loose comparison. Additionally, given the climate of the novel AI technology, artificially generated IP can threaten future Verse developments and endeavors. Speed to market, in conjunction with quality, can disrupt IP-generating companies for the foreseeable future. Ultimately, the number of streaming services with existing franchises serves as the greatest challenge to Verse’s growth—entities with the greatest bandwidth to capitalize upon existing fans with rapidly developing AI technology.
Verse’s Strengths and Opportunities
Despite these challenges, Verse is poised to capitalize upon its unique strengths to bring to market. Verse’s biggest competitor, Marvel Comics, has flourished this century; but what haven’t they done? They haven’t sold many comic books. The real revenue comes from television, film, and merchandising. Yet, their flourishing comes from the IP from comic books that have existed for many decades. Who can compete with that? Verse will compete with that by opening the market to independent creators to release an arsenal of IPs freely. With such a disruptive move, Verse becomes one of the largest repositories of comic stories and other IPs. At this juncture, Verse would become a dominant player in all English-speaking countries. After cultivating success, Verse could expand internationally and offer native content in other languages. The market is ripe for quality content with free access, as YouTube has proven over the last decade. However, no platform exists with free access to stories, and visual IP like Verse is developing—in addition to the social media component of the app allowing fans, celebrity influencers, other creators, and Verse to interact with one another. This component allows unprecedented abilities to directly interact with celebrity talent and obtain the voice of the customer (VOC), while Verse siphons and monetizes portions of their followership. Thus, Verse intends to leverage the consumer influence of celebrity brands to create a marketplace where fans consume original content and interact with their favorite icons in unprecedented ways.
Advice for Other Businesses
The business landscape is experiencing the greatest transformation since the industrial revolution. Artificial intelligence (AI) is invading every aspect of society. With future projections anticipating large swaths of society as unemployed, conversations have begun about universal basic income. Essentially, every business needs to start thinking about how to manage and leverage AI. This is an unavoidable imperative for every person—and every business. Yet, while the future of AI can be daunting and frightening, we can all double down on the most important thing—the strength and well-being of people.
With that being said, businesses must invest in their members and stakeholders. And while hiring and training staff to their best potential may seem paramount, it pales in comparison to treating those individuals to their full humanity. We cannot expect the best from those around us without investing our time and energy into getting to know those people—their hopes, dreams, fears, successes, failures, strengths, and weaknesses. We must know and empathize with them in all of their individuality. With those pieces of knowledge, we can empower people to be the best for themselves and our businesses. And again, AI is looming—but the power of people will forever be the last hill upon which we all surrender our personal lives and that of our businesses. If we aren’t building a legacy for the benefit of people, then what are we doing?
Ultimately, the best thing we can all do is hire good people willing to grow and constantly develop their craft. Concurrently, we must create systems and conditions so people can grow and develop. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day motions of business operations and not set aside time and resources for the development of our people and their ability to collect and pass on institutional knowledge. While building our communities within our business is important, giving back to society is just as important. Our businesses do not exist in a vacuum. And yes, there can be tax advantages to volunteering and helping others. But that should only be a nice cherry on top. You might also say, “Giving back also increases your brand and still benefits you.” That is true; however, if our only metric of success is things we can quantify how much business is coming back to us, then we’ve failed as members of society and humanity.
Do you remember the story of the child reading comic books for free in the store while mom is shopping? Where is our allegiance to that child? Einstein instructed us that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” If we are to usher in the next generation of young people who will change the world for the better, then our businesses should be vehicles and change agents to see that future to full fruition. It is our imperative; it is our responsibility. But, at the end of the day, it is our great honor.
Verse Comics (@julia-daviserseComicsUSA) / Twitter