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Andrew GreensteinFeb 14, 2024 3:23:00 AM3 min read

What I learned about prototyping the future from Adventr CEO and Founder Devo Harris

"We were an AI company before it was cool." Devo Harris has always been a builder and boundary-pusher. I spoke with him on The Next Great Thing podcast, where we discussed his journey from music to tech and his drive to build the future of media at his AI-powered smart video startup, Adventr.  




Devo has built a career being at the forefront of what’s cool. He co-founded G.O.O.D. Music with his cousin, Kanye West, helping launch the careers of Kanye and John Legend. He won a Grammy and produced for stars like Jay-Z and Britney Spears before crossing over into tech. 

At Adventr, Devo enables creators to build interactive, Internet-connected, hyper-personalized videos at scale – across the web, ad networks, even social media. Using the platform’s AI-powered "SmartListen" technology, users can talk to a video and it will react to what you say in real-time. (Videos you can talk to. Seriously.) 

Listen to the episode on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.




One great thing I learned: Prototyping is like a treasure hunt for innovation – you find the gems when you least expect it.

Devo’s entrée into interactive video happened accidentally, with a bit of failure – that sneaky motivator! – sprinkled in. After releasing a music video on YouTube for a song called “Attack of the 5 Foot Hipster” by Riot !n Paris, a band that was signed to him at the time, it soon became clear: the song was a dud. 

“People said the song sucked,” Devo remembers. But when a marketing buddy suggested making a choose-your-own-adventure-style music video instead, Devo was determined to give it a shot. “I said, I don't know what that means, but that sounds cool. We're gonna do it.” 

In a week, he hacked together a crudely interactive experience on YouTube for the same video. And just like that, the song started to suck a lot less. “People said the song was awesome,” Devo recalls. “They started going to our site and downloading it. And the next thing you know, all of these companies started approaching me saying, how do we get that sort of content? How do we make our content more flexible and dynamic like this?”

That’s when the lightbulb switched on. There was value in that crude YouTube prototype. So, Devo pressed on to create the same interactive experience, this time off of YouTube. The goal was to hold the viewer’s attention even longer. But when Devo showed his slightly better prototype to Kanye, he wasn’t impressed. It didn’t feel like the future, he said. (Constructive criticism. Another motivator.) 

"I was like, I'm not coming back until I have the future to show this guy," Devo says. "Now I do. Now I feel like, okay, I have the future." 

Devo’s story underscores that finding your next great thing often starts with…just starting. He saw early that traditional linear video didn’t harness the web’s connectivity and interactivity, but he believed it could – so he got creative and scrappy and built it. There’s still a lot of innovation ahead, but in the next decade, Devo envisions all online videos becoming a flexible, tactile part of the Internet itself, not just static clips riding on top of it.

It’s a fantastic lesson in the value of prototyping. While planning has its place, breakthroughs often flow from unstructured creation. Rather than overanalyzing ideas, give your creative instincts space to play and experiment. Then, keep playing and experimenting. You might end up creating the future. (Need help with that? Let’s talk!)


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Andrew Greenstein

Andrew Greenstein is the CEO and Head of Product at SF AppWorks, an award-winning custom web and mobile design and development agency. He's also the host of The Next Great Thing, a popular technology podcast that explores new digital products and experiences — and conversations with the leaders making them great. For over a decade, Andrew has collaborated with Fortune 500s and startups to design, develop, iterate, and grow custom web, mobile, and software projects that create impact. An expert in lean startup methodology, design thinking, product development, and rapid prototyping, Andrew has partnered with AARP, Humana, West Elm, the Golden Globes, Vanguard, Google, and many others, helping them transform their game-changing ideas from concept to code.