IRL Founder Friday

Integrated Reality Labs | Childhood Fun with a Digital Twist

Team: Sean Nissenbaum (Stern ’25), Lauren Steidl, Ian Andolsek, Marc Ilgen, Scott Nissenbaum

About the Venture: Integrated Reality (IR) tools and games that enhance play and human connection in the real world.

Q: What problem does Integrated Reality Labs (IRL) aim to solve?

An extended reality platform for in-person games that allows anyone with a smartphone to play popular games together in the real world, utilizing a patent pending sensor fusion platform. Our first product, SLAP, is a mobile app that makes it easier to play classic real life games like Assassin, anytime, anywhere.

Q: How did the team come together?

Several years ago, Sean Nissenbuam, our Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer, imagined an app that could make games like Assassin, a popular large-scale tag game that Sean and his friends played in school, easier to organize and more fun to play. He conducted early user research to see if other people felt the same way, and this research showed that other real life game players are hungry for this solution as well. He put his coding skills to work to build a prototype and, as he started his freshman year at NYU Stern School of Business, he and his father, Scott Nissenbaum, recruited a founding team to turn this vision into a reality. Scott Nissenbaum, our Co-Founder and Chairman, runs Ben Franklin Technology Partners, one of the most active seed-stage VCs in the country. Sean and Scott shared the vision with Ian Andolsek, who was at the time running MyClimb (exited 2023) as Co-Founding COO, and who in turn pulled on Lauren Steidl, who as at the time leading the marketing, communications, and investor relations function as one of the first hires at MedRhythms, a best-in-industry digital therapeutics company. Ian & Lauren were best friends in high school and after college quickly rose into leadership roles at successful startups building social fitness mobile apps and sensor platforms to get people moving in the real world — Lauren & Ian were eager to apply their experience in social fitness, gamified mobile apps, and sensor fusion to make Integrated Reality Labs successful.

Knowing that our engineering team needed a leader with expertise in both mobile development and sensor fusion, we brought on Dr. Marc Ilgen as CTO – Marc is quite literally a rocket scientist with a PhD in engineering. Not to mention a technology entrepreneur who had already founded and run a successful mobile game studio…

Q: What sets IRL apart from what’s on the market right now?

Our differentiator is our patent-pending Integrated Reality Technology Platform (IRTP) — the IRTP leverages geolocation, Bluetooth, and device sensors to create low latency large-scale multiplayer games that are played in the real world, starting with SLAP. Over time, our tech will support a broader ecosystem – inspired by platforms like Roblox – where creators can build, share and monetize their own real-life games with a global player and creator community.

Q: What motivated you to apply to the NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge?

The NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge introduces founders to an incredible network of other founders and mentors who we are eager to connect with through the accelerator component of the challenge. Our coaches have been providing us with excellent advice and feedback already, which is exactly what we were hoping for as we entered this program!

Q: What has been the biggest turning point for you in your startup journey?

There were two big turning points that cemented our decision to focus on classic real life games as our first market. The first was learning that there are over 130 million people every year who play tech-assisted classic real life games like Assassin and Humans vs. Zombies, demonstrating that this is a huge business opportunity. This showed us that this is a massive global phenomenon, and our research revealed that players would play these games even more frequently and with more people if the matches were easier to organize.

The second turning point came during early research into the competitive landscape for classic real life games. We found that Zone Hunt, an app for extreme hide & seek that has become popular in Europe, was able to get 400k downloads in 12 months, and quickly generate 5 figure revenue, through viral TikTok content, with a $0 marketing budget. This served as an excellent proof point to show that there is a huge business opportunity in the classic real life games space — and we are excited to share that we are acquiring Zone Hunt, and all of its social media & web properties! We will use this TikTok account, which has over 13k followers and millions of views, as a key user acquisition channel as we ramp up growth for SLAP.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced n building IRL, and how have you overcome them?

Creating a low-latency proximity based play & touch-free tag mechanic was not easy! We’ve been able to do this because we have a CTO with the technical acumen necessary to build the IRTP, and because we’ve been diligent about testing this product constantly through every stage of development in the real world, with real users…

This technology was developed by our co-founder, Dr. Marc Ilgen, who is an expert engineer with decades of software development experience and a history of building sensor fusion systems. Bringing a talented Co-Founding CTO onto the team helped us overcome the technical challenges we faced with building this product, and testing each new release of the product with many people under a variety of conditions has helped us surface bugs and critical issues that our team can address.

Q: Are there any recent milestones you are most proud of? How did you reach them?

We are currently working toward closing our seed round, which will unlock the ability to make key hires and fund the company through our beta. We’ve been focusing on telling a clear story about our journey and vision for the company, and we’ve been listening to feedback we hear from the investors we pitch and our Board of Advisors to hone our presentation and improve the storytelling.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those just starting out?

The best thing you can do is build a top-notch Board of Advisors! Our advisors have helped us tremendously by providing feedback and advice on our roadmap, making introductions, pointing out our blindspots, and supporting our team in general. Surrounding yourself with the best and brightest individuals in your industry is the best way to learn and avoid pitfalls.

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