By Sharon Fisher | July 26, 2022
You may not know it, but you’ve probably seen Silverdraft’s work.
The Boise-based – well, for now, but more on that later – company makes hardware and software used for virtual production, such as virtual and augmented reality (known individually as VR and AR, and collectively as XR). Silverdraft’s work has been used by Madonna on the broadcast of the Billboard Music Awards, as well as by CBS Sports, National Football League games, and March Madness.
“Pretty much any of the XR broadcasts you see, whether it’s for live or broadcast, is driven by Silverdraft,” said Amy Gile, cofounder and CEO. “Facebook has put a name on it as ‘the metaverse,’ but that’s the space we’ve always been. Not just seeing photorealistic data in a virtual environment, but how do we manipulate it, make changes, adjustments, design and learn within that space.”
And the company, founded more than a decade ago, has a lot of news to share.
Silverdraft – currently located in a former Boise surplus store, notable for also housing Timber and Love, the company owned by the guys who put on the Boise Boys show on HGTV – is moving.
“We’re actually shifting to Garden City,” Gile said. “We found a great home that is being renovated now.” She had hoped the move would take place by the end of August but it’s looking more like October-November due to supply chain issues and the difficulty of permitting, she said.
The company needed more space because more of its customers were interested in coming to Boise, whereas previously they visited Silverdraft at an office it maintained in Los Angeles at the Jim Henson Company.
“One of the shifts that’s really happened, which started to happen pre-COVID, was that they wanted to visit us here in our headquarters,” Gile said. “Major clients come from all over the world to Boise to see us. People are hearing more about Idaho, and they want to understand, why are we here?”
That extends beyond Silverdraft itself. “It’s important, as clients come to town, to share with Idaho and other technology companies and people in this community,” Gile said. “So much of technology is about collaboration.”
So when major clients come to town, Gile reaches out to people like the Idaho Technology Council’s Jay Larsen to have fireside chats with them, which lets other Idaho companies learn about different areas of technology and how to build and design products from other companies that are building and designing technology. She wanted the new location to support more of that kind of event. “It’s an important piece of Silverdraft for the Idaho community that I want to build out,” she said.
Consequently, Gile was looking for more space, as well as more power capacity, as well as a space it could show off. “We wanted to make sure that we have not only incredible engineering and R&D in our build space, but our office headquarters and our demo space,” she said.
The new space is on 43rd St. toward the fairgrounds, and close to Curtis. While she looked for and was unable to find property to purchase, she said she was able to rent this space “for long-, long-term,” she said. “It had the space, the footprint we needed, and is still close to downtown,” she said. “We wanted to be close to downtown so as clients came to town, they could experience downtown Boise.”
And the new space has another benefit it shares with the existing space. “With our current office, we could take them fly fishing at the river,” Gile said. “We’re only a couple of blocks from it at our new space.”
Silverdraft still sells its hardware directly and is building out its reseller network, as well as opening an office in Belgium. “Virtual production is a huge push for us, and an area we are really expanding in,” Gile said. “We’ve proved out our technology and it’s very far ahead of the curve.” The company also works directly with many of its clients, even if the sales are through a reseller, to ensure that its workflow is intact, she added.
In addition, the company is consulting with some of its clients. “We’re architecting what these solutions are for our clients, beyond just hardware,” Giles said.
Later this year, Silverdraft is planning to expand its reach further by offering “hardware as a service” for its clients, with an on-premises/off-premises strategy plan. To be called Silverburst, it is intended to offer clients a blend between what’s in the cloud and what’s on-premises, she said.
The company has also expanded beyond its previous client base of media/entertainment and auto manufacturing, building out partnerships with clients in other verticals, such as aerospace and defense as well, Gile said. “I was surprised when I looked back at 2021,” she said. “I hadn’t realized how much we grew in that space.”
That said, the company is still small, though it does plan to scale and expand this year, hiring on the order of five to 10 new employees.
“We had to be really careful last year and this year, because they were huge growth years,” Gile said. “We were very careful about how we handle that load and how quickly we scale. What do we truly need to take advantage of opportunities, and what do we need from the team to do that? Let’s really look at what is needed, and design and lay out how we’re going to scale so scaling doesn’t hurt us.”
Consequently, Silverdraft has a very tight-knit team, Gile said. “They’re scrappy, wear a lot of hats, and work really hard,” she said.
But that could change, as Silverdraft is working on a Series A funding round and a full-growth scaling plan that it’ll be kicking off in August. Thus far, the company has been funded primarily through seed funding, angel investing, friends and family, and self-funding, Gile said. “This is our first big round,” she said. “We haven’t locked it down, but we’re going for $10+ million.”
But whom she gets the funding from is as important as how much, Gile said. “We really are going to be very strategic about who that’s going to be,” she said. “We want a strong strategic partner, or a good financial partner, who has the same goals of driving within the space.”
“Look at the cool things that are happening with our technology. Our clients are doing that. We’re the enablers.”
— AMY GILE
Gile wants to improve sustainability around Silverdraft’s hardware. “It’s not about the amount of boxes we sell, but the density of the hardware around the workflow for our clients,” she said. “Our goals are to continue to build denser, more powerful compute, optimized for its specific needs, rather than massive data center compute.” The processing that Silverdraft does requires a lot of horsepower, she explained. “We want to get that horsepower to draw less power, with a denser footprint, so it’s more sustainable.”
The new funding will also enable Slverdraft to expand its staff, and Gile said she already knows exactly which roles she wants to fill. “We’ll grow significantly in the next three years.”
But Gile is quick to give credit for the company’s achievements to its clients. “Look at the cool things that are happening with our technology,” she said. “Our clients are doing that. We’re the enablers.”
Fisher is a digital nomad who writes about entrepreneurship.