How Shaun McBride co-founded The Spacestation
SHAUN MCBRIDE PHOTOGRAPHED BY EDGAR GARCIA FOR THE SPACESTATION.
The Founder Series is a column by and about Utah founders and how they got to where they are today. Click here to read past articles in the series.
In early 2015, my super amazing wife Jenny was pregnant with our first child, Adley, and we were building a network of five computers in our basement with my buddy Craig, aka “Tall Chicken.” We didn’t know we were building what would become a “Spacestation.” We were just focused on creating a cool streaming setup that could screen swap in real-time. We were ready to build a gaming community through streaming.
Simultaneously, we were converting another basement room into a janky studio to start creating YouTube videos and making even cooler Snapchats. The vision behind this basement build-out was to expand around my “Shonduras” community. We were preparing to approach new platforms and establish more brands. I was so bullish on the success other creators and influencer marketers had found, and I needed to scale.
Before we get too deep into how we founded The Spacestation, let’s slide back to the beginning—to discuss how I became Shonduras. The name is actually really meaningful for me, and it associates with a forever memorable time of personal growth. Since my name is Shaun and I served a mission in Honduras, I just kind of got the nickname “Shonduras.” I created my first social media accounts across Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat using this nickname.
I didn’t post much, though, just a few skate and snowboard edits. The first video on my YouTube was actually a public speaking assignment uploaded to present in front of a class at Weber State University, where I eventually got a degree in technical sales.
Most of my classes at Weber State were online, which allowed me to snowboard tons while managing a skate and snowboard shop. A big takeaway from college was some senior project where I was challenged to create an online business model. (My biggest takeaway from college was Jenny, who eventually became my amazing wife, as mentioned earlier.)
My idea for the project was a jewelry boutique that could start from a community on Facebook. Feeling confident about the idea, Jenny and I decided to actually try it, spending what we had in savings on our first run of jewelry.
We shipped the jewelry from the back of the skate shop and paid my sisters in pizza to help with the product. Jenny did the photography, I built the Facebook community, and together we created this brand that would be driven by its community. Initially, growth was through giveaways, lots of giveaways, giving us the engagement needed to let the community name the drops and choose our future products. Organically, their engagement on our posts would feature us on friends’ feeds across Facebook.
During this explosive first year, we found a mentor who could scale this to its full potential. He ended up buying the business we had created, which we were very OK with—we could now pay off all our student loans and eat beyond the dollar menu. Beyond the money, I learned the power of building social media communities.
SHAUN, ADLEY, AND JENNY MCBRIDE PHOTOGRAPHED BY EDGAR GARCIA FOR THE SPACESTATION.
After the sale/success of the jewelry community, my mind was twisting with ideas around what we could do next—could this be a career path? How could I create a community around my passions? Could I monetize that without selling anything? Early YouTubers and Viners were monetizing their content with AdSense and brand partnerships. Could I do that as Shonduras, or was it too late to become a creator? Maybe I just needed to find the next big social media platform and grow my community on that.
10 seconds of fame
Snapchat was just getting started, and Stories weren’t a thing yet. It was very much a one-to-one communication platform which presented a really unique relationship for community building. There was less separation between a creator and a consumer. Everyone was sharing in real time—it felt more like an open conversation.
I began to build my community one creative Snapchat at a time, literally sending each masterpiece directly to each follower. At times, sending my snaps took longer than making them. When Snapchat added Stories, I could finally share them with my entire community. With one click, I knew this was it!
I started practicing my art to visually tell better stories and focused on getting my snaps featured in news articles. I really started to build out my Shonduras brand, and IT WAS AWESOME! All this hustle had eventually gotten me to my first collaboration with Vine, Jerome Jarre, and my first brand partnership with Disney. Right around this time, Snapchat was really becoming mainstream, and I was positioning myself to be the person pushing forward the creator narrative.
During this time, my CTA (call to action) had a 30 percent conversion ratio, meaning my audience was extremely responsive and committed to what I was doing. Feeling this momentum, we put everything we had into growing it. I was traveling more than I was home to do speaking and consulting. I was learning so much, and I was doing everything possible to build my brand across a platform of disappearing content.
It was such a complex situation; here I was at the forefront of influencer marketing, just awarded a Forbes 30 Under 30, and considered the “King of Snapchat,” yet deep down, I knew it was time to re-invest all that hustle, all my connections, and put all our resources into expanding the brand beyond Snapchat.
Scaling the Spacestation
This is where it gets extra exciting—our crew of friends was growing, and the Spacestation seemed to be working. We were streaming daily and building different types of YouTube channels, just constantly creating and learning tons. We started our family vlog channel the day Adley was born, which focused around making each day a BEST DAY EVER. We wanted to share a positive message along with our favorite memories. I think we uploaded a “BEST DAY EVER” almost every single day for 800-plus days.
Storytelling really became a passion, and this channel became the scalable Shonduras brand. During this time, we moved out of the basement and into an office we called “Spacestation 1.5,” where our crew could grow. It was a brave transition to see if we could build a bigger Spacestation than we had ever imagined, but we could feel the creator economy coming to life, and we wanted to be ready for anything.
At this new office, we launched new YouTube channels, “Spacestation Stuff” and “A for Adley.” We even did daily livestreams at 5 pm with our crew! One time, we actually locked ourselves inside The Spacestation for a 48-hour nonstop livestream. We were committed to whatever we did—it was a grind but always felt fun, so we just kept going!
All of this momentum, along with an experienced new crew like my biz partner, Sean Holladay, gave us the confidence needed to finally take some of our ideas to the next level and create our first Spacestation companies. Obviously, we decided to try and create two at the same time, Spacestation Integrations, an influencer marketing agency that really understands creators because it was ideated around one, and Spacestation Gaming (SSG), an eSports organization with a vision to support streamers and our players’ brands. At least that was the vision till I met another biz partner, Shawn Pellerin, who showed us the real community side of eSports was around competitive game titles.
Investing in good people
Those first few years, the crew was so impactful in molding our Spacestation. Nick Russo, who started the “A for Adley” channel, still films each video—he’s like family to us and continues to build the brand by our side. I still have the original Brandon Garlik editing every single “Best Day Ever” video, too.
The same Marcos Chard is still the heartbeat of integrations and my best friend since forever. Parker Winchester is still stirring our SSG sauce with Gil and Ty White. My momma, “Momduras” still takes care of our office and our crew just the way she did back in our early days! Together, with the entire crew, we just keep creating more Spacestation.
We were learning that anything is possible when you surround yourself with the right people, so once again, it felt right to re-invest everything into building more Spacestation and more crew. Sometime later, we moved into a new, much larger building, but it wasn’t finished yet, so that summer we had 15-20 crewmembers all working out of the warehouse on plastic tables.
IMAGE APPEARS COURTESY OF SHAUN MCBRIDE.
Without investors, these growth phases always felt stressful, but as we began to hire, we would come across more opportunities. No matter the opportunity, balance just always seemed to work when we put people first.
One of the new people we found during this growth stage was Scott Herman—I had originally asked him to build us a cool custom slide. During the project, he quickly became our good friend and we convinced him to stay full-time and just keep building The Spacestation with us. How cool that as we hustled in each of our companies to build our Spacestation, he did the same, but was building our actual Spacesation.
Since we all just kept building, we eventually needed to expand into the building next door. We had doubled in size, and people like Travis McBride were becoming leaders—and really co-founders—of the companies they were originally hired to help build.
The next stage of growth
Everyone could feel the opportunity and we stayed heads down, building for another stretch of Spacestation growth. This next growth phase would present another type of community building through our newest company, Spacestation Investments, in 2019. Holladay had grown our local Utah network wider than we could ever imagine; we were learning from other founders, and for the first time ever, we were using our Spacestation funds to invest in other people and their ideas.
Our vision for Spacestation Investments was to bring much more than just cash to the table; we shared our influence and the resources of our entire Spacestation. As more and more companies joined our investment portfolio, we brought one of our own crew, Sean Holladay, to continue co-founding the investment group with us.
As you can see, our crew continues to find these small opportunities, and together we make them bigger. Nicholas Garrett from our integration crew has collaboratively launched Moonwalk Media, a talent agency for gamers, streamers, and creators under SSG. We even have a unique partnership where two local CPG legends, Corey Jensen and Kimball Wilson, shared their vision for what Spacestation CPG (the anti-broker broker) could look like. Knowing how well it complimented the rest of our Spacestation, we began building it together!
Another awesome person we became co-founders with was MrBeast as he joined us in building “Vidsummit,” our annual creator conference. All of this momentum was exhilarating, but during this phase of growth, we were spread thin. Our Spacestation structure was collaborative but not conducive to long-term growth—we needed more creative support for The Spacestation with all its new companies and communities.
Learning from the collaboration that brought us this far, we started putting together what we called our “Creative Crew.” This new team would be a shared resource for each Spacestation company, giving it even more of that good creative sauce it grew up on. We saw that many of our teams performed better when they could lean on our creative crew and collaborate. After a few months of experimentation, we knew this had to be the next thing for our Spacestation to scale—expanding into another skill set would benefit every company within our Spacestation System—the growth would be exponential.
SHAUN MCBRIDE PHOTOGRAPHED BY EDGAR GARCIA FOR THE SPACESTATION.
Over the next year, we would add two more pipelines to our creative crew, one for creating products and merchandise and another for content creation with an emphasis on socials. These three teams began to amplify and optimize the entire Spacestation, so much that they became one big tri-company at the proverbial center of our entire Spacestation System of companies. We named it “THE TRIANGLE.” Many of our brands, like SSG and “A for Adley,” were so ready for this type of support that when it arrived, their communities exploded with new opportunities.
The product portion of our triangle became Spacestation Labs, and we began dropping quality yet well-priced merch. Labs both strengthened the connection with our community while providing another source of revenue for Spacestation brands.
Our content corner of this new triangle became Satellite Media, a media company that could help share our stories, manage our socials, and engage our communities through killer content, which leads us back to our first corner with the creative crew who had now grown into Spacestation Nebula, supporting everything from web dev, motion graphics, type, design, and more. This triangle became a creative catalyst for our crew and showed us a more scalable Spacestation structure that would allow our system of companies to become more independent yet remain collaborative.
The Spacestation system
Full circle, here we are, eight years later. So much has changed since becoming Shonduras and building that first Spacestation in the basement. Yet somehow, the vision has remained the same. We continue to build my Shonduras community beyond what I ever thought possible—my content is to make memories with my family, and we have a whole crew of friends by our side still building that original idea of a Spacestation full of opportunity.
This past year, we launched Spacestation Animation, our new studio focused on the creator economy. We have a unique approach to animation where we reimagine the same videos our community already loves. Using the audio from original videos, we are able to focus more on visual storytelling. This provides a fun experience for viewers who enjoyed the original video and are now enjoying it animated to match our family’s imagination. These new stories are shared across YouTube, free to our community and everyone.
What started as a small crew of five has quickly scaled into a full animation studio with the Spacestation’s newest co-founders, Jordan Nguyen and Nathan Riddle, pushing forward this new pipeline in Unreal Engine 5. These types of opportunities have broadened our community globally—just this month, we launched 20 plus new YouTube channels, sharing “Best Days Ever,” “A for Adley,” and our Spacestation Animations with families in their native language.
The WHY behind our community building has become more fulfilling than we had ever imagined. Looking years into our future, who knows what our Spacestation may look like, but continuing to build collaboratively as a Spacestation crew is what will always keep that original vision alive.
IMAGE APPEARS COURTESY OF SHAUN MCBRIDE.