Ringing the NYSE bell together: How Unity put the “U” in UPO
What happens when real-time 3D technology meets one of the oldest time-honored traditions in public stock exchanges? Learn how Unity transformed an initial public offering (IPO) – typically attended only by a company’s executives – into an employee-centered virtual event celebrated by thousands.
When Unity decided to take action to become a public company, it was on one condition: it would be vastly different from a traditional IPO. Basing this approach on two of Unity’s core values – Go Bold and In It Together – we partnered with the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to build a completely different opening ceremony.
The NYSE is a fixture in the world of public financial markets and, much like many other organizations, had to take a different approach to a historically traditional process and ceremony. Our 2020 IPO was an ideal opportunity to bridge the old with the new. Traditional IPOs typically follow a number of timed events such as the unveiling of the company’s banner on the NYSE facade, the bell ringing promptly at 9:30 am from the balcony, the physical signing of the book (a 150-year-old tradition), and a variety of meetings and interviews. The rest is up to the company to make its own.
Turning an IPO into a UPO
What was clear from the beginning of our IPO process was that all employees would have to be involved on the morning of the event. All 3000-plus of them. So by engineering the event according to our company values, we could create a “Unity” Public Offering or UPO. But what kind of real-time, web-based system would we have to build to make it happen?
To start, we brought in teams from two recent acquisitions, Furioos and Finger Food Advanced Technology, to brainstorm. And then we brainstormed some more, filling up virtual whiteboard after virtual whiteboard. Our big challenges included: how could we enable thousands of people to ring a virtual bell and sign a virtual wall at the same time? Oh, and to further challenge ourselves – we needed to integrate NYSE live coverage with employee videos (filmed at home and on different devices) and curated Unity creator content as part of the event. Another Unity core value is Best Ideas Win and we put it to the test.
Getting down to work
With sleeves rolled up, we divided the development across multiple teams, both within Unity and at the NYSE. Since accessibility was critical, we set up a unique event website for everyone to easily reach and participate in the experience when the time came.
Next, we tapped into the power of Furioos – a cloud-based streaming technology – to bring the same experience to all employees regardless if they were on a tablet, laptop or desktop, including older devices (Furioos runs 3D apps in the cloud and treats them as if they are on your local device).
One of the big processing issues we had to resolve was that we needed to pass a lot of information via the web page (such as user authentication, environment data, and device capabilities) to the Unity app handling the content. Fortunately, the Furioos SDK simplified this so we had more time to focus on perfecting the user experience.
Adding employee voices and creator content
To ensure full employee inclusion and participation, several weeks before the UPO we encouraged all Unity staff to contribute a short testimonial video about what Unity means to them. We received hundreds from around the world, giving voice to a large cross-section of employees, some of them sharing the Unity philosophy – “We believe the world is a better place with more creators in it” – in their native languages. We planned to integrate their contributions into a 3D video wall during the countdown to the bell-ringing ceremony.
As part of the event, we also needed to integrate a variety of real-time broadcast streams such as interviews with Unity staff, panel discussions, and a dynamic feed of many Made with Unity projects to show how Unity creators are making a difference in multiple industries and initiatives. The goal was to curate an hour-long production of stories, interviews, and key moments to give the look and feel of an in-person event, all from employee homes around the world.
Rendering the content in Unity
With all of this rich content to be handled, it made perfect sense to build and render as much of it as possible using the Unity platform. For example, we used Unity to highlight video moments such as the raising of the NYSE banner and the transition to the virtual bell-ringing on the balcony. To add even more polish to these segments, we tapped Unity’s particle effects capabilities to represent the creators who help make Unity possible.
Working closely with the NYSE, Vimeo, and our Furioos team, we enabled the virtual bell at precisely 9:29:50 am ET on September 18 and our CEO, John Riccitiello, invited all employees, shareholders, and guests to ring the bell together at the same moment.
It was also then we encouraged participants to mark or sign their name on the virtual wall. This was an overlay we displayed just below the broadcast and included details to help set the context, thus combining the NYSE’s longstanding signature tradition with an innovation that allowed everyone at Unity to make their mark.
Going bold opens a path for other companies
In typical Unity fashion, we didn’t settle for what others had done before us. With ingenuity and creativity, the UPO team redefined what it means to IPO, setting a new standard for other companies to follow. At its core, the experience was meant to focus on what’s most important: the employees who are the lifeblood of any organization.
Unity’s UPO was the first all-digital IPO hosted on the beta version of our new employee-centered, interactive platform, and it created two firsts for the NYSE: the first entirely remote bell-ringing to open the market, and the first time an entire company was able to participate in the event. “In It Together” certainly rang true here!