Digital 40 Over 40 2017: Michael Lebowitz, Founder and CEO, Big Spaceship

Michael Lebowitz
Michael Lebowitz
Founder and CEO, Big Spaceship

When Apple makes a big announcement, the tech world stops in its tracks. Competitors generally stay silent, figuring they can’t compete with the Cupertino giant. For Big Spaceship, however, Apple’s September 2014 announcement was an opportunity to let rival Samsung get in a few counterpunches. The Brooklyn-based agency set up a war room to react to Apple in real-time. They fed lines to actors playing computer tech repairmen. As luck would have it, Apple suffered a glitch that day and its livestream kept failing. The effort netted Samsung 14 million video views and mentions in more than 60 global news publications.

For the now-17-year-old Big Spaceship, Samsung’s was just another in a string of clever campaigns. The agency also created an app for Altoids that let fans tune out Facebook friends and What Do You Love, a Google search site that showcased all types of Google searches (like searches for maps, patents and blogs) on a single webpage. 

The man behind Big Spaceship is Michael Lebowitz. A film major at Vassar who worked at Bravo TV out of college, Lebowitz formed Big Spaceship to "make cool shit." While the agency has achieved that goal, it has also become nearly as famous for its culture as its work. Harvard Business Review wrote a case study about Big Spaceship in 2009 that posits the firm’s flexible structure opens the door for creative and technological excellence. NYU’s Stern School of Business has also taught a course on that case study. Big Spaceship’s Culture Manual is based on the idea that employees are people first. "You are more than your title," it states. "Bring yourself (rough edges and all) to work each day, not your ‘producer’ or ‘designer’ costume."

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