Our Story: Inside the Creation of Totem

A fateful journey of love and purpose.

The seed that would one day become Totem was planted at EDC Orlando in 2019. 

It was Totem co-founder Chase Lemonds’ very first music festival. Within the first two hours of arriving, his phone got stolen. Shortly after, he lost the one friend he came with in the massive crowds.

It’s a story as old as time. If you’ve been to enough festivals, you’ve likely lived your own version of his experience.

As he wandered the crowds alone, Chase wondered why there wasn’t already a good solution for this all-too-common problem. Something you should know about Chase: he refuses to believe in unsolvable problems. Our very first prototype began to take shape in his mind that night.

Four years later, Chase and Carter met while consulting for a mutual client. Chase was leading all product development for the project while Carter, a professional marketer and designer, was leading the go-to-market. As they discussed the idea, it began to take root in their minds. 

The concept clicked immediately for Carter, a lifelong music lover. Carter was born to a professional musician, has attended 100+ music festivals and major concerts over the years, and some of his music journalism was archived by the U.S. Library of Congress in 2018. 

The partnership was a match made in heaven, and a fateful joint venture was born. 

In the fall of 2023, Carter and Chase officially began development of the Totem Compass. In November, they applied for the SXSW Creative Industries Expo and were accepted to the prestigious Startup Village, a collection of what SXSW dubs “the best and brightest upcoming startups across all industries.”

As the new year came and went, Carter and Chase worked night and day to get their prototype ready for an official product at SXSW. Everything was going according to plan… until Friday, February 16th.

In a now world-famous move, they posted a simple video of the Totem Compass prototype on Instagram. And then they went to sleep.

In the morning, they woke up to see that the reel had exploded online—doing over 8M plays in just 12 hours. Things only got crazier from there. This was the company’s first real taste of true virality (something that would strangely begin to feel somewhat routine soon after).

In the month leading up to their official debut at SXSW, Totem generated over $2.5M in pre-sales and became a global sensation. Chase and Carter quickly added two more awesome humans to their team in response to the massive international demand (hi, Kailey and Ashlyn!), and officially took their show on the road for the first time.

On March 13th, over 180,000 people (including the 4-person Totem Team) descended on Austin, TX for SXSW, the world’s premier technology and music convention. At the center of it all was the Creative Industries Expo, a showcase of the most exciting technology on the market today.

Amidst a sea of AI and VR technologies built by established companies with big funding, we stood in our little booth and shared a simple message of love and unity with the crowds. The Totem Compass was a hit with thousands of people from all over the world, including many dedicated Totem Tribe members—some of whom drove hours to meet the Totem team and see our friend-finding compass for themselves.

After the event, the Totem team returned home to Chattanooga and officially opened pre-orders for the Totem Compass, which begins shipping in May. 

But this is not the story. This is merely a beginning.

Totem exists to bring people together.

Our technology is creating a new era for live events around the world: a safer, more immersive, and more beautiful era than ever before.

No one deserves to feel lost. Everyone deserves to feel love. And we won’t stop until they do.

it's coming so soon...