By Amy Halpern
Most of the walls at Octopus Interactive have octopus arms painted across them and sayings like “Let’s Play” and “Let’s Chill.” Arcade games flank a door. A nearby lounge area has a Ping-Pong table with its own set of bleachers. “You are invited to the Ping-Pong tournament tonight,” Operations Manager Michael Marchetti tells a visitor one day this summer.
Other Octopus traditions: a water-drinking challenge, Cheetos cakes to celebrate birthdays, and Taco Stand Tuesdays. Marchetti likes working there so much that he has a multicolored octopus tattoo that runs from his left shoulder nearly to his wrist.
Like most of Octopus’ 40 or so employees, Marchetti worked for Spotluck, a restaurant discount app created by Octopus co-founders Cherian Thomas and Bradford Sayler in 2014. Three years ago, when Thomas and Sayler sat the staff down to tell them of their plan to “pivot” to developing and installing interactive video tablets for Uber and Lyft vehicles, the entire staff stayed on and helped launch the new venture.
“It’s very different than, like, two guys in the basement who came in and said, ‘OK, here’s where we’re at—now we’re bringing in other people,’ ” Thomas says.
Today, the creative team at Octopus designs video games that allow ride-sharers to win prizes and get scannable discount codes; other employees handle advertising sales or tablet distribution.
Says Thomas: “We put something you might find in Silicon Valley right here in Bethesda.”