Interviews, Virtual Reality (VR)

Will VR Be the Next Big Thing in Computing? An Interview With Murray Newlands

Virtual Reality is the future of computing. At least that’s what Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) thinks. In Facebook’s Q3 2014 earnings guidance call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg highlighted the company’s big push to build and develop VR and augmented reality technologies as part of what it believes will be the major evolution in computing platforms in 10 to 15 years’ time. “Every 10 to 15 years, a new major computing platform arrives and we think that virtual and augmented reality are important parts of this upcoming next platform,” he said.

Oculus, the VR company that Facebook acquired for $2 billion, started out as a crowdfunded campaign for the VR goggle Rift and its attendant games and apps. That particular business model — raising money and validating market interest through crowdfunding campaigns — has met with mixed reactions amongst the investor and entrepreneur community. While sought as a means to determine the viability of a product, it has also drastically affected the investment environment for startups. Because crowdfunding backers are not investors that take stake in a company, nor angels who infuse money for the sake of development, the dynamic in starting a product-based company has changed. Questions like accountability have arisen, for instance.

We have sought insights from Murray Newlands, a San Francisco Bay Area-based entrepreneur and PR strategist who has also written for Entrepreneur, INC, VentureBeat and India-based YourStory. Murray has collaborated with Forbes contributing writer Drew Hendricks in a book called How to Get PR for Your Startup: Traction, in which they detail how to deal with the media in pitching products and companies, as well as building a brand image that can take one’s early-stage startup into success.

Murray Newlands

Murray Newlands

VR World: Can you share some trends among startups today? What particular habit or focus do successful startup founders/teams share?

Murray Newlands: Lean startups are a big trend right now. Funding is moving later in the cycle and investors now expect to see some traction with customers before they are willing to invest in an idea.

VRW: Are there any particular industries that we should be watching out for? For instance, in recent times, messaging apps have been hot. If I were an entrepreneur, is there any field or market you would recommend that I should be focusing on?

MN: Wearable technology has been very popular for the last year; however, I think the internet of things more generally is taking off. Smart home devices are starting to come to the forefront with things like NEST and other home connected devices.

VRW: What are the trends amongst the VC community in the Valley? How is this affecting entrepreneurs in that part of the world and elsewhere? Do you think there is still a disparity between the Valley and other regional startup hubs, in terms of availability of capital, or is this gap shrinking?

MN: VC’s are not investing at later stages than they have been. This is causing angel rounds to be bigger and more prominent. Right now VC’s are raising large rounds, which is increasing the valuations in the Bay area. Increasingly VC’s are looking globally for great investment opportunities.