A Forbes Brand Voice article.
By: Jason Compton , CenturyLink
Virtual reality is becoming big business with significant appeal for small business.
Although they can’t stand in the way of the VR projects being conducted by the likes of Facebook, Samsung or Apple, small businesses can explore opportunities to transform and innovate in areas that big-time investors either can’t find or won’t touch.
“The movement by the big companies is a good thing for small businesses, because it validates that VR is truly a great opportunity,” said Jon Gregory, managing partner of VR startup accelerator The Green Screen Institute. “And big companies are historically not great at innovating, which leaves plenty of gaps for entrepreneurs.”
One emerging small business VR leader is Krow Media, which specializes in virtual reality content creation for the real estate industry.
After a dozen years of working in Southern California on reality television, proprietor Brian Krow turned his attention to VR, hoping to leverage growing interest by real estate brokers in adding interactive and immersive 3-D tours of conventional listings.
Krow began experimenting with the use of miniaturized cameras, the kind that consumers were using to capture on-the-go adventures.
“That’s where my love of technology started,” he said.
Specialists like Krow command enough of a premium that you won’t find VR tours for starter homes or fixer-uppers. Krow Media typically produces 3-D videos that immerse prospective real estate buyers in upscale properties.
But VR production costs are coming down compared even to last year, raising the likelihood of real estate professionals using the technology to showcase less expensive properties.
VR could draw increasing numbers of small businesses because the discipline can be adapted for use in so many industries. VR also allows a wide range of professionals to contribute with skills at which they already excel.
“There are problems to solve with VR in healthcare, in journalism, in entertainment,” Gregory said. “And there is room for plenty of filmmakers, writers and software developers to play in this industry.”
The underlying technology makes labor extremely efficient. In that way VR mirrors the film and video industry. A few decades ago, large teams had to do the shooting, editing and publishing work that can now be handled by one person with a smartphone.
There are some cost barriers, however. A high-end 3-D camera suitable for commercial-grade VR work may cost thousands of dollars. The professional-grade drone to fly it around can add at least $1,000 more. But with those two crucial assets, a single employee can shoot, edit and publish a complete project. This potential is what drives Krow Media.
“My vision is to create kits for new employees so they can be successful out of the gate,” Krow said.
Solo or small business VR practitioners can enjoy advantages connecting with the growing range of small businesses looking for VR solutions. That’s certainly true for Krow’s real estate-oriented business. Real estate agents typically operate as independent entities. Even the largest, national real estate agency brands typically feature independently owned and operated local offices.
“The VR space has plenty of solopreneurs, entrepreneurs and bootstrappers, because you don’t have to be a $500 million company to be successful,” Gregory said.
VR offers growth opportunity for small business because it has the deserved patina of being cutting-edge. This attracts the support of substantial incubator, accelerator and government-sponsored aid programs.
Krow credits his success in part to support from the Bucknell University Small Business Development Center, which includes access to experts as well as student researchers to help validate business plans. In the future, he may benefit from the state’s small startup Keystone Innovation Zone tax credit programs. “The state wants to create jobs and grow our market share in tech fields like VR,” Krow said.
As in any heavily hyped field, there’s a lot of discussion about whether VR is truly meeting lofty projections. But deeper than the discussions about a few percentage points of growth here or there, growth and enthusiasm remain strong. Gregory expects the number of applications for this summer’s 10-week incubator round to be three times that of last year’s class. They’ll need to focus on delivering ongoing VR strategies, not just one-time novelties, to thrive in the long term.
“VR isn’t just something you put on a site and leave alone,” Krow said. “You need to continue to build on VR in order to be successful.”
Article Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/centurylink/2017/09/01/boutique-virtual-reality-firms-and-the-virtues-of-being-small/#61770ca73292