26 – 100 in alphabetical order: Alvin Wang-Graylin, HTC

At the GCV Asia Congress in Hong Kong last September, Alvin Wang Graylin, China regional president of HTC Vive, the virtual reality (VR) arm of Taiwan-based smartphone producer HTC, gave a talk on augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR).

“HTC is right now the global leader based on investments – we are the most active AR/VR investor in the world,” said Graylin, who is also vice-chairman of the $10bn Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance (Ivra) fund and president of the $18bn investor membership society Virtual Reality Venture Capital Alliance (VRVCA) with more than 50 active VC members.

Cher Wang, HTC’s CEO, said: “As a leader in the spatial computing space, HTC Vive takes its responsibility to build a healthy ecosystem very seriously. We have actively invested in the space to support worthy startups and nurture a wide range of innovation inside and outside the company.

“Alvin has taken a leadership role in driving our engagement with both the investment and startup communities for the last three years,” she lauded Graylin, “delivering strong results and deep connections that solidify our position in the market.”

Describing the current AR/VR scene, Graylin gave an analogy of the global personal computer industry, where the focus shifted gradually to content as the technology, hardware and platform matured.

“What we are seeing in the emerging markets, emerging technology like AR/VR is still more about the platform. That is where the money goes.

“Content is still a smaller part of the investments, but if you look at the hardware devices, the technologies and the platform, that is where the dollars are being put in.” As the hardware and platform developed, the applications and content would naturally emerge to sustain new technology, he affirmed.

Even though VR-focused startups reduced the range of their products and services, especially in China, Graylin is confident that AR/VR is alive and well, if not kicking as strongly as it was a few years ago. He told the Hong Kong Economic Journal in an interview: “VR projects have risen very quickly in mainland China in the past two years. To some, VR in the mainland has become stagnant, but I don’t think so.

“We know that as simply a hardware manufacturer, it is difficult for HTC to maintain its leading position in this new sector. Therefore, we now focus on creating the entire chain and ecosystem around VR.”

For example, HTC partnered the Shenzhen municipal government in late 2016 to create the Shenzhen VR industry investment fund with an RMB10bn ($1.4bn) corpus, setting up research and development centre in the city in the process.

Graylin told GCV: “The HTC-Shenzhen government fund has reached an initial close with RMB1bn ($147m) and has already made its initial investments in 2018.”

Furthermore, ViveX, HTC’s VR startup accelerator whose objective is to help foster a global VR ecosystem, closed its fourth batch of investments last year. The program has 18 new deals, adding to the existing repertoire of 100 deals over the past two years.

Of these startups participating across ViveX’s six global offices in San Francisco, London, Taipei, Shenzhen, Beijing and Tel Aviv, six are US-based (360 Stories, Liv, Modal, MyndVR, Primitive, Visby), five are China-based (Ifgames, Inload, Shiny VR, YaoAn, YuanJi), while three hail from Europe (France-based Immersive Factory, UK-based Kagenova, Spain-based YbVR), two are from Israel (Ayayu Games, Sixdof.space) and one is based in South Korea (Z-Emotion).

Graylin said: “There are about 20 to 30 VR companies that survived the market downturn and many of them are cooperating with us.”

Regarding HTC Vive’s outlook in China, the country he oversees, Graylin remarked proudly to GCV: “Vive continues to dominate the China market with over 50% revenue share for the entire market and the most preferred brand by consumers and businesses alike. Vive China is also the most profitable region for Vive globally.”

In fact, China had already put forth the first self-developed group standard for the VR industry as early as 2017. Graylin said, as quoted by Vertical News: “China is the first country to implement an official VR industry standard, showing how important the development of VR is to the Chinese government.

“This standard will raise the quality bar for VR device vendors, provide more standardised specifications for content developers and ensure that end users will have a more consistently positive experience across VR devices.”

To combat the status quo, Graylin advises VR-focused startups to work actively with enterprise bodies, such as academia and healthcare. Most recently, HTC teamed up with Taiwan-based Taipei Medical University, establishing in late 2018 the world’s first VR anatomy course for the latter’s biology students. In the course, students were able to observe the human body from different angles and appreciate intricate corporal functions such as heart valve movement.

After being chosen for GCV’s Rising Stars award in 2017, Graylin has been featured on Powerlist for three consecutive years from 2017 on. In 2018, he was awarded to top honour of most influential person in VR in China by the GoldenV awards, “the VR Oscars voted by top industry representatives”.