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CUHK MBA Launches Disruptive Virtual Reality Startup

Howard Tian wants to revolutionize the entertainment industry with his virtual reality startup

By  Robert Klecha

Thu Jun 1 2017

Howard Tian is an MBA student at CUHK Business School at the forefront of the Virtual Reality (VR) space in Hong Kong.

Alongside his MBA studies, he co-founded Go VR Immersive, a creative agency specializing in developing immersive Virtual Reality content.

Already, Howard’s worked on a range of Virtual Reality productions, from advertising to games and movies – like Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs – reaching millions of viewers worldwide.

Now, he wants to disrupt the entertainment industry and make Virtual Reality the future of cinema.

BusinessBecause caught up with Howard to find out more.

How did the idea for Go VR Immersive come about?

I previously worked for an established filmmaking equipment rental house and production agency. Around the end of 2013, we signed a deal bringing specialized 360-degree filmmaking technologies to Hong Kong to become the first company in Hong Kong to offer that kind of service.

We started experimenting with Cinematic VR game development and made the first interactive VR game in Hong Kong, combining real-life live-action drama with interactive VR gaming. The game won a Special Mention at the 2015 ICT awards.

As the industry took off in 2016, I saw an opportunity and started Go VR Immersive along with some partners and investors I’d met on the way to focus on developing this kind of Cinematic VR content.

Where are you at right now? What do you hope to achieve?

So far, we've been mainly serving commercial clients and making promotional 360 videos, mini VR game experience for brands or institutions at events.

The most well-known project we've done to date is a VR series for the famous movie ‘Infernal Affairs.’ The project was funded and in collaboration with major mainland online video platform iQiYi and Media Asia – the IP owner.

The interest is there, but we need to educate the market on what VR is, what it can do and what it takes to make good content.

We also do cinematic training in collaboration with different institutions and partners to also help promote VR and educate the market. Up next, we are raising funding to develop our own VR game, which hopefully can bring the company to the next level.

My vision is to make VR the future cinema format. Instead of watching a rectangular flat screen for movies, in the future, audiences could each wear a headset and "participate" in a cinematic universe - each having its own unique cinematic experience.

I hope to grow Go VR Immersive, be a successful entrepreneur, and a successful VR director that directs good, quality, long-form VR movies.

How has the CUHK MBA helped you in developing your business?

CUHK is the only university that offered an entrepreneur stream on the MBA course. It had a number of courses particularly focused on being an entrepreneur, how to run a startup, raise funding and grow a business. We also had real-life projects in collaboration with real startups in Hong Kong to help them develop and refine business plans to raise funding by pitching to real investors.

CUHK is also among the top three universities in Hong Kong and its MBA program is the longest established in Hong Kong, so it has a strong alumni network. The education and practical experiences as well as the networking helped my own financing preparations and got me in touch with some prospective investors as well.

Do you have any advice for prospective MBA students?

Do your research before applying, and find the right program for you. Also, don't just focus on studying while in the program. Networking is a big part of MBA programs, go on field trips and expand your horizons.

What do you see as the future for Virtual Reality?

I’m making a huge bet that VR will become a mainstream medium for the entertainment industry and maybe even communication. That’s why I want to get in the market early. Traditional mediums are saturated with existing companies, but VR is new, which allows new up-and-comers like myself to establish a presence.

In 2016, VR got big, but it’s still only in the hype cycle. It needs more content, quality content and market education to be able to sustain the interest. 2017 is about sustaining that interest. As more hardware like the Rift, Vive and PSVR become popular, VR content should have a bright future in the upcoming years.