FUTUREPROOF.

The Future of VR - and Why We're Anti Akon (ft. Halsey Minor, Live Planet)

July 31, 2019 Season 1 Episode 39
FUTUREPROOF.
The Future of VR - and Why We're Anti Akon (ft. Halsey Minor, Live Planet)
Chapters
FUTUREPROOF.
The Future of VR - and Why We're Anti Akon (ft. Halsey Minor, Live Planet)
Jul 31, 2019 Season 1 Episode 39
Jeremy Goldman
Jeremy sits down with Halsey Minor of CNET and Salesforce face - who's now attempting to bring VR to the masses.
Show Notes Transcript

At the Collision conference in Toronto, Jeremy sat down with Halsey Minor, the entrepreneur and businessperson best known for starting CNET in 1992. He is currently the CEO of VR startup Live Planet and was an early believer in Salesforce - in fact, he was the second-largest shareholder when the company went public.

Halsey built CNet into a top 10 website that was a $500 million business.  about $5M of that was doing TV shows for SyFy, USA and CNBC. He had always wanted to innovate in television the same way they CNET had innovated online, so when he saw VR come along, it began to feel like it had potential to turn into something. We spoke to Halsey about his journey with VR, where he sees the medium going, and how he's been able to consistently spot trends ahead of the rest of us.

Speaker 1:
0:00
There are some really cool stuff that you should be able to do in VR. Uh, but you can today and, and when these things start to happen, it's going to have a really profound effect on, uh, how attractive the media is to consume.
Speaker 2:
0:15
Hi, I'm Jeremy Goldman and this is future proof.
Speaker 3:
0:22
Okay.
Speaker 2:
0:23
So at the collision conference in Toronto, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kalsi miner. Uh, we're recording outside. You're going to hear, um, hence the background noise, uh, for a very good reason. We were kicked out of her recording booth by the music star Econ. Uh, but Halsey is a star in an entirely different way. He's an entrepreneur and business person, best known for starting Cnet back in 1992. He's currently the CEO of VR startup live planet. Uh, and he was an early believer in salesforce. In fact, he was the second largest shareholder when the company went public. So that goes to show how much of a visionary he is. How's he built CNN into a top 10 website that was doing $500 million in business. And about 5 million of that was a doing TV shows for PSI Saifai USA, CNBC. And he'd always wanted to innovate in television the same way the innovated a online.
Speaker 2:
1:23
And he didn't really see an avenue until VR came along and it began to feel like it had a potential to turn into something. So he found an engineer he'd been watching a long time and they tried to build a camera that would live stitch. They showed it at ces and people for the first time could see themselves live in VR. Halsey realized in order to build a business into VR though, uh, the, you know, there was no standard, no way for the pieces to fit together because a, there's no standard for how to do it. So he realized he had to build the whole platform and that's where we joined the conversation.
Speaker 1:
1:58
So I realized that I had to go and build a complete platform. I had to build the camera at the cloud and uh, and all of the apps to be able to distribute it
Speaker 4:
2:07
because I was going to say it like, in some ways that makes it, I feel like more exciting as a pioneer seeing that it's so open and saying that there's so much fertile ground to be, you know, sewed upon basically. Right.
Speaker 1:
2:18
Yeah. I mean, you know, I don't think I would have had the guts to take on, you know, basically having to build out something that, you know, in industry needs a, if I didn't have prior experience kind of building technologies and I, you know, we, what's really clear is because we've built a system that does a really good job at doing really high quality video, uh, live is, is amazing. And to be able to take that, that capture that and send it to all the platforms, uh, simultaneously and the three 60 is there is a huge change, um, in the way a video can be produced and distributed in, um, in VR.
Speaker 2:
2:57
Well, I think that also one thing that
Speaker 4:
3:01
always fascinates me, this is something I talked to people a lot is timing and in terms of when you're trying to figure out when something's going to be big, how do you time it so that you invest in something at just the right moment, uh, and not too late. You know, and obviously not too soon either, you know, because both of those things can be killers. And I know that you've got a history of you, for instance, uh, salesforce, you had a, and an early,
Speaker 1:
3:26
I invested $20 million in sales force in 1999 which, which still stuns me, which, how many times
Speaker 4:
3:33
people even, you know, do about salesforce in the, I mean, I do that a lot of people meeting Larry Ellison. There you go. So I mean, being able to, I think, have that foresight to be able to tell when something's going to be big and timing it right. How do you, how, how are you making those decisions with respect to VR?
Speaker 1:
3:51
And I saw a bunch of people going out and you know, investing 50 a hundred million dollars, a bunch of you're running around doing content. And it was, it was clear to me that the technology wasn't there. And so you had these companies like John that had, you know, a few raised huge amounts of money and they would spend 70% of the money fixing stitchings. So this camera here stitches perfectly. Yeah. You know, in real time. Right. So, so that was just a matter of the market, just being really immature. So big huge amounts of budget went to things that delivered no value to the, to the end product. So, you know, I think people just, you know, people get excited and, and they want to go do stuff. Um, but as you say, you know, the world, the, the, when the world's ready for something, the world's ready for something.
Speaker 1:
4:48
And I think if Facebook had not spent $2 billion, they had spent $100 million on the headset, I think it wouldn't have confused so many people about the state of the technology. Right. The fact that the fact that they invested 2 billion made every go, oh my God, this is real. We've got to get, we've got to go do this. And um, and you know, we were a total oddball because while everybody's running around doing content, doing all this stuff, weirs, engineering, we didn't have any marketing people. It tells people whatever. We just kept engineering and that's, you know, we're just now really getting the product into the channel and, and um, and uh, you know, and pushing the platform
Speaker 4:
5:30
also, by the way, a, another thing that's in some ways beneficial I'd argue is that if you're talking about a B2B play versus B to c a, there's a different level of educational ready in the market, which means, and you're also able to in fact narrow cast your marketing towards the very specific buyers in the very specific use cases. So maybe it becomes easier and that way when you're trying to really not educate the consumer populous but edgy, but you know, go directly to the people who are going to be using your technology on a BDB level.
Speaker 1:
6:02
Yeah. I mean, I'll give you an example. So, um, so, so in order to build a website in 1993, when I started the company, well I guess we started building it in [inaudible] 95 94 in order to build a website, uh, I actually had to create web publishing software. So these, these basic pieces in a building blocks had to, had to be, uh, you know, had to be built and integrated in, in order for there to be really anything that, uh, that looked like, you know, uh, had a reasonable chance of being produced and, and distributed in such a way that it, that it can have a large enough audience to be self sustaining.
Speaker 4:
6:43
Okay. What are some of the things that you've seen the most real valid use cases for VR at the moment? Obviously there are quite a few, but any in particular that you get excited about.
Speaker 1:
6:55
So there's always has to be that one use case that you think about in terms of the tools that you develop in the workflow or whatever. So for us, it's music where we're not competing with television and it, the concert experience is about the experience, right? And, and people are still going to concerts in record numbers. And so, so VR, unlike television, it has the ability to capture that, to, to capture that, uh, experience. But it's also important to remember is that the technology of sending music over the Internet that's already solved. That's a no, it's a, everybody can do that now. So, so all you're really doing is you're asking somebody who's listening to music end's already tuned out. I mean, you know, if you're listening to music, you're, you're not, you know, you're not playing monopoly with the family, right? I mean, you're tuned out. So all you're doing is just asking them to take one more incremental step and that's to wear something. And it turns out to be probably the best application to start with, uh, for VR. I mean, in terms of mass adoption, right?
Speaker 4:
8:08
One of the key things that I'm talking to people about a lot now is the idea that, you know, you have a certain certain biases, right? And I think a good entrepreneur challenges their own biases and their own beliefs on a daily basis because you look and you see, hey, you know what, I thought that use case a would be the best for my technology actually be is getting more traction. Uh, and the ones that succeed are the ones that acknowledge that and move in that direction. So how do you work on that? Or how have you worked on that in your career to say, listen, I have a certain point of view but I'm willing to be challenged and I'm going to be a better predictor of the future if I can pivot. In essence.
Speaker 1:
8:46
No, I challenged, I challenged my assumptions literally every day. Um, you know, and some, sometimes people, you know, as long as it can look like indecision, right? Because you gonna want to go one way and then you're, and then you go another way because the world sort of, you know, sort of tells you, you know what, uh, it's interest guys. I tell people the importance of, of the system that we've put out there to tell people is the most important thing is to get it deliver a product that's close enough that people can find things they don't like. And what I mean by that is that if it's not close enough to being used, they don't use it. If they use it, then they can. If they, if it's close enough that they'll use it, then they can start saying, well, you know, if this was better and this was better, and that launches companies, that iterative relationship with your, uh, your, your customers, uh, begins. And that flywheel is really the, the difference between companies that end up being extremely successful. And those who just, you know, really sort of die on the vine.
Speaker 4:
9:51
So that's okay. So two things when you're talking about dying on the vine versus success that I want to ask you specifically with respect to VR a thing. Number one is basically the friction associated with hardware and whether or not the actual physical constraints are too onerous for people. I keep thinking about Google glass and why that failed. And then, which I realize is a different product, but still, uh, and then I think the other thing is the network effect, which is it, you know, if, what, what additional advantages there to, you know, the more people you get on a particular VR platform or just the VR as a technology, uh, are there network effects within VR? So maybe if you want to tackle those.
Speaker 1:
10:31
Yeah, I mean, yeah. I mean, we do, we, we actually think, um, uh, you know, I've played a game, I played a VR game with, uh, with people actually who were from, uh, prince from Argentina. And, uh, it was one of the most interesting experiences I've ever had following them around in VR. In fact, it's really interesting because until I had done that, I didn't really understand why Facebook bought. Uh, but you know, I, uh, Facebook bought oculus. Uh, but it's really interesting idly when you're tuning out with this headset that you are tuning in just to, to do something else. Um, so yeah, so I think we see the social aspect of it being really interesting. So, you know, we're looking at things like, you know, when you have a concert with your friends, you know, how do you communicate with a rope? You know, you can, you can actually speak to them because all of these things have, uh, microphones and speakers and so and so you can actually allow it.
Speaker 1:
11:28
And I personally think that the social overlay over top of all of this is really important to adoption. And I think there are, uh, tons of, you know, they're going to be tons of very sort of clever uses of social inside of VR. In fact, I would almost say that in order for VR to become really big, it will have to take on it social, a very social character. So what, maybe tuning out in the world around you is tuning in to another world of friends. But I think the, the ability to weave social into these experiences, you know, I'm an IC, it, um, you know, with people, I mean, I, we're thinking about right now, like if you're watching a concert, how do you bring your friends along in that, in, in, in that, in that experience? Um, because, because you do in, in real life, right?
Speaker 1:
12:27
You know, the other thing I just want to say is that to build a medium, a whole bunch of things have to happen. And, and there are some really cool stuff that you should be able to do in VR. Uh, but you can today and, and when these things start to happen, it's going to have a really profound effect on, uh, how attractive the media is to consume. Like, let me an example. So TV has text and graphics, right? That, that, you know, beautiful graphics and, uh, you know, sports, uh, shows and then, but when you, when you embed those same kinds of things in VR, they're, they're part of your reality, right? And so when I talk about, so when I talk about like, concerts as a, as a use case, you know, I point out, well, you know, we'd have a camera backstage where you can't normally go.
Speaker 1:
13:15
We'd have one on the stage where you can't go. You'd have one in the audience. Then you'd have one, you know, on the mixing boards, you can go all around. But what you could also do is if you're watching imagine dragons, you can also create dragons that actually come out from the stage, right? So, so when you start thinking about these v these things that we're already doing in television, right? And you start thinking about layering them and on top of, because everybody right now is thinking of video from VR the same way that people would've thought of television as being a tool for sticking a camera at the 50 yard line to watch a game. That's how people are thinking about VR. And you know, it's, they're not thinking about all of the other pieces that happen. Social being, you know, social being one. So, so
Speaker 4:
14:07
I'm sorry to interrupt. I, I think that, uh, somebody wiser than me that I can't remember who put it this way, which is that every time a new medium gets developed, we think about it within the mechanics of the old medium. So, for instance, the first Bloomingdale's ecommerce site was basically a digital recreation of their catalog as opposed to, you know, thinking about what are the new things that you can do with this technology that you couldn't do with the old paradigm. Maybe it can be improved rather than just recreate it.
Speaker 1:
14:36
I was very fortunate at Cnet, uh, because we competed with, you know, multi billion dollar, uh, magazine publishers who thought the Internet was the magazine and then that was the best. That was the best news, you know, ever.
Speaker 4:
14:50
I mean, we've seen a lot more fragmentation
Speaker 1:
14:52
of media and attention in general as opposed to saying that one thing totally swallowed something else. So there's no reason to assume that that wouldn't happen here. You got to build on top of what's already there. And, uh, and that's where I think a lot of people in this industry have gone long because they've, they've got, you know, they've, they've tried to take on the, uh, medium. It's pretty amazing. I mean, television and, and it's 70, 80 years old and you've got people who, you know, who've been doing it and they've honed it. And perfected it. And, um, and so, you know, anytime you're doing anything new, you're better off co-opting activities that are already happening in extending them. Yeah. Then you are trying to go right into a gale force wind. And that's a lot of what I think happened to VR. And I think, you know, I know from our, you know, our philosophy is just do whatever necessary for adoption.
Speaker 1:
15:46
Like for instance, I mean our camera's totally integrated whole thing, but there are other cameras out there and we're trying to make it so that, so that they, the content they produce can be put it on our cloud and, and also distributed. W we just want to work, right? So we're just get very, you know, basic philosophy is what needs to be built. How do we fill in the gaps? Uh, how do we work with partners who can provide, you know, the things that are necessary and, you know, try to, as I said, deliver that first set of technologies that's close enough that people can find the things they want us to change. And, you know, I, I think that we're, I think we're, we're there, we're, we're trying, our value is the drive, uh, you know, compelling content through to an end user.
Speaker 4:
16:42
It makes sense. A sense. And I think one thing I guess I want to leave you with for now or leave our listeners with, assuming we use this, um, but, uh, the idea of like, how to make better predictions about the future of marketing and technology trends in terms of what's going to hit and when, what are the things that aren't ready for prime time, which is basically there are people who are making constant decisions and trying to become better essentially short term futurist themselves. I mean, what's something that served you well in terms of, even apart from VR, uh, trends that you're paying attention to now and knowing essentially what to pay attention to and how to make the proper prediction.
Speaker 1:
17:20
The obvious never happens. I mean, but what happens is that everybody thinks that's the obvious, right? Whatever people think is the obvious thing that's going to happen. There's some guy who's thinking something different and he's [inaudible] and he's his ideas different from everybody else's and that's more likely where it's going to go. I, I, there's so much of this, um, you know, again, the, you know, I mean, I even look at, at, at VR, you know, the obvious thing early on and a lot of money was spent basketball, football, you know, can mean huge amounts of money were spent around these sports. Yeah. Like that's obvious, right? Because everybody likes, you know, football. Everybody likes basketball. That's obvious. And the amount of money spent on doing those things in VR is huge. Huge. And they're still going on. But I don't think that's where VR is. Gonna is gonna find its, it's home. It's certainly not going to find its own. It's certainly not gonna find its home there, uh, without figuring out how it can settle his differences with, uh, with these mediums and become partners.
Speaker 4:
18:21
Uh, somebody put it to me, I think, well, uh, which is, uh, they were talking about back to the future, uh, two and about how you had all of these flying cars, which we haven't had, which would, that would be an obvious thing, but there seems to be no internet in the world of back to the future too.
Speaker 1:
18:38
The Internet wasn't obvious. I mean, the speeds were slow. You had no graphics. It was all taxed, you know, and it was, and it, you know, it was not obvious for everybody in, in, in media, but there were a few of us out there who were, who were sort of building stuff. Well, it was obvious at the time was John Malone is a big cable guy, announced the 500 channel future. And everybody was talking about how we would have a video on demand and we would have 500 cable channels. Well, I guess the 500 cable channels happen. So I did the video on demand,
Speaker 2:
19:10
but that's what they've all had. And they all handled over the Internet. Right? Yeah. That's so funny. I normally ask
Speaker 4:
19:16
people in the middle, uh, a bunch of a reverend lightening round questions, but I'll just ask you one at the end, since we didn't do that, how annoying is it, uh, from an SEO perspective to not be able to own your first name, you know, have versus the beautiful musical artists? Is that difficult?
Speaker 1:
19:34
Well, I'm over it now. I, I W I was the, the, the, the anger was, you know, after, after months of therapy, I'm now fully, fully okay with the fact that she stole the name of a 54 year old man.
Speaker 2:
19:51
Well, and it worked for her and I feel good. I feel good about that. And I think we can say we're maybe bigger halsy fans than we are of econ right now. So we'll leave it at that. I think she's great. Yeah. Well, thank you so much. This is fantastic. And there you have it. Hopefully a, you're leaving this conversation with Halsey with, uh, more questions about VR, which is great because we're going to be covering that a little bit more in some future episodes. Uh, and as always, uh, please feel free to rate and review us. We really appreciate it. And that's how more and more people are finding out about the show. So you become part of the way that the proof community is growing. If you haven't subscribed, then I don't have to tell you guys subscribe already and thank you so much for that. And until next time, I'm Jeremy Goldman and you've been listening to future proof.
Speaker 5:
22:59
Okay. [inaudible] okay.