Instant messaging and virtual reality – the hottest duo of the day
Our future is virtual, says Mika Salmi.
Mika Salmi is a serial entrepreneur in technology and media and an innovator who has made a long executive career in international companies. He has worked as president of global digital media at Viacom, started three companies in the games and mobile business and been a board member in several international companies.
Currently Salmi is working as a senior advisor and investor in Raine Ventures, San Francisco. It is his job to spot interesting, up-and-coming companies and trends.
Virtual reality will revolutionise entertainment and meeting practices
Raine has invested in two companies developing virtual reality, VRSE and Altspace VR.
Founded by video director Chris Milk, VRSE wants to combine story-telling and film-making with virtual reality. VRSE.works is a production house pairing makers with studios, VRSE.tool produces virtual reality tools and VRSE.farm focuses on research and development in the field.
Altspace VR has been designed to create virtual spaces for people to meet and interact even if they are not physically in the same place. Altspace VR also helps you to access the website you want and share it with others. The company has made virtual versions of some traditional games, such as Dungeons & Dragons.
It is entertainment, such as games, where Salmi believes that virtual reality will first triumph.
“After that we’ll see meeting applications, and then virtual reality exploited in medicine and diagnostics. But I guess we’ll have to wait for another two to four years before the entire potential of virtual reality can be seen.”
Commercial applications won't follow until later, though, and there are still a number of issues to deal with.
“The current VR headsets are uncomfortable and make you feel nauseous if worn for a longer time.”
Potential in real time messaging
In addition to virtual reality, various messaging applications are an interesting phenomenon at the moment. Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat. Facebook buying WhatsApp for the record-breaking sum of 19 million dollars was a demonstration of the attraction and potential of the business.
“Facebook lacked real time communication before. And users often want to send different messages to different groups and contacts. For this purpose WhatsApp is better than Facebook Messenger.”
Drones – from private to industrial use
The third topic that is currently the talk of the town in San Francisco are the unmanned aerial vehicles or drones. The biggest fuss is dying down now, though, as people are debating whether the use of drones should be restricted or regulated: who can use them, and where and when.
Salmi believes drones will become more common in industrial use. Private use will decrease, even if over 700,000 drones are sold in the U.S. this year. The American Consumer Technology Association expects 2015 to be a defining year for drones.
Amazon published an illustration of its future transport drone in late November.
“Another promising industrial use for drones is in agriculture. You can dose fertiliser and biocide more precisely with drones.”
The unique place in the world
Salmi enjoys living in San Francisco where any idea can be realised. “Here you can find experts of every possible field who can help you realise the craziest and wildest ideas. There's also genuine entrepreneurship and willingness to help. Even the most audacious idea won't be shot down but there will always be somebody to take it on.”
Salmi doesn’t think that the financial bubble of Silicon Valley will burst with a bang. Growth will just decrease and slow down.
“Economy goes up and down, but the upward trend is always bigger than the downward one. Even in the global scale, Silicon Valley is such a huge engine and so important for the whole world that it won't disappear.”
What do you do in San Francisco? I work as a senior advisor in Raine Ventures, a capital investment company. I look for new investments and help those 21 companies that we already invested in. Raine is also a banker, and my job is to find companies to buy or sell. I'm also a board member in CreativeLive, INSEAD and Feed.fm.
What are you looking for here? Always something new, the future, regardless of the field of business. San Francisco is the best place in the world to find something new.
Your most memorable Silicon Valley experience? I’ve attended the Burning Man festival in several years. In 2010, we ran a festival bar in the middle of the desert from early morning to noon. One afternoon when we’d already closed I noticed that there were still people in the bar. Someone said they were Finnish, and I had to go meet them right there and then. Mårten Mickos with his friends had found our bar and opened it. But we are good friends now.