Robert Duc Nguyen is the founder of Mimoza and Gothere – a pioneer in the field of virtual reality in Vietnam helping businesses and people.
Human Asia dropped in to say hello to Robert recently and asked him about his business.
Let us know more about your projects Mimoza and Gothere.
Robert: Mimoza is one of the very first players that brought Virtual Reality (VR) technology to Vietnam. With more than two years of experience in the market, Mimoza has now become a leading services provider for this kind of technology in this country with a thousand spaces formed up from a hundred clients. Our partners are big national and international companies.
By using the latest 3D camera technology, Mimoza will guide its users on their journey to explore the world in a way like never before: specifically, the entire space is created vividly and intuitively which helps users getting the best real view and immersive experience. Viewers can start to explore the space just like being there, they are freely to move around, to any corner.
Incredible to use, nice display and fast load on desktop, tablet and smartphone for both online and offline status, it all serves to create an impressive image for the services when you first launch the application. Mimoza delivers such real visual experience to help enhance the business in multiple industries from real estate to hospitality, entertainment, production, education, tourism, etc.
Let me explain more on how Mimoza helps businesses and industries:
for commercial real estate, Mimoza’s solutions improve the speed of units by qualifying potential tenants before they have even been through the door. For culture spaces, Mimoza’s solutions attract visitors to special exhibits and display stunning architecture in the most unique and meaningful way by providing a virtual tour so they can explore venues online even though they cannot travel there. For travel, hospitality and event planning, visitors will get a real sense of their experience right before they arrive. Offering an 3D walkthrough creates a connection with guests and set them apart from other competitors. For the retail sector, Mimoza helps draw more customers and engage them by providing an accurate preview of the premises.
Gothere (spoken as Go there or Got here) is a social project of Mimoza. The project leverages VR technology to form up 3D showcase models of historical and cultural works in Vietnam and overseas. Its purpose is to provide an interesting and effective way for Vietnamese students to study history and geography, two subjects which used to be regarded as boring subjects in the country.
We also help Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese people all around the world to deep dive into Vietnamese culture without even visiting Vietnam. As such, we let tourists view in advance the places they plan to go to in Vietnam.
This is Mimoza’s way of giving back to the community and it is 100% non-profit. Each and every showcase can be explored freely at http://gothere.com.vn.
With a young team of Vietnamese guys gathered from Vietnam, Finland and UK, all dynamic and passionate in technology, experts in multiple industries, leaders of change, our ambition by 2020 is to get on board 1,000 local locations, 500 overseas locations, and 5,000 sessions per day with 3,000 active users for the site.
A similar concept can be found in the Street View function in Google Maps. What makes Mimoza different?
Robert: To me, it is a supplement. While the Street View function of Google Maps helps viewers explore the exterior sight – mostly of just spaces located along the road – 3D VR at Mimoza accomplishes and explores the interior parts. In addition, users of Mimoza who have experienced our 3D VR function all agree that our user experience is smoother and more real.
Moreover, right now all of our VR showcases can be published on Google Maps thank to API between Mimoza’s products & Google Maps. This is really good news for all users because now they will have the opportunity to view more and more spaces around the world.
Virtual Reality technology today is not a new thing anymore. But bringing this into a business model is something quite new, especially in a developing country like Vietnam. How did you get started?
Robert: It was back in 2007 when I first came across the Street View function of Google Maps. At that time, an idea was burning in my head that with the advantages of this technology, we can develop a virtual tour for travelling and bring it to more people. Of course at that time, not many people in Vietnam knew about Street View function of Google.
Fast forward to 2015, a friend of mine in Finland who at the time was working for a fast paced start-up told me about her intention to start up her own business in Vietnam upon coming back to the country. We discussed about technology that would allow people to move freely within an interior space, which we termed cheekily as an “in-house street view”. Fortunately, we agreed on this idea and worked together to develop it as we both saw the potential and benefits it can bring. And also we wanted to create this modern technology in Vietnam, a very adaptable country when it comes to new technology and above all, it is our motherland.
Now, aside from helping users apply VR technology in their businesses, we have also accomplished the goal of building our virtual tour for travelers with the GOTHERE project.
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How do you market your product?
Robert: As you know in today’s world, VR is not a new thing anymore but here in Vietnam, there are many people who still don’t know what it is. This creates an opportunity for us to educate the market as wide and as fast as possible in order to scale up the business. Social media is now booming and has become an essential factor contributing to the success of branding, marketing, and sales activities of a business. We understand that and we see social media as one of the key channels we use to help people approach us and understand about the technology and our services. As an example, we have created a Youtube channel showing dozens of videos guiding users on how to best apply VR to their business activities. Some of the videos were made by us, and some were shared by the VR community. We received a warm and positive feedback from users nationwide.
VR technology is certainly not cheap. How has Mimoza been funded and how do you generate revenue?
Robert: Since our establishment until now, Mimoza has been self funded and operated by our co-founders. Specifically we have five members on the board of leaders who on a rotational basis invested into the company. The cost of VR is certainly not cheap hence we always find ways to optimize our partnership with the technology license owners and agencies who bring clients to us regularly.
We prefer doing wholesale to keep prices optimal. On the other hand, as we have a big portfolio of clients who are in multiple industries, we focus on building an efficient CRM system to manage and maintain relationship with them for the long term.
Our core service is VR but we are also providing some supplemental services, mostly related to space promotion and engaging with PR and branding agencies and offering packages to them, which is effectively and end-to-end service for our clients.
Where do you see Mimoza in the near future?
Robert: In the near future, we aim to fully gain the clients’ trust based on our high quality services, and we also aim to make this technology accessible to more and more users. Our ambition for 2018 is to reach an average of 500 locations for each sector in Vietnam, and make it as a foundation to step out of the country by 2019. Our simple objective is whenever Vietnamese people think about VR technology to promote their spaces, we want them to think about Mimoza first. To do so, we are strengthening the team, standardizing our processes, and exploring new areas in Vietnam. And of course, getting funding is a crucial part of the business that we are also working hard on.
Robert, what is your background and what were you doing before starting Mimoza?
Robert: Before sailing the boat with Mimoza, I had a 4-year stint in consulting at a Big-4 company where I gained
lots of knowledge and experience in legal, regulatory and taxation. I landed this job after graduating from the Foreign Trade University in Ho Chi Minh. After consulting, I moved into a giant sporting goods company taking care of logistics and warehousing activities in some Southeast Asian countries. After that, I was offered an international mobility secondment by the company, and relocated to France, China and the U.K. for a total of two years, at which point I obtained an MBA degree at IESEG. Most recently, after returning from the U.K., I joined a big e-commerce company in the region in charge of a commercial category for the whole country.
What was the most difficult thing you’ve encountered in starting a new startup?
Robert: Startup is already tough, but startup in a new field of business in a country where everything is still at ground level makes it even tougher. There were times when I used to ask myself: why VR, why Vietnam? The number of people who knew about VR at that time was very limited. Secondly, we found it difficult to convince and sell to clients. When users first saw this technology, they were all surprised – what an amazing tool to promote spaces! But when we asked them to purchase the product, even at near cost price, 99% said NO. The main reason given was that no other users have purchased and applied the technology to their business, so there is no track record on which they can make a decision on.
What do you think about the development of VR technology in Asia? Do you think the market is ready?
Robert: Asia – especially China, Japan, Korea, the Southeast Asian region, and India have now become the hottest area in the world for technology development. VR, AR or AI are more and more popular in Asia thanks to the great adaptability of these countries. In the next few years, these would be the place where the newest technology gets tested and applied in multiple parts of life.
What other personal goals do you want to accomplish in the near future?
Robert: For me, it is all about giving back to the society and community. The Gothere project is not only for Vietnam, and if it only works in Vietnam, our initial goal has not been accomplished yet. We want more and more people around the world to know better about Vietnam, explore all the famous places around this great country without having to travel here. Also, i am very keen to see the smiling faces of the kids in rural areas of Vietnam to have the chance to explore the world through VR, taking them to where they could never be.
What would your advice be to a struggling entrepreneur?
Robert: To become a successful entrepreneur, you need to sacrifice many things. If you choose to live in your comfort zone, you will never get what you want. Dare to jump out of your comfort zone, dare to think, dare to act on what you are most passionate about. Take full responsibility for your action. Last but not least, I am 100% convinced that giving is more important than receiving. Think about what you can give to the community rather than how much you can earn, and for sure you will win!
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