The top 25: Alvin Wang Graylin, Vive, HTC

Few people graduate from GCV Rising Star to Powerlist so quickly as Alvin Wang Graylin, China regional president of Vive, HTC.

But then few people cram as much in to their years as he manages in a quarter. He said: “Key items I am especially proud of beyond what was in the Rising Stars summary is we have closed our batch two of the Vive X accelerator and invested in 36 more companies – in total, over 70 startups invested by Vive X within its first year, making us the most active virtual and augmented reality investor in the world. That does not even include our non-Vive X investments.”

The second batch came from San Francisco (CognitiveVR, Construct Studio, Forbidden Mechanism, HyperfairVR, Limitless, Mindesk, Realiteer, the Rogue Initiative, Subdream and Vertebrae), Beijing (Mint Muse, Hexa, Vito, Invrse Reality, PlusOne, Multiverse, Red Accent, Byond and OVA), Shenzhen (Transmind, Aurora AR, Kiwi Technology, Shengda, Brokencolors, bHaptics and SoccerDream) and Taipei (Opaque Space, Snobal, Memora, Xikaku, Appnori, Vrani and Tegway) with applications from a new Vive X in Israel.

Wang Graylin added: “Also, I have just helped close a deal between Warner Brothers and Vive to make us the exclusive virtual reality (VR) content and distribution partner for Ready Player One, the most anticipated movie relating to VR so far – a $450m budget picture directed by Steven Spielberg which releases in March 2018.

“I have also just closed a deal to open 100-plus VR cinemas in China this year. And announced a deal with the China government to form the leading VR research institute in China, headed by the father of VR, Tom Furness, my VR professor from 25 years ago.

“Also, the Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance, which I helped form last September just released the world’s first government-approved industry standard for VR head-mounted displays. Been a busy first quarter.”

This followed a busy second half of last year for Wang Graylin.

In November, HTC signed a strategic cooperation pact with the government of Shenzhen, a southern China city and special economic zone (SEZ), to set up a VR research institute as well as a RMB10bn ($1.5bn) venture fund.

Wang Graylin said for his Rising Stars profile: “The Shenzhen SEZ has one of the most progressive governments in China, and has a history of growth and innovation for the past 30 years. It is also becoming a key centre of innovation for the mobile internet and smartphone industry globally.

“When we were approached by the Shenzhen government to set up such a fund and a VR research centre jointly, we felt it would be a very complementary relationship and would provide a strong foundation for driving growth for VR in China and globally.”

Part of Shenzhen’s interest in HTC lay in the groundwork Wang Graylin had done in building the industry through alliances.

In August, HTC also signed a strategic cooperation agreement with China-based Alibaba jointly to develop VR technology based on the online retailer’s cloud platform, Aliyun. Three months later and Alibaba and HTC together demonstrated Alibaba’s Buy-plus mobile VR channel on HTC-powered VR-ready smartphones.

In June, Wang Graylin became president the VR Venture Capital Alliance with 28 initial members managing a combined $10bn. Another eight members joined in November to take the total to $12bn.

Alliance backers include Colopl VR Fund, a $50m specialist fund launched by mobile game publisher Colopl in December 2015, the Virtual Reality Fund, backed by Colopl and game developer Gumi, and Legend Capital, the corporate venturing arm of conglomerate Legend Holdings.

The corporates are augmented by institutional investors such as venture capital firms Sequoia Capital, GGV Capital, Qiming Venture Partners, Matrix Partners and Redpoint Ventures.

Wang Graylin is also chairman of the Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance, launched in September as the only government-endorsed VR organisation in China.

In May, the Chinese government issued its National Innovation-driven Development Strategy Outline, which highlighted the need to develop a new generation of information network technologies, enhance VR technology research and industrial development, strengthen the IT Infrastructure for economic and social development, promote innovation in industrial technology, and form new development opportunities.

These connections helped drive entrepreneurs to HTC and create the dealflow for the VR fund along with HTC’s own Vive X VR Accelerator, set up in July with $100m.

Such speed and scale creates both opportunities and challenges. Wang Graylin said for his Rising Stars profile: “Our biggest challenge with the investment arm has been speed of deal execution and legal complexity. The companies we are looking at come from all over the world and with differing company structures. Our internal legal and deal teams are not used to working with companies at this stage and with so many at the same time. We did 33 deals in batch one, and likely will do 30 to 40 more in January 2017. It will hopefully get better over time as we standardise our processes and documents.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given such an immediate impact as regional president, Wang Graylin said: “I am very happy with what I am doing today and the impact I am making. VR will be changing all our lives in a significant way and I am excited to play a role in helping direct where that is headed.”

Looking more broadly, he said making a stronger venture and entrepreneurial industry required other corporations to “hire more entrepreneurs into the company and take more risk on high-potential people and deals – do not let the lawyers and accountants drive or inhibit decision-making.”

Wang Graylin said before entering CVC he had been an entrepreneur for the previous 15 years, founding four venture-backed startups in the US and China and also working for several public companies. He said: “Having that background make me understand the mindset of both the investor and the entrepreneur, which lets me better communicate and collaborate with both sides.”