Originally from Bangkok, Thai entrepreneur Brad Phaisan moved to the US to work for Microsoft and Google. Ends up getting backed by Y Combinator and Andreessen Horowitz
Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was snapping up Oculus VR, makers of the Oculus Rift headset, for US$2 billion. This was before the startup had shipped out the consumer edition of their much-iterated product, with Microsoft and Sony’s plans to launch their own headsets on the horizon. Months after the acquisition was announced, Facebook rival Google released ‘Google Cardboard’ which the media cheekily (and perhaps accurately) called Oculus Thrift.
Whether the buy-out is going to pay off as competition in the VR space heats up, Zuckerberg certainly has the foresight in the wake of virtual reality taking over our lives.
In his acquisition announcement, Zuckerberg called VR a “new communications platform” and rattled off a number of fantastical uses:
“Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”
He said that “this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people,” and he is probably right. While it may take some time for VR to enter our lives in a casual, social way, many brands are beginning to harness the power of virtual reality to showcase their products and services.
AdsOptimal, an Andreessen Horowitz-backed Silicon Valley startup that’s led by Thai founder Brad Phaisan (Prachaya Phaisanwiphatpong), is working with brands to better sell to prospective customers through VR-based web ads. “Our goal is to be a platform that can show virtual reality across devices. We want to build the web version of VR where it can run anywhere, not specific to platforms and no installation required,” said Phaisan.
The startup has just debuted their new virtual reality platform ‘3DX’ at the ad:tech conference in New York City last week and Phaisan said that 2016 will be dedicated to pushing out their VR ads to all mainstream digital media.
Here’s how it works: In an immersive experience with their Oculus VR, Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR headsets, audiences can browse VR ads in 2D or 3D mode instantly on websites or apps. They can interact with the ads by either moving their phone or using their fingertips to navigate. For example, you can explore the interiors of a car in 360 degrees by moving your phone around (see demo below).
“I’ve always wanted to build companies when I was in Thailand, but moving to Silicon Valley made me think more global. After working at Google for two years, I felt I had the confidence to start something in Silicon Valley.”
It wasn’t until he joined US seed accelerator Y Combinator that the idea for AdsOptimal was built out. Phaisan said the programme’s rich mentorship layer and being in the presence of the greats played a big part in his startup’s early days.
“It definitely influenced my mindset. They have a lot of mentors from big tech companies like the Co-founder of Airbnb, and they shared their experiences on how they built traction. Getting to YC provided me with all the best practices to help our team focus on our product without being distracted by smaller things,” he said. “YC is very user-focused, so I learned that everything we do should be related to users. If it doesn’t help users we shouldn’t be spending time working on it as much.”
It was also through Y Combinator that AdsOptimal was connected to a number of VC and angel funds including Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel and Star Fund where they raised a seed round of US$500,000. Today, the startup has picked up incredible traction. They work with more than 100,000 websites, have reached their first billion impressions by last quarter and plan on hitting the second billion by the end of this year.
Although he has left Thailand, Phaisan said he still believes in Southeast Asia and notes its dramatic growth within the past five years. “Even though I’m here in the US to get a lot of experience, at the end of the day I still believe that big businesses can happen in Southeast Asia because of Internet consumption and penetration,” he said. “Right now I’m focusing on building a very good business and when I’m achieved that, we’ll expand to the Southeast Asian market.”
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