Luo Yonghao bid farewell to “Luo Yonghao”, but the AR market door did not open for him

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Text/Ning Wen

Source: Finance and Economics (ID:caijwj)

Luo Yonghao just struggled to put an end to “True Rebirth”, and started a new game without stopping.

On June 13, 2022, Luo Yonghao posted on Weibo, saying: “The ‘True Story’ is coming to an end, and I am going to start a business again. This time, it is an AR technology company.” Subsequently, Luo Yonghao officially “retired from the Internet”, and the “Luo Yonghao” Weibo account with 17.75 million fans was renamed “Make Friends Live Room”.

This is not a whim of Luo Yonghao. As early as the second half of 2021, he has repeatedly expressed his interest in the AR industry on social media. “Deep Web” also revealed that since the end of 2021, Luo Yonghao has frequently visited relevant entrepreneurs in the AR industry chain.

In the past few years, from being trapped in a quagmire of 600 million yuan in debt, to making a comeback with e-commerce live broadcasts, to entering the AR industry “without an official and lightly”, Luo Yonghao is not only courageous, but also has indeed created a business legend. However, entrepreneurship in the technology industry, which is heavy on assets and technology, has always been a near-death experience. Courage and idealism alone may not be enough to support Luo Yonghao’s success.

“Technology Dream”

Unlike most people who start their own businesses just to achieve wealth freedom, Luo Yonghao has already achieved wealth freedom. On this basis, Luo Yonghao still started his own business many times, to a greater extent to adhere to idealism and realize his “science and technology dream”.

In 2016, in an interview with Lu Yu, Luo Yonghao once revealed: “In New Oriental in 2001, he could earn almost 600,000 yuan a year. At that time, a person in his twenties earned an annual salary of 600,000 yuan, which was very high.”

Compared with the data from the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2001, the annual per capita disposable income of urban residents in China was 6,860 yuan. This also means that Luo Yonghao at this time has basically achieved financial freedom.

The reason for leaving New Oriental is largely due to the gap between Luo Yonghao’s idealism and the underlying logic of commercial companies’ pursuit of profit. In an interview in 2012, Luo Yonghao once commented on New Oriental: “If you are a businessman, it is purely for money, of course there is nothing wrong with making money generously, but you always wear the cloak of idealism and portray yourself as noble and noble. Purity is too hypocritical, and I hate hypocrisy.”

After leaving New Oriental and experiencing several failed entrepreneurial projects, Luo Yonghao finally found the “science and technology dream” that could carry his ideals.

In June 2017, Luo Yonghao posted that in June 2007, the first-generation iPhone was officially released in the United States, and Feng Tang, who was on a business trip in the United States, brought back one for himself. Since then, Luo Yonghao has never forgotten the feeling of the original iPhone as a “fine art”.

It is also because of this that Luo Yonghao found himself and Jobs “convergence”, “in user experience, aesthetics, marketing promotion, fetish, perfectionism these five items are not lost to Jobs”, so he entered the smartphone industry in 2012. , founded Hammer Technology.

Unfortunately, due to missing the best window period and Luo Yonghao’s insistence in some aspects, Hammer Technology did not make big waves in the smartphone market, and finally sold ByteDance in early 2019. After the failure of the mobile phone project, Luo Yonghao owed a huge amount of debt, and successively became the platform for projects such as e-cigarettes and Sharkprint Technology, but most of these projects ended without success.

In order to repay debts with maximum efficiency, in April 2020, Luo Yonghao entered the e-commerce live broadcast track. Although Luo Yonghao’s move has the meaning of being forced and helpless, he has reaped good business returns. When participating in the “Talk Show Conference” in September 2020, Luo Yonghao revealed: “The 600 million debt has been repaid with 400 million, and the rest is expected to be repaid within a year.”

If it is an ordinary person’s business script, going to e-commerce live broadcast is enough to draw a successful conclusion, but Luo Yonghao still can’t let go of the “science and technology dream” that he haunts.

As early as November 2021, Luo Yonghao revealed on Weibo: “Many things to be done in the technology industry in the future will inevitably go to the Metaverse, whether they like it or not. From this perspective, our next entrepreneurial project will be Also a so-called ‘metaverse company’…”

AR may completely subvert mobile phones

Although he has re-entered the technology industry, Luo Yonghao has stopped paying attention to the smartphone business. In April 2022, when a netizen asked if it was possible to launch a smartphone again, Luo Yonghao said: “Because I have to burn investors’ money, I really don’t have the courage.”

This is of course because Luo Yonghao has experienced a complete failure in the smartphone industry, and it is difficult to give investors confidence. To a greater extent, it may also be because the smartphone industry does not have enough market space for “new forces” to survive.

According to Canalys data, from 2017 to 2020, China’s smartphone shipments fell by 4%, 14%, 7% and 11% respectively. This means that the smartphone market has entered an era of stock growth. Considering that the share of several major smartphone giants is still rising, it is tantamount to hitting a stone with an egg when the “new forces” re-enter the smartphone race at this point in time.

In contrast, due to the rising technology and the lack of mature consumer products, the AR track is full of opportunities. According to data released by IDC, in 2021, the global AR/VR headset shipments will be 11.23 million units, a year-on-year increase of 92.1%.

This extremely promising market trend is hard not to attract investors’ attention. According to IDC data, in 2021, the total global AR/VR investment scale will be 14.67 billion US dollars, and it is expected that this figure will reach 74.73 billion US dollars in 2026, with a five-year compound growth rate of 38.5%.

In addition to the continuous improvement of market prospects, AR products also have subversive imagination in function. Different from the current computing platforms such as smartphones and PCs that present information based on two-dimensional display screens, AR glasses can place the “screen” at the position of the eyeball, realizing that the eyes are the screen.

This also means that once AR products reach the ultimate form, traditional hardware such as smartphones and PCs will be completely subverted. In early 2020, Zuckerberg wrote: “At some point after 2020, AR smart glasses will make breakthroughs and redefine our relationship with technology.”

In addition, AR glasses also broaden the presentation dimension of information, from the previous two-dimensional to three-dimensional. Although only one dimension is added, the density of information can be increased exponentially.

For example, a team of engineers has a remote meeting, and the participants who are far away can actually see the mechanical model discussed by the team only by wearing an AR glasses, which will greatly improve the work efficiency of the team, and in turn will eliminate smartphones. , PC and other terminals.

In this regard, Sonny Xin, a former Metaio China partner and AR expert, said in an interview that technological progress stems from human inertia, “When I have a faster way to obtain information (note, this refers to AR), I don’t want to go back to the old way.”

In fact, Luo Yonghao entered this track precisely because he saw the huge application scenarios of AR products. “We want to make something like iPhone + iOS in 2007 in the AR era, and become a company similar to Apple on the next platform.” Luo Yonghao said in an interview with LatePost.

Ninety-nine-eighty-one hardships that cannot be escaped

However, just seeing the industry trend does not mean that Luo Yonghao will become the dominant player in the AR market. Because the AR track still has a long way to go from a sci-fi concept to a mature consumer product.

Luo Yonghao seems to see it clearly: “The huge amount of software and hardware engineering in AR is placed there, and at least hundreds to thousands of people are required to develop it for more than three or five years to make a consumer-grade thing.”

This actually reveals from the side that Luo Yonghao has become more mature in this venture. Not only did he start to pay attention to the time difference, but after many failures, Luo Yonghao said goodbye to his once paranoid self on many issues.

Taking the name of the company as an example, in 2013, because netizens frequently questioned the indecent meaning of “Haizi Technology” in Sichuan dialect, Luo Yonghao said aggressively: “Isn’t it just some places in the southwest and northwest? It has its own stinky problems, I can’t take care of it, and there are US listed companies called SB. We have a global mind and don’t care about the gains and losses of the three cities and two pools.”

In March 2022, when participating in the “Zhang Luo One Game” program, Luo Yonghao finally deeply reflected on the naming problem of “Hammer Technology”, “The company should not be called Hammer in the future, because there are some problems with the name itself, and the product he wants to do is For a relatively innovative technology product, I don’t want its public image to be “funny”.”

Luo Yonghao has become more candid, which can undoubtedly enable new startups to avoid the previous problem of Smartisan OS “not for winning or losing, but for being serious” and consuming too many resources on “drawing icons”. But what cannot be ignored is that some objective problems in the AR industry are not based on human will, which also means that Luo Yonghao’s AR road cannot be smooth.

First of all, according to Luo Yonghao’s logic “big technology companies basically do not have all-in AR”, and “during the platform revolution, the ruler of the new world is almost never the overlord of the old world”, therefore, “maybe there is a genius of entrepreneurial teams can finally get enough money to do something amazing and achieve miraculous success.”

Combined with the experience of the smartphone industry, Apple, an “outsider” in the mobile phone industry, has defeated Nokia, the once-overlord of the mobile phone industry, by relying on the innovation of the iPhone, which indeed fits the above logic.

But the problem is that Apple, which once built iPod, Mac and other products, is also the overlord of the old world. It is an outstanding representative of the safe transition from the PC Internet to the mobile Internet. Coincidentally, around 2013, China’s desktop Internet began to transform into mobile Internet. In this context, although Baidu in “BAT” has fallen behind, Alibaba and Tencent have obtained the “ship tickets” of the mobile Internet through Taobao and WeChat respectively.

In fact, with the advancement of technology, the transformation of the technology industry today requires more and more years of technology accumulation and abundant cash flow to facilitate. This is no exception, whether it is smart cars or AR.

Taking AR as an example, since it is committed to becoming the next-generation computing platform, it naturally needs the next-generation chip architecture. At present, the biggest problem with the products of general chip manufacturers independent of terminals such as Qualcomm and MediaTek is that it is difficult to meet the technical requirements of AR products.

In this regard, Wang Yang, senior vice president of business operations of VeriSilicon, once said: “Many general-purpose computing chips on the market are generally optimized and bound in depth for applications such as mobile phones, tablet computers, and PCs. When they are applied to AR In the device, there are often some redundant functions, some specific functions cannot be satisfied, and the display performance or power consumption is not ideal, which greatly limits the performance of the AR device.”

From this perspective, in addition to enhancing ecological integration and reducing costs, technology companies such as Huawei, Apple, and Samsung are betting on self-developed chips at this stage. Perhaps a large part of the reason is related to the early deployment of the AR industry.

In this regard, Syed Alam, global semiconductor director at Accenture, said: “Large AR companies increasingly want to use custom chips, rather than chips from an open supply chain, to meet the specific needs of their products and applications.”

However, excellent chips are inseparable from years of technical accumulation and huge R&D investment. Take Huawei HiSilicon as an example. When it was established, Ren Zhengfei planned to invest 400 million US dollars in it every year. Data from the Beijing News shows that from 2008 to 2018, Huawei’s HiSilicon research and development expenses totaled more than 480 billion yuan.

It is true that Luo Yonghao did not expect his AR products to be successful overnight, but had a dormant period of “three to five years”, and believed that “vertical AR devices for specific purposes, such as AR for education, complex skills training and special industries. Glasses, it is entirely possible that commercialization will be successful in two or three years.”

But there are already some startups seeing opportunities in the AR To B track. Take Magic Leap as an example. Founded in 2011, it initially focused on consumer-grade AR headsets, and then moved to the enterprise-grade market. Official information shows that the company has raised a total of 2.6 billion US dollars, ranking among the top in the AR industry in terms of financing scale.

At present, Magic Leap and Ericsson have reached a cooperation to help the latter simplify the workflow of the workshop and improve work efficiency through AR technology. In this regard, in mid-2021, Magic Leap CEO Johnson revealed in an interview: “At present, the AR industry is in the “big brother” period of mobile phones, and the application scenarios are mainly B-end. Although the products are large and expensive, they can bring enterprises quantifiable returns, reduced training costs, and increased efficiency.”

From this point of view, Luo Yonghao does not actually have an absolute first-mover advantage in the AR market. This also means that Luo Yonghao not only needs to compete with companies such as Apple that master core supply chain resources, but also beware of sneak attacks by start-ups.

Perhaps it was also because he saw the difficult situation in the market. When “Latency” asked how confident he was of becoming an Apple in the AR era, Luo Yonghao said, “Frankly, it is very slim. If you only look for this goal, it should be a near-death experience. ”

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