US trade mission brings success for Hull founders of VISR virtual reality company

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 24 Nov 2016

Joining a Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce trade mission to San Francisco with prototype virtual reality (VR) headsets gave some young entrepreneurs a clear vision of their future.

Louis Deane and Lindsay West, co-founders of VISR VR Ltd, found their stand at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) last year was dwarfed by the neighbouring one.

When a director from that stand took an interest in their product, the VISR team got the break they were hoping for – the stand belonged to Google.

Since then, the fledgling business, based at Hull University Business School's Enterprise Centre, has grown to employ 12 full-time staff and now claims to be the largest manufacturer of VR headsets in Europe.

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The headsets come in six different styles and the company has recently completed an order for 35,000 pairs of them.

Pauline Wade, the Chamber's international trade director, who organised the trade mission, said: "The key message if you're trying to win new contracts is to go to where the heart of the industry is, and in this case, San Francisco's GDC was the place to be. "International trips such as these can sometimes be seen as jollies and we need a change of mindset in this country to bring business to this area.

"Even the social events in the evenings were mixing with the right people, and it was all work orientated."

VISR boasts Google and Wargaming, two of the biggest and most valuable companies in the world, among its impressive list of clients, which also includes world class brands such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola and McDonald's.

The trade mission which gave the young entrepreneurs their big break was supported by funding from the Regional Growth Fund through the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership.

Louis, a Gateway Interactive accredited games developer for the Microsoft X-Box, said: "We took a chance on going to the exhibition in San Francisco – and came home with a £150,000 investment from a publishing group based in London, which was great – but the business was done in San Francisco.

"Had we not been there, we wouldn't have won the work, so my message is that if you miss out on trade missions, you don't get those leads in the first place."

Louis said: "Our VISR headsets are designed and made in Hull, and when one of the bigwigs from Google came to have a look at our headsets, he said they were better than the ones Google had produced and asked if he could take a headset away with him – a request which was initially refused because we only had six examples with us."Without the support of the Chamber, this simply would not have happened and this was an across-the-board strategic win in developing trade missions".

Louis said it had been good to see what other people on the world stage were doing.

"We took a back of a napkin idea, got the validation from established players that we needed, and we were off," said Louis, who hopes to see businesses embracing VR technology in the future.

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