During the COVID-19 pandemic, difficulties arose with in-person meetings and travel, leading to rapid growth in related industries such as the metaverse, virtual spaces, and virtual content. According to a Fortune Business Insight report in June 2023, the global virtual reality market was valued at $19.444 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow from $25.111 billion in 2023 to $1659.91 billion in 2030.
As the effects of COVID-19 subside and people can move about more freely, the demand for immersive content to overcome the constraints of distance continues to grow. We had the opportunity to meet with Jung Hae-hyun, the CEO of Newjak, who has quickly ventured into the field of immersive content, not only in museums, airports, and fashion shows but also in the defense sector.
Q. What is the background behind your decision to start a business with immersive content?
In fact, I hadn’t initially thought about starting a business. After completing my doctoral program at university and preparing for a career in academia, the results didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. To make a living, I chose to start my own business, and this year marks the 8 year of my journey as an entrepreneur.
In the early stages of the business, we mainly focused on system integration (SI) projects. We were involved in media-related work, such as producing performances and promotional videos. However, when the pandemic hit and there was a growing demand for immersive content, we decided to transition to this field.
The field of immersive content is actually led by a newcomer who is in their first year, Sam, a first-year startup. Before the pandemic, our revenue was approximately 300 million KRW, and our team was very small, consisting of 5 to 7 members. However, currently, our total revenue has reached around 4 billion KRW, including sales and grants, and our team has expanded to 20 members. The key turning point that allowed us to achieve this growth was venturing into immersive content.
The content industry often relies on corporate commissions, and without them, it can face challenges. However, during the pandemic, this dynamic somewhat reversed, and we received numerous proposals, which allowed us to quickly pivot and grow in our specialized field.
Q. What is the competitive advantage of Newjak Content, that helped it sail through challenging times?
Newjak’s media art transforms an empty white space into a full-screen video setting, similar to VR, making the entire room into content. Unlike traditional metaverse setups that rely on Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs) for in-your-face implementations, Newjak has developed a format where you can directly enter the metaverse space. This technology can be applied, for instance, to model houses. Traditional model houses require physical walls and furniture arrangements within the space.
However, Newjak’s media art technology creates virtual walls and interiors within the space, saving cost and time compared to traditional model house production.
Next, we have developed an XR military shooting simulator. It embodies combat training setting to provide a realistic training experience. This technology is set to be showcased at the CES in 2024.
Pangyo offers many opportunities for startup entrepreneurs to support and collaborate with each other, making it an ideal space for startups.
Q. The defense shooting simulator service is a different field from your previous projects. What motivated you to enter the defense industry?
There is the “CEO Club” in Pangyo, which holds lectures and networking events at 7 AM. There I learned about a business idea to enter the defense industry.
There was a fierce competition, but we were selected, which led to the production of the project.
Subsequently, we received proposals for collaboration with startups which boast AI expertise. Being in a startup hub allows you to meet various early-stage companies and provides the advantage of mutual support and filling in the gaps where necessary, which seems to be one of the strengths of Pangyo.
Q. What are the trends in the global VR and XR markets?
First of all, the VR market has been on the decrease. Initially, when 3D movies were first released, they were innovative and garnered a lot of attention. However, just like how the discomfort of wearing glasses eventually hindered the success of 3D movies, I thought VR faced a similar challenge due to the inconvenience of wearing VR headsets.
As a result, I believed that the XR market had more scalability and growth potential than the VR market because it allows users to enjoy XR content without the need for headsets. Therefore, we have been focusing on XR.
There are still limitations. The most significant one is the high cost of hardware. I believe that over time, more affordable versions with high performance will become available. However, at present, the expensive equipment required for implementation makes it challenging to use in smaller-scale settings, which is unfortunate.
K-content to the global market through Korean-specific content in the XR market
Q. Many of Newjak’s previous projects have been used in museums. How was the collaboration with museums?
I have a strong interest in Korean history and culture, including Korean arts. When working with museums and art galleries, I wanted to create more content that reflects the unique aspects of Korea.
When you look at Japanese-style content, it often has a distinct Japanese style. The visual aesthetics in many Japanese content pieces reflect a style commonly seen in Japanese media. We aim to take this approach and apply it in a Korean style, showcasing the beauty of Korea to the global market.
Our first project with an art gallery was at the Sinan Jwabulung Art Museum. It was a project to bring the great artist Woo Bong Joheerung’s work to life through content, and I remember working through the night to capture as much of the Korean essence as possible.
K-culture has been gaining international recognition, and Newjak aims to showcase our technology on the global stage with Korean-centric content. We hope to naturally introduce Korean content to the world while demonstrating our expertise and capabilities.
Q. I would like to ask for advice to junior entrepreneurs or would-be startup CEOs from you as a senior entrepreneur.
In my 20s, I often heard the phrase “dig one well deep,” implying the importance of specializing in one area. However, as an entrepreneur, I believe it’s crucial to have a broad understanding of various fields. It’s essential to grasp the points where collaboration is possible and continuously learn to seize good opportunities.
For example, my collaboration point is entering the defense market. Just as the fusion of media and defense has yielded good results, I believe that aspiring entrepreneurs should focus on learning and gaining diverse experiences. As a result of my efforts, I also had the opportunity to be certified by the Defense Venture Group and receive advisory support from the Defense Venture Center.
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