Tech firm poised to grow in Vancouver

Immersive Media recently moved its headquarters from Portland

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

Published:

 
photoImmersive Media's 360-degree videos can be used to dazzling effect to bring viewers into scenes such as this daredevil bicycle leap. The company now has six employees at its new Vancouver headquarters but hopes to add another 10 over the next year.

()

If you've ever clicked on Google's "Street View" feature, you've seen the work of Immersive Media.

The company's 360-degree video technology provides stunning new windows on the world, with views in every direction from such famous places as New York's Times square or more ordinary places including the street you live on. Immersive produced those views for Google over a two-year period, until Google took over its Street View work at the end of 2007 and Immersive moved on.

Immersive, then based in Canada with an office in Portland, continued with other clients but went through a rocky period, with some early investors shifting funds elsewhere. Three employees — brothers Myles and Tom McGovern, and Lance Van Nostrand — then banded together to purchase the company's assets. That deal closed in 2010 and the three men pulled the company out of dormancy the same year.

Now Immersive has moved its headquarters from Portland to Vancouver and is preparing for a growth spurt with new, high-profile clients. Since 2011, it has worked with singer Will.i.am and his group, the Black Eyed Peas, as well as Intel, Red Bull, Union Pacific and the Discovery Channel, among many others.

"We would love to expand in Vancouver," said Tom McGovern, a company vice president who has lived here for 11 years. The company has 25 employees overall and six based in Vancouver, but expect to add another 10 local employees over the next year in its new Park Plaza office.

Immersive's 360-degree video technology is the product of its box-shaped cameras, with eyeball-shaped lenses that point in all four directions. The cameras capture what a person could see if only he had eyes on the front, back, and sides of his head. The resulting videos bring viewers on stage with the Black Eyed Peas, into the air with 138 skydivers leaping from an airplane, or to the ocean floor for 40 days in an aquarium's shark tank.

McGovern sees strong growth potential in the entertainment sector, which now accounts for about 60 percent of the company's work. Immersive's clients are entertainers, as well as businesses and consumer products companies that create entertainment-based advertisements or marketing campaigns. Some of the entertainment work is what McGovern calls experential — roller-coaster rides and countless thrill-seeking activities.

The rest of Immersive's work is evenly divided between GIS mapping projects, such as developing video records of utilities and pipelines, and "situational awareness" videos that inform emergency first responders and military personnel, among others, McGovern said. He sees a large untapped potential in using the technology in gaming applications, an area of research and development for Immersive.

The technology's gee-whiz appeal creates great opportunities for advertisers, McGovern noted at a recent Clark County PubTalk presentation that the flight of the parachuters lasts about 90 seconds, but the typical viewer spends over five minutes with the video by stopping it along the way to take in the view. In addition, viewers typically watch the video four or five times, and are much more likely to share with friends than with a conventional video.

The company will not disclose its revenues or its growth projections, McGovern said. Its affiliated company Immersive Ventures remains based in Canada, with Myles McGovern working as CEO from British Columbia. Van Nostrand the company's chief technology officer, is based in Dallas.

McGovern said the company chose Vancouver partly because he lives here, but he also sees long-term tax advantages for locating in Washington rather than Oregon. He sees no difficulties in attracting talent from Portland.

"Everything about it seems a little bit simpler," he said of working in Vancouver. "It's all on the plus side."