Since March 2021, when US online game creation platform Roblox was listed on the New York Stock Exchange and its market value easily surpassed US$300 billion, "Metaverse" immediately became a hot concept and the focus of companies.
In addition to the layout of Facebook, Tencent, Baidu, and other technology giants in China, online dating software Soul, beverage brands including Nayuki and MIXUE IceCream&Tea have also added the concept of Metaverse to their brand marketing. In light of this, Flowing Cloud, a VR content provider, also decided to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. So far, everything has gone smoothly and the IPO took place at the end of this September. According to the prospectus provided by Flowing Cloud, the keyword "Metaverse" appears 243 times.
The Flowing Cloud used to be known as Beijing OPHYER Technology Co, Ltd. (hereinafter "OPHYER"), and it was originally a game platform. A number of single-player games have been released by OPHYER since 2009. In 2017, when mobile games were all the rage and VR devices entered the mainstream, gaming companies introduced VR technology to gain more market share. It was at this time when OPHYER transferred its business centre for the first time and launched the AR/VR SaaS platform with service to AR/VR as its main business, which was listed on the New Third Board in the same year. In the following two years, OPHYER quickly completed its business transformation and obtained five rounds of financing. When the concept of Metaverse exploded in 2021, OPHYER transformed for the second time, with the business focus pointing directly to the Metaverse, OPHYER was renamed "Flowing Cloud”.
In its prospectus, Flowing Cloud claimed that it would build a Metaverse platform, for example, Flowing Cloud mentions that a virtual world with immersive experiences, social channels, and user self-development will be created, and this platform would also be equipped with different functions such as a multi-player open world, an user and social systems, and a developer interface. In addition, on the basis of the "metaverse" platform, Flowing Cloud can also provide online services in the areas of cultural tourism, education, and live broadcasting, assisting users in completing their business activities on the platform. However, these are still tentative ideas, and Flowing Cloud has yet to figure out a clear profit model.
In terms of business logic, Yi Zhang, the CEO of iiMedia Research, describes Flowing Cloud as a marketing services company rather than a technology company. Especially when compared with other companies that focus on Metaverse technology, Flowing Cloudy only spent ¥15.046 million and ¥21.713 million on its independent research and development in 2020 and 2021, accounting for 4.4% and 3.6% of the total expenditure respectively, which is almost a drop in the bucket compared to Roblox's 20% annual R&D share. That said, although the main selling point was the Metaverse, Flowing Cloud's main business was still AR/VR marketing services, which helped clients advertise in the form of AR/VR and help them place it.
Xuhua Liao, another analyst in the cultural consumption industry suggested, "listing" was the original plan of Flowing Cloud, and the Metaverse" was just a re-expression of the positioning after combining with the market hotspots.
Looking back at the several transformations of Flowing Cloud, each step has been on the cusp of capital. According to the general manager of Flying Cloud, Lei Wang, the Internet industry has experienced three eras of changes and is now heading toward the meta-universe era. The main technological applications of the Metaverse include blockchain, artificial intelligence, AR/VR, and the Internet of Things, Flowing Cloud has been following the trend.
Objectively, the concept of Metaverse has caused many companies stock prices to soar, but after the fanaticism, the market has now calmed down. Stocks of Metaverse-related companies are currently in decline, with Roblox shares down 15% on the day it announced its second-quarter results in August this year, down nearly 70% from a high of nearly US$140/share last year. In China, due to excessive hype, some companies have also received letters of concern from the exchange, asking for proof of whether there is false advertising and whether their existing businesses are related to Meta Universe. Xuhua Liao suggested that the climax of the Metaverse had passed, and the valuation of Flowing Cloud's listing would not be too high compared with the same period last year. Moreover, compared with U.S. stocks and A-shares, the Hong Kong stock market has higher requirements for R&D strength and profitability of technology companies. Flowing Cloud's IPO would face a more stringent test.
With the "Metaverse" craze fading away and the fierce struggle with domestic TOP Internet companies such as ByteDance and Tencent in the AR/VR market, Yi Zhang points out that Flowing Cloud should increase its technical investment in order to gain more market expectations.