Hodson Views VR as Next Big Thing

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 62 views 

By no means is Michael Hodson afraid to take risks.

In March 2008, the former Fayetteville attorney told friends he would shut down his law practice to travel the world.

Just a few months before the big announcement, he’d put his love for travel to the test with a month-long solo trip to Nicaragua. “I loved it,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do a lot more traveling.”

Hodson, a member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class in 2005, would go on to travel the world without flying or making reservations. He successfully completed the trek in 16 months at a cost estimated around $80,000.

Before the journey, he had planned to return home and restart his practice, but he soon found that he enjoyed traveling too much to quit.

“I ended up full-time traveling for almost seven years,” he said.

He visited 85 countries. His favorite: New Zealand. Its residents are the “friendliest people in the world, it’s easy to get around and the weather is fantastic,” Hodson said.

At first, he paid with savings to travel, then with freelance video work and his blog: Go, See, Write.

He was making about one-third to half of what he was earning as an attorney, and depending on the income, he might travel to less expensive countries, like in Southeast Asia, or ones with a high cost of living, such as London. Hodson stopped writing for the blog about two years ago, but he still owns it and has an editor and guest writers who keep it going.

“In the full seven years, I never stayed in one location for more than a month,” he said. He traveled mostly by himself, but sometimes would have the opportunity to spend several weeks with friends.

He spent the last four years of his traveling experience in Europe.

At 48, Hodson said his one regret about his decision to travel would be that he did so for too long. Five years would have been long enough.

In spring 2015, he moved to Austin, Texas, and started Only In VR Inc., a virtual reality video business.

He saw opportunity in VR while traveling and shooting video regularly for hotels and tourism boards. The shift to VR from regular video was an easy decision.

He started his business with travel and tourism video, allowing viewers to have a 360-degree view of everything in the shot.

By late 2015, he shifted to recording musicians, mostly of live performances. He’s recorded video for 40 artists, so far.

The video has yet to be released, but the plan is to develop an app allowing users to view content with a subscription, like Netflix offers for its movies and TV shows.

His goal is to have the app ready for South By Southwest, the mega-conference which is hosted annually in March.

While Hodson remains focused on cutting-edge technology, he still considers arguing cases as a trial attorney the highlight of his career.

He most enjoyed jury trials as an attorney, and if he had more, he said he probably would still be in the position. “Jury trials were awesome,” he said. “I loved getting in front of a jury.”

He explained that the legal system is geared toward deal-making before a trial. “Trials are the last resort,” Hodson said. “They are expensive and time consuming.”

Hodson argued more than a dozen jury trials in his 10 years as an attorney, and all but one went in his clients’ favor.

In his Forty Under 40 year of 2005, he was a partner at Hodson, Woods & Snively in Fayetteville. He started his practice in 1999, and by 2005 it had grown to five attorneys.

In 1997, Hodson graduated from law school at the University of Arkansas.

Before he was an attorney, Hodson served as press secretary for Mark Pryor, when he was state attorney general. He also worked on two of Pryor’s election campaigns.

In 1990, Hodson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas at Austin. 

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