San Francisco based VC firm Rothenberg Ventures has announced the second class of their ‘River’ program, which includes $1 million of investment capital across 10 new VR startups. With this second class the firm has also expanded the scope of the River program to include other companies in the realm of ‘frontier tech’.
The River program is an initiative by Rothenberg Ventures launched back in January that sought to foster VR startup growth with $1.3 million in investments across 13 VR companies. Those companies would also get access to Rothenberg Ventures’ SF office space and meet with the program’s roster of advisors to help hone their products. It was all capped of with the ‘Founder Field Day’ event which put the companies on display for investors.
River is moving to a bi-annual cadence as the program’s second class of startups is today announced. The program is also expanding its scope beyond VR, into the wider world of ‘frontier tech’, which Rothenberg Ventures says includes VR, AR, AI, Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Robotics and more.
Rothenberg Ventures says they sifted through some 600 companies to select those that would join River. Of the 14 companies joining the second River class, 10 are in the VR sector, including a few names that will be known to denizens of Road to VR:
OBE Immersive is the first fully immersive input solution that enables users to completely interact with a virtual environment. OBE’s SDK can easily be programmed into any application and will provide full body vibrations, biometrics, audio, temperature and haptic game controls. Joysticks and controllers are not the solution to fully immersive experiences; the OBE Immersive input solution is.
The co-founders of OBE, Linda Lobato (CEO) and Antonio Perdigón (Creative Director), have worked together for seven years as founders at Machina. Linda Lobato was named one of Forbes Mexico’s 30 under 30 and featured as one of Intel’s MakeHers. Machina products consistently sell out in flagship locations across the world – the most famous, The MIDI Controller Jacket, was named “The Most Beautiful Wearable Tech” by Wired UK magazine 2014.
Retinad built the first analytics platform for virtual reality developers and is building the first VR advertising network. Retinad’s platforms provide unique metrics on app install ads, interactive advertising, visual surveys, and heat maps from immersive experiences. Sign up for Retinad’s network here.
Anthony Guay (CTO) spent three years as a software director at Binaloop Software. Samuel F Poirier (CEO) previously built Yagi Card in partnership with Mt. Gox to create the first BTC debit card. The founders have been working together for more than two years.
VrTV is a innovative new platform where VR enthusiasts from amateur to pro can collaboratively build and instantly publish real-time streaming interactive VR. With VrTV’s proprietary real-time 3D streaming system all published content is delivered completely on demand to play natively on every device with no installs and no waiting.
Co-founders Benjamin Cooley and Carlo Morgantini are gaming industry veterans and graphics experts formerly from Ubisoft, Zynga, Lucas Arts, and Tell Tale Games.
Cerevrum combines cognitive neuroscience, data-driven machine learning, and innovative game design to create immersive educational VR experiences. To date, brain training largely elicits placebo effects rather than actual cognitive improvements. By contrast, Cerevrum provides scientifically validated learning experiences across all viable VR platforms.
Aldis Sipolins (CEO) is pursuing a PhD in Visual Cognition and Human Performance. Natasha Floksy, CCO, is a game industry veteran and a Mobile VR Jam AR/VR silver winner. The two founders have spent the past year collaborating on VR research.
Temple Gates Games is a studio single-minded in its goal to develop the best game content in the VR space. Serial game jam competitors, the five member team joined forces to create Bazaar, a magical flying carpet game targeted for Gear VR.
The team is composed of AAA vets, including Tod Semple, creator of Plants Vs. Zombies, Theresa Duringer, creator of Cannon Brawl, Jeff Gates of Spore, Patrick Benjamin of SimCity, and Ben Rosaschi, polish master from Zynga. They’re tackling gaming’s newest frontier with a commitment to quality multi-platform development.
VRChat is the social platform for user-generated immersive worlds in virtual reality. Through custom avatars, engaging input, and a diverse community, anyone with VR hardware can access a wide range of social environments and experiences. VRChat’s Unity customization workflow enables users to rapidly create social VR environments.
Founders, Graham Gaylor and Jesse Joudrey, are experienced game developers and VR thought-leaders. Jesse has been in the gaming industry for fifteen years, previously running his own gaming company for the past ten; Graham previously worked on mobile games at GREE and Zynga.
inVR’s platform enables creators to easily convert 3D designs into virtual reality experiences across all platforms. InVR aims to be the platform for 3D VR, a more immersive experience than 360 video. InVR is one of the most popular VR social networks for creators and consumers; the app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
The founders, Eyal Erez and Alexander Krasij, met two years ago at Disney Mobile while working on the mobile game, Temple Run: Oz. Eyal has worked for many years in the VFX/Animation industry and understands the challenges of bridging the gap between offline 3D Animation and real-time VR. Alex has been involved with independent game development for the past 10 years, recently creating a game device called TRIPAD.
Rival Theory, Vicarious Surgical, and Awawarp are also making use of VR, though Rothenberg Ventures primarily categorizes the former as an Artificial Intelligence company and the latter two as Robotics companies.
Rothenberg Ventures says that their first River class of 13 companies have raised more than $10 million in follow-on capital since finishing the program. The company says they’re committing $10 million to River over the next year, and will raise the per-company investment to $200,000 starting in Spring 2016.