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A year ago, UploadVR was formed as one of many meetups for developers interested in virtual reality. Today, the company has raised $1.25 million in seed funding from China’s Shanda Group.
That tells you how fast things are moving in the world of VR, which is expected to be a $30 billion market by 2020, according to tech advisor Digi-Capital.
After Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2 billion in the spring of 2014, the rage around VR grew. Taylor Freeman and Will Mason started their meetup to build a community around virtual reality enthusiasts in Silicon Valley. The first event drew 60 people. By October, the second meetup drew 500. In February, the event drew 1,300 people. And the most recent event with Augmented World Expo drew 3,000 attendees and 200 exhibitors.
“I was just curious about trying Oculus, and I figured starting a meetup would be the best way to get my hands on one,” Freeman said in an interview with GamesBeat.
During that time, UploadVR was finding its own identity. The company also started its own web site for VR news, and that is what drew the attention of investors.
Mason said in a blog post, “A little over a year ago we started UploadVR with a simple mission to bring inspiring virtual reality experiences to the masses. We were instantly converted the first moment we interacted with the technology, and that passion fueled a fire that allowed us to continue to grow into a thriving community of virtual reality enthusiasts, but our vision has always been grander. We want to impact civilization in a substantive way, using immersive technology to create positive change in the world.”
Freeman said that UploadVR wants to help the VR industry move forward and showcase its most inspiring work.
“We are a media company that is building a machine to handle the demands of the community that is growing around VR,” Freeman said.
Shanda Group is a private investment firm owned by Tianqiao Chen, a game industry veteran. It has invested in other VR and augmented reality (AR) startups, including Solfar Studios, an Icelandic VR game developer. Shanda Group has $5 billion in assets under management, and it is focused on the virtual future.
“Having followed the development of VR technology since the 1990s, we strongly believe that our dream of building an immersive virtual world finally has a chance to really come true with the direction the industry and technologies are moving and the speed at which they are progressing. UploadVR’s platform is critical in increasing consumer awareness and bringing the virtual world closer to consumer adoption,” said Tianqiao Chen, founder, chairman and CEO at Shanda Group, in a statement.
UploadVR’s strategic angel investors and advisors include Joe Kraus, partner at Google Ventures; Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life; Tony Parisi, co-creator of VRML; Greg Castle, a seed-investor in Oculus; and Sunny Dhillon, VR expert and partner at SignaVC.
“With the investment, UploadVR will retain full control over the content on the site and will continue to operate with a high standard for editorial ethics,” Mason wrote. “To put it simply, we won’t be saying nice things about companies because we are told to or because someone pays us. UploadVR is still our company and publication, this money just gives us the chance to make it bigger and better for you all.”
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