VIRTUAL REALITY

Austin's Owlchemy Labs, TheWaveVR raise funding rounds for VR projects

Posted August 5th, 2016

Two Austin companies working in virtual reality have raised real-world rounds of financing.

Game developer Owlchemy Labs, which raised its profile in virtual reality this year with the game "Job Simulator," said it has raised $5 million in series A funding from Qualcomm Ventures, HTC, The VR Fund, Colopl VR Fund, Capital Factory and Austin entrepreneurs.

Separately, TheWaveVR, which is developing a virtual reality platform for DJs and other performers to put on music shows in VR, closed a $2.5 million round of seed funding from venture capital firms including including KPCB Edge, Presence Capital, Rothenberg Ventures, RRE Ventures, The VR Fund and Seedcamp. Angel investors included Mike Fischer, former CEO of Square Enix North America, and Joe Kraus of GV, formerly Google Ventures.

Austin has of late become a hotbed of VR and augmented reality development with game companies, filmmakers and marketing firms leaning into the technology as it continues to seek mainstream success. This year, Facebook-owned Oculus VR and HTC each released much-anticipated VR hardware and more products are on the way from Sony, Google and Microsoft.

Both companies have been heavily involved in Austin's VR scene, frequently appearing at game conferences and hosting demos at meetups. 

TheWaveVR, which has seven employees in Austin and Los Angeles, plans to use its funding to hire software engineers and developers, and to move into an office space off 38th Street. Its goal is to continue developing a way for DJs and other musicians to put on live shows within virtual reality as an alternative to touring and a way that could also be monetized.

"It feels like you're literally 5 to 10 feet from that artist in a private DJ set," said Finn Staber, CTO of TheWaveVR. The company has brought on audio-visual artist David Wexler, known to fans as "Strangeloop" as an advisor and this weekend is holding its first VR Rave out of Los Angeles. Its CEO, Adan Arrigo, worked for Harmonix, the company behind music games "Rock Band" and "Dance Central."

Owlchemy LabsA still from "Job Simulator," a VR game from Austin-based Owlchemy Labs.

Owlchemy, which has 16 full-time employees in addition to contractors, says it will use the investment to expand its content-development teams, to continue creating VR software and to keep building VR technology across multiple platforms. Owlchemy saw its game "Job Simulator" become a bundled title for the HTC Vive headset and will also be available at launch for the upcoming Oculus Touch controller and Sony's PlayStation VR, due out in October.

Owlchemy is working on an adaptation of the animated TV show "Rick and Morty" with Adult Swim.

"We’ve solved some of the toughest design and development challenges in this new medium, and with this investment we’ll apply these lessons to a portfolio of full games," Owlchemy Labs CEO Alex Schwartz said in a written statement.

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