Hong Kong-based company Sandbox VR added $11 million from an investment group including well-known celebrities.
The strategic funding from a16z and Craft Ventures brings the total raised by Sandbox from investors to $83 million, according to the company. This latest funding is led by David Sacks of Craft Ventures and the Andreessen Horowitz Cultural Leadership Fund. Additional investors include Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Will Smith, Kevin Durant with Thirty Five Ventures and the Dreamers Fund.
The addition of celebrities to the investors backing Sandbox, with influence spanning popular music, film and sports, opens up the possibility of collaborations for the VR-focused entertainment company. In a call with Sandbox CEO Steve Zhao, he said he sees adding these individuals to the company’s investor list as potentially helping them with the development of future content.
“It just makes conversation much easier if they’re also an investor,” Zhao said.
Star Trek and PvP
Sandbox does full body tracking with haptic vests and accessories and they are preparing to open Star Trek Discovery: Away Mission and a new player-versus-player game called the Unbound Fighting League. Zhao says they have eight locations open now, both as franchises and Sandbox-operated spots, and they are planning to open eight more in the coming months. Sandbox offers mixed reality footage to guests as part of the standard package to commemorate the visit.
You can see UploadVR editor David Jagneaux in the video below kicking some of the simulated creatures coming toward him.
Finding Market Fit
The market for location-based VR entertainment remains experimental with both well-funded startups and mom and pop arcades exploring the draw of replacing reality for a little bit. A combination of fast-changing hardware, the cost of software development/licensing and the competing lure of low cost but high quality home entertainment means operators are faced with a lot of options on their path to paying rent and drawing in both new and repeat visitors. The VOID, Zero Latency, Dreamscape Immersive, and Spaces are just a few of the companies in the same area as Sandbox, each with their own approach to testing the market and seeing what works.
Earlier this year Sandbox announced its first major funding — $68 million –backed by Andreessen Horowitz and Zhao recounted his efforts starting in 2017 to find a market fit.
We’re hoping to test out Star Trek soon as well as the PvP game from Sandbox. We’ll report back with impressions as soon as we have them.