Cinematic VR content creators score millions in funding

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Three top cinematic virtual reality content producers, The Virtual Reality Company (VRC), Within (formerly Vrse) and Félix & Paul Studios have raised funding to expand their operations. VRC raised $23 million, Within raised $12.7 million and Félix & Paul Studios raised $6.8 million.

This $42.5 million is in addition to the large amount of investments in AR/VR in the first quarter of this year. According to data analyst Digi-Capital, AR/VR investments came to $1.7 billion in the 12 months to March 2016, $1.2 billion of that in the first quarter of this year alone. While Magic Leap accounted for $800 million of that amount, the remaining Q1 2016 investment was still 45% higher than the previous quarter.

LA-based VRC was cofounded by Robert Stromberg, Christopher Edwards, Joel Newton and Guy Primus in October 2014. VRC has created the critically-acclaimed VR experience The Martian VR, a 20-minute interactive and immersive journey created for the 20th Century Fox Innovation Lab. Other notable projects include an original family-oriented VR program created in collaboration with Steven Spielberg who is also a VRC advisor and shareholder.

The equity investment was made by Hengxin Mobile Business Co., Ltd., a Beijing-based mobile services and technology provider. The strategic investment sees the investor gaining exclusive distribution rights for VRC’s content in China, while the agreement opens the world’s largest consumer base to VRC and its content. Other investors include Metallica lead singer James Hetfield, Rothenberg Ventures and Elementum Ventures.

At the same time as announcing closing a Series A round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation by 21st Century Fox, Vrse CEO Chris Milk announced another change at the startup he founded with Aaron Koblin in 2014. Vrse will now be known as Within. The new name reflects the company’s vision that it’s primarily about creating and sharing human experiences for which VR technology serves as a tool. Within’s sister company produces all of Within's VR films, as well as VR experiences for corporate and non-profit clients.

While still known as Vrse, the company gained early recognition as a VR film producer. It is known for a number of original VR pieces, including the Syrian-war documentary Clouds Over Sidra, Walking New York, The Neymar Jr Effect, and Waves of Grace in partnership with the United Nations. Vice News VR and Clouds Over Sidra were nominated for Individual Documentary Episode and Mobile App Music respectively at the Webby Awards and Evolution of Verse and Clouds Over Sidra were shortlisted for Original Branded Content at the 2015 Cannes International Advertising Festival.

In Montreal, Canada, the award-winning Félix & Paul Studios has closed a $6.8 million (USD) round of Series A funding led by Comcast Ventures. Other investors include Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, LDV Partners and existing investor Phi Group.

Founded in 2012 by directors and visual artists Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël, the Canadian studio is credited with having produced the best VR content for Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR for the past three years. Inside the Box of Kurios, a virtual reality experience created and produced by Cirque du Soleil Média and Felix & Paul Studios won a Daytime Emmy Award in the Outstanding Interactive Media – Original Daytime Program or Series category.

In 2015 the studio produced seven high quality VR experiences for the Oculus Rift and Gear VR. This year the company has over 30 projects in the pipeline in various stages of development. Felix & Paul Studios has 37 VR specialists working from offices in Montreal and Los Angeles.

The studio will use the investment to grow its team and production capacity, enhance its proprietary VR cameras and expand its production and post-production software suite. The studio also plans to expand distribution of its VR experiences and apps to more platforms and international markets. As part of the funding deal, Michael Yang, Managing Director of Comcast Ventures, will join the Felix & Paul Studios board of directors.

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