VR EDUCATION HOLDINGS PLC (VRE.L) creators and operators of the popular social platform ENGAGE for education, training, and conferences, announced it’s raised $10M USD from investors including Octopus Investment Limited UK. The money will be used to fund growth, but VRE is also is building a new metaverse, The Engage Oasis, which it hopes will become “the Linkedin of VR,” according to co-founder and CEO David Whelan. The name is an homage to the metaverse described in the book and movie “Ready Player One.”
This represents a significant pivot and re-branding for Irish company. Founded in 2014 by David and Sandra Whelan, VRE had early success with its first VR Space simulation, Apollo 11. They introduced the PC and VR Engage platform for education and training in 2018, which is now compatible with PCs, smartphones, and VR headsets including the fast-growing Oculus Quest. Engage provides enterprises, schools and educators a VR platform full of varied classrooms and environments. Institutions pay a license fee, but importantly, individual educators like myself can buy a $10/month subscription, enabling private classrooms and custom content uploads. And for our students its free. Engage offers a modest library of 360 videos, that can be viewed as a group. Users can also upload links to YouTube videos, 3D objects, environments, documents, and presentations.
Many Engage environments are filled with video screens and whiteboards. Engage is the only VR collaboration app we know of that enables fully embodied conferences attended by 1000 simultaneous users (avatars), which they did for HTC’s Ecosystem conferences for the past two years. HTC liked it so much, it invested in the company. They are now resellers of the Engage platform. In May, new Fidelity employees participated in team-building exercises, games and training with Oculus Quest VR headsets in Engage.
The Octopus investment will be in VR Education Holdings’ common shares at the market price today (June 22, 2021). While VRE.L shares have tripled in the past year, the company is still as micro as it gets, with a total market cap of $40 M USD before the Octopus investment. Engage now has 60 employees. Whelan says they will be expanding to 100 before the end of this year. He told us 64% of its revenue is recurring, and all of 2020’s total revenue was surpassed in the first quarter of 2021. That’s a revenue growth rate is 400%. Current clients include HTC, Facebook, Huawei, KPMG, Stanford University, XPrize Foundation, Abbott Laboratories, and the US State Department.
“ENGAGE will still offer its core services such as ENGAGE Education, ENGAGE Enterprise and ENGAGE events for businesses and educational institutions that want to use us for their own internal communications and events,” said Whelan. “ENGAGE Oasis is the codename for our vision of the Metaverse which is designed for Corporate Clients, Educational Institutes and young professionals seeking to connect with one another to generate new business ideas and to sell services to each other. ENGAGE Oasis will have its own store to purchase digital items and services directly from the corporations using the platform along with NFT support for artists to build interesting spaces and items for clients.”
“To stay safe these days, we need to create more distance between people, and conversely, one of the biggest benefits of XR is the ability to remove the perception of distance and boundaries for users,” China President of HTC, Alvin W. Graylin said. “Prior to this virus pandemic, the mindset of many people is that XR is a nice-to-have technology. Post-outbreak, the benefits of XR to overcome the physical barriers between people could make it a must-have technology over time. The killer app of XR isn’t a specific game or application like with prior computing technologies, but rather the ability to regain a part of the daily life we lost due to the new reality facing the world today. Working-from-home, distance learning, home-based fitness, immersive entertainment and networked social interactivity will all be part of the new normal in our lives, and made more agreeable if more users could adopt XR technologies.”
Whelan says the Engage Oasis will be a digital city where business can be done. Executives can connect with each other to generate new business ideas and deliver value to their respective organizations. “ENGAGE Oasis aims to be an opportunity for corporate users to expand their customer base and provide immersive services at a reasonable price,” he says.
All the avatars and virtual locations will be tailored for professional users, and guidelines will be set by the owners of each “sector.” There will be no limits on digital artists or corporations regarding the virtual building blocks and styles used. As part of this metaverse, a new marketplace will become available for corporations and digital artists to sell digital items and provide services using non-fungible tokens, fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies.
Engage says it will be sharing more information about their new Oasis in the near future, with a release expected early next year.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.