HK-based Sandbox VR nabs $11m from A-listers Will Smith, Katy Perry & others

Will Smith. Photo: Reuters

Sandbox VR, a Hong Kong-based startup specialised in fully immersive virtual reality (VR), announced on Tuesday the completion of its $11-million funding round from notable Silicon Valley and Hollywood icons including Katy Perry and Will Smith.

The new round was led by David Sacks, co-founder of San Francisco-based early-stage venture capital firm Craft Ventures, and the Andreessen Horowitz Cultural Leadership Fund (CLF), according to a company statement.

A group of A-listers, including Justin Timberlake, Will Smith, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, and Japanese professional footballer Honda Keisuke, also poured money into the new round. Former Walt Disney president Michael Ovitz, Dreamers Fund, two-time NBA basketball champ Kevin Durant and his manager Rich Kleiman, who later jointly founded Thirty Five Ventures, all participated in the investment.

Source: Sandbox VR

The new investment comes about nine months after the startup closed $68 million in a Series A round of financing from Alibaba, Andreesen Horowitz, Floodgate Ventures, Stanford University, Triplepoint Capital and CRCM in January 2019. The fresh round took the total capital raised by Sandbox VR to $83 million.

Sandbox VR was launched in 2016 by Steve Zhao with less than $1 million and a team of seven people to develop multiplayer inverse kinematics technology to capture, animate, and render people with full-body motion capture technology. The technology allows players to immerse themselves in different fantasy and science-fiction scenes after being suited up with motion trackers in escape rooms.

The company opened its first store in Hong Kong in 2016, which soon became popular. This helped the firm rope in a $3 million seed round from Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund in December 2017.

The company is in the process of an expansive rollout across the United States after recently opening in Los Angeles. It is coming soon to New York, Austin, San Diego, and Chicago with a total of 16 total locations planned by the end of 2020.

“Virtual reality is finally ready to take off as a mass-market phenomenon in malls, where it can be optimized for a social experience,” said David Sacks, co-founder and general partner at Craft Ventures. “We chose the Sandbox team because of their background in game design; their VR experiences have a level of interactivity – with both the VR world and other players – that we couldn’t find elsewhere.”

The company aims to become “the new medium for the future of sports, music, and storytelling,” said Zhao, the company founder, and CEO.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.