Softbank Group leads $502m Series B in VR startup Improbable Worlds

Visual from Improbable Worlds Facebook page.

London-based virtual reality (VR) startup Improbable Worlds Ltd has closed a $502 million Series B round led by SoftBank Group Corp that also sees participation from existing investors Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Hong Kong-based Horizon Ventures and Singapore state investment fund Temasek Holdings.

The latter three investment firms participated in a $22 million Series A investment round in the VR startup in March 2015.

Improbable Worlds creates virtual worlds for gaming and massive-scale simulations. According to Crunchbase data, aggregate equity funding raised with this round by Improbable is $524.09 million.

According to details in a Bloomberg report, the valuation at which the Series B round was raised is undisclosed. But Softbank’s acquisition of a non-controlling stake suggests a post-money market capitalisation of $1.04 billion at the minimum.

The deal will see Deep Nishar, a managing director of Softbank Group International, join its board. In an official statement, Nishar said, ““Improbable is building breakthrough technologies that are becoming vital and valuable platforms for the global gaming industry. Beyond gaming, this new form of simulation on a massive scale has the potential to help us make better decisions about the world we live in.”

Founded in 2012 by Herman Narula and Rob Whitehead, computer science graduates of Cambridge University, their product – designed primarily for game developers –  has applications such as modelling transport systems and epidemiology. In December 2016, the firm announced a partnership with Google that saw it offer its product, SpatialOS, for download by the general public.

Improbable enables software developers to build massive and persistent virtual worlds in addition to digital simulations of complex systems such as economies and biological systems. In essence, SpatialOS is a cloud computing service for building virtual worlds and operated on top of the Google Cloud platform.

This latest investment expands Softbank’s exposure to the UK technology sector. It acquired UK-based chip designer ARM Holdings Plc last year in a $32 billion deal. It also comes as SoftBank finalises its $100 billion technology-oriented Vision Fund, which counts limited partners (LPs) such as Apple Inc. and Saudi Arabia. Part of its stake in ARM Holdings is in the Vision Fund.

The last few years have seen Softbank engage in acquisitions and investments that have built a portfolio of assets outside its core mobile communications business. This aggressive investment appetite and expansion into new technology domains is convergent with the long-term business thesis of Masayoshi Son, the founder and chief executive of Softbank.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review

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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.