Billion-Dollar Babies #1: 4 Unicorn Startups in The AR/VR/XR Industries

New Series

This will be the first in a series of posts for the Deep Tech Insider on deep tech companies with a valuation of a billion dollars or more. Future articles will cover other interesting sectors in deep tech like space, autonomous mobility, clean energy, and computational biology etc.

Today, though, we kick off with the augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR) markets.

Expected Growth

According to data from AR/VR/XR advisory company Digi-Capital, revenue from the virtual and augmented reality global market is expected to grow from over $13 billion in 2020 to more than $67 billion by 2024.

Although this is all conjecture, the numbers are impressive enough. In line with these projections and following the pattern, several AR/VR/XR startups have succeeded in becoming billion-dollar unicorns, at least on paper.

The Deep Tech Insider will now highlight four of the most exciting around — four of whom the founders, investors and those with a keen interest in the future want to see succeed.

1.MindMaze (Estimated valuation: $2B)

Founded in 2012 by Pakistani neuroscientist, engineer and entrepreneur Tej Tadi, MindMaze and its brain technology is out to speed up humanity’s ability to recover, learn and adapt. With deep and meaningful research in disciplines such as neuroscience, biosensing, engineering, mixed reality, and AI moving at a steady pace over the last decade, the company is well on its way to assisting patients and improving their health outcomes suffering from neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis.

All this is made possible by MindMaze’s revolutionary computing platform that captures brain activity upon intent. This, in turn, creates a new operating system for computers — a brain O/S, an intuitive mind to machine interface which takes advantage of “pre-realtime decoding of brain signals via neural prediction”. This has been made possible from years of painstaking testing in the healthcare industry — and the outcome: MindMaze’s novel IP is set to reshape existing industries, starting with the healthcare and gaming sectors.

In 2016, MindMaze raised a round of financing that valued the company at $1.1 billion.

In May of this year, the Lausanne, Switzerland-based startup —  which also has U.S. headquarters in San Francisco — was mulling over a Nasdaq listing by merging with a SPAC, with talks to investors about raising more than $100 million in a deal valuing the company at more than $2 billion.

In total, the virtual reality startup has raised a total funding amount of $110.7 million since its founding.

2.Magic Leap (Estimated valuation: ~$450M to $10B)

Florida-based Magic Leap, founded by American entrepreneur Rony Abovitz in 2010, is an augmented reality startup whose head-mounted virtual retinal display, called Magic Leap One — which superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real-world objects, by “projecting a digital light field into the user’s eye” — has been designed to optimize workflows, improve productivity, and increase ROI for companies globally.

Sure augmented reality (AR) is poised to become the next paradigm in computing and disrupt the health, defence and public sector, manufacturing, oil and gas, automotive, transport, architecture, engineering and construction industries, Magic Leap is ready to play its part in a transformational impact on professional productivity.

Magic Leap has raised a total of $3 billion in funding over 10 rounds. As of May 2020, the company had a post-money valuation in the range of $1 billion to $10 billion, though the news the startup was restructuring and that half of the company’s staff would be laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic puts things into perspective.

More bad news came in September 2020, however, when subscription-based technology publication The Information reported that the company’s valuation had dropped from $6.4 billion in 2019 to $450 million by June 2020, a fall of over 93 percent in six months.

3.Matterport (Estimated valuation: $2.9B)

A world leader in immersive 3D technology that provides a platform for prosumers and professionals to easily capture, edit and share 3D models of physical spaces, Matterport is the brainchild of computer vision entrepreneur Matt Bell. Founded in 2011, Matterport is based in Sunnyvale, California.

With its innovative spatial data platform that provides virtual real estate tours, Matterport’s technology is digitally transforming the construction industry by changing how homes are bought and sold, retail stores are planned out, hotels or vacation homes are marketed, facilities are managed, and design and construction projects are completed.

Since 2011, Matterport has raised a total of $114 million in funding over 12 rounds, its latest funding in 2020 from a Series D round.

Earlier this year, Matterport announced that it would go public in a merger with a “blank check” company that values the combined companies at $2.9 billion.

4.OxSight (Estimated valuation: $1.74B)

Founded in Oxford, the UK by Stephen Hicks, Rakesh Roshan, Noah Russell, and Iain Wilson in 2016, OxSight was established to help the visually impaired gain more independence with day-to-day activities. The startup’s OxSight smart glasses, designed for both central vision and peripheral vision loss caused by diseases such as Glaucoma, Diabetes, Retinitis Pigmentosa, and other degenerative eye diseases, can enhance sight for sight-impaired people.

The company started with research conducted at the University of Oxford in 2010. Since then, OxSight has gone from strength to strength. Now it is an internationally recognized company in wearable solutions in the augmented reality (AR) industry for anyone living with sight degeneration.

“Once you start to lose your sight, it really becomes difficult to differentiate between say a foreground object and a background one. They kind of blur together. But with our project, what we can do is identify a certain class of object and make them stand out. So it enables them to be more intuitive and more interactive in the way they deal with the world and really make use of that small amount of sight that most people who are blind still have.”

 — Dr. Stephen Hicks, founder OxSight

OxSight raised north of £200 million of venture funding from ET Capital in 2019, bringing its estimated valuation to £1.74 billion.

Please remember, these billion-dollar valuations are all speculative. Valuation is an art, not a science, unfortunately, but it’s all we have to work with.

Anyway, by featuring these four, we’ve just skimmed the surface. The AR/VR/XR markets are, unsurprisingly, set to grow exponentially over the next few years. And when they do, the Deep Tech Insider — along with its sister publication The Quantum Daily for quantum tech — will be there reporting, giving our unbiased opinion on the what, the where and the who about our future world.