Tech Industry

Venture capital firm plans $10M virtual-reality funding blitz

Rothenberg Ventures will provide funding to startups developing virtual reality and other next-generation technologies.

Virtual reality is attracting real-world investors.

Virtual reality is attracting real-world dollars.

Rothenberg Ventures, which provides early-stage funding, said Thursday it plans to invest $10 million over the next 14 months on companies developing virtual reality and other next-generation technologies that help people see and experience worlds created in computer programs.

The San Francisco firm will make initial investments of $100,000 in 13 startups, eight of which are developing virtual- or augmented-reality products or services. The firm, which will manage the investments through its 9-month-old River Program fund, will add to its holdings through the end of 2016.

Rothenberg's investments mark the latest growth of interest in VR from the world's largest tech firms and financiers. Oculus VR, one of the leading companies in this industry, went from its founding in 2012 to a sale to the social-networking giant Facebook two years later for more than $2 billion. Other companies like Google, Sony, Samsung and HTC have also joined in, offering their own takes on the nascent technology.

Mike Rothenberg, founder and CEO of the eponymous firm said he believes VR can be applied to a host of mainstream activities, such as architecture, medicine and education.

"VR has been around for decades, but what is different now is that the technology is a lot less expensive and it actually works," he said.

Rothenberg isn't alone. Investment in VR more than doubled to $775 million in 2014 from a year earlier, according to CB Insights, a venture capital data provider. In the first half of 2015, $248 million have been invested in VR companies.

Andreessen Horowitz, another venture capital firm, has also identified VR as an investment pillar.

"Looking back, the movie and TV screens we use today will be seen as an intermediate step between the invention of electricity and the invention of VR," Chris Dixon, a partner at the VC firm said in a blog post earlier this year.

Experts say VR will initially be most popular as a video game accessory, but there are other startups planning to expand its use to other industries as well, including health care, education, tourism, real estate and journalism.

The companies in the River Program fund include GeOCV, which makes an app that scans objects and interior spaces and automatically generates 3D models, and GetVu, which automates warehouse supply chain management.