High Fidelity, the social VR company established by Philip Rosedale, has netted a further US $35 million in venture capital in a block D round of funding.
The funding was led by Blockchain investment firm Galaxy Digital Ventures (US $20 million), along with Blockchain Capital, Vulcan Capital, Breyer Capital, and IDG Capital Partners. The funding round marks a further investment point for Vulcan Capital, the company founded by former Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. In 2014, the company led a block C round of investment in High Fidelity that raised US $11 million for the company. As a part of the investment by Galaxy Digital Venture, co-founder Sam Englebardt will join the High Fidelity board of directors.
We’re happy to announce today that we have raised $35M in a new round of investment led by Galaxy Digital, with additional participation from Blockchain Capital, as well as our existing investors. This round brings the total investment in High Fidelity to more than $70M and will enable us to substantially increase R&D and Hiring.
Part of the High Fidelity announcement of the block D investment round
The involvement of companies particularly focused on blockchain technology is perhaps indicative of High Fidelity’s own promotion and use of blockchain technology. In late 2017, the company announced its blockchain-enabled currency and IP protection plans, which was followed at the end of 2017 and early 2018 by the deployment of their commerce tools, currency and Digital Assets Rights (DAR) capabilities.
These tools and capabilities mean that High Fidelity users actually own the digital goods they buy, tying the goods directly to their digital persona. A key factor with the system is that it is completely decentralised, providing a high degree of redundancy and security.
As well as working directly on blockchain technology for their own platform, High Fidelity has also been the prime mover behind the Virtual Reality Blockchain Alliance (VRBA), a group of early adopter companies aiming to let users’ avatars move freely between platforms and bring their blockchain-linked purchases with them.
This broad-based approach to using blockchain technology for things like asset management, rights management and tracking, authentication, etc., as well as for management digital currency flow and exchange within the domain of virtual environments, is the thing that has investors excited as it offers a means of testing the kind of blockchain capabilities that could have far-reaching impact on our ability to interact and do business with one another through digital means (directly and corporately).
Virtual reality may be the first killer app for blockchain. It’s a global phenomenon that fundamentally requires a trustless consensus mechanism for currency, property and identity Ventures. That’s what the new generation of blockchain protocols like EOS enable, and High Fidelity has the vision, team and open platform to lead the worldwide transition from atoms to bits.
Sam Englebardt, founding partner of Galaxy Digital Ventures
In the meantime, with Second Life turning over around Us $700 million a year in transactions, Philip Rosedale doubtless has an eye on the potential of a whole new, and broad-based virtual currently capability – particularly as he sees a market of a billion people in around a decade’s time, engaged in VR spaces to socialise share, create, buy, sell, learn, and so on.
Even without the potential for blockchain outside of these virtual spaces, the $72 million so far invested in High Fidelity seems to suggest people are persuaded by his views and ideas – and the care with which High Fidelity is building-out its back-end systems to achieve their aims, rather than focusing on glossy front-end capabilities which can so often be a focus of user wants, is also perhaps testament to their determination to present a global platform.
Which is not to say the company is solely focused on back-end work. Recently, HiFi has been promoting a range of new experiences to demonstrate the broad-based social capabilities of High Fidelity, some of which echo moves by Linden Lab with Sansar. These include:
- Nefertari: Journey to Eternity by CuriosityStream — students and adults enter an Egyptian tomb captured in 3D for a guided tour led by an Egyptologist (not unlike Sansar’s Voyages Live: Egypt experiences and activities)
- Speaker Series — join the audience in an auditorium for discussions with prominent thought leaders.
- RUST — a nightclub with live performances from DJs and an audience of people from around the world.
With thanks to Loki Eliot for the pointer.
Note: image of Sam Englebardt updated after K. Jewel pointed out that the initial image was incorrect.