Many including myself questioned Facebook’s investment in Oculus and the future of virtual reality. After digging deeper into the space while interning in venture capital and learning more about the industry, I realized the true genius of Facebook’s acquisition. It now makes me proud to see that a VR accelerator with 13 startups was announced last week.
I remember my first experience with virtual reality and how it changed me. In the spring of 2014, I had the opportunity to demo an Oculus Rift while visiting Facebook’s campus. Watching Chris Milk’s recreation of Beck’s Hello Again, I realized the true power of virtual reality, a world where you could be sitting on your couch but feel as if you were sitting in the front row of your favorite concert. My outlook on virtual reality changed completely. I now believe that it’s going to change so many industries. Stories will be told differently, sports will be viewed differently, and industries like education, medicine and real estate will be greatly impacted by VR as well. Imagine a world where students can learn history by being totally immersed in it or doctors can prepare for complex surgeries by first practicing on virtual patients.
On January 30th, Rothenberg Ventures unveiled River, a virtual reality accelerator and selected its first 13 companies. According to Mike Rothenberg, the CEO and founder of Rothenberg Ventures, each company in the accelerator got $100,000 as well as office space and regular advice and help from a team of expert mentors. The companies span many different industries including journalism, medicine, travel, education and art. When asked on why Rotherberg rolled out River, Mike stated “just as the Internet was nascent 20 years ago but now is ubiquitous, virtual reality technology will transform every industry over the next decade or two.”
I am excited to watch a new ecosystem being built around VR hardware and look forward to continuing to find companies that set new standards in virtual reality. We are only a few short years from seeing the virtual and real worlds collide.
Ajay Sharma is a first-year MBA student at NYU Stern School of Business and an InSITE Fellow. He has worked in private equity and venture capital.