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VR Company’s Theme Park Title Part of ‘Evolution’

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A virtual reality software company closed a $250,000 seed round that it used to launch a VR title.

Immersive Entertainment Inc., based at incubator EvoNexus in The Vine building in University Research Park in Irvine, launched The Grand Canyon VR Experience with a theme-park kayak setting.

It’s available to consumers with the HTC Vive or Oculus VR Inc. headsets and downloadable from STEAM, the Oculus Store, or VivePort. Licensing options are available for VR arcades and theme parks.

“This title is only the first step in a natural evolution of VR tools and core technologies Immersive is developing that will become the cornerstone of a new type of engagement in virtual reality and augmented-mixed reality,” Immersive Chief Executive Ciaran Foley said in a news release.

The most popular use of VR is exploring environments, according to a recent report on VR industry trends, said Immersive Chief VR Designer Jeroen Van den Bosch.

Mobilized for Money

The Cove Fund 1 LLC invested $125,000 in a friend-to-friend marketing company, and if Mobilize Solutions raises an additional $325,000, the fund will invest another $125,000, according to the company and Lead Fund Manager John Kensey.

Mobilize is trying to raise $1 million and has so far closed $550,000, including the first $125,000 from the Cove Fund 1, a company spokesperson said.

The company developed a platform that creates instant branded photos, enabling people who have just bought a car, for example, to post on Facebook photos of their new ride stamped with the carmaker’s logo for friends to see.

The Cove Fund 1, with approximately $5.6 million, provides startup money for new OC-based ventures. It invests a maximum of $250,000 in any given startup. The fund is headquartered at The Cove, the physical space of the University of California-Irvine’s innovation institute.

Mobilize Solutions is based in a co-working space at The Vine.

Paradigm Change

Applied Innovation’s first incubator paradigm will transition into a new model in April.

UCI’s innovation institute is at The Cove, which houses two levels of startups—one for later-stage companies that lease space there and the other for early-stage companies that are part of The Cove Share incubator. The early-stage companies are created by students, staff, faculty and alumni, and the incubator enables them to connect with mentors who are part of the Experts-in-Residence program.

Applied Innovation wanted to make sure it was fully utilizing the “value” the experts were contributing, so it hired an experienced manager, Juan Felipe Vallejo, as its “new venture manager” to rework the incubator model.

Vallejo worked for eight years as director of innovation development and startup support at the University of Southern California’s Stevens Center for Innovation.

He has spent the past six months reworking the Cove Share incubator to provide more structure, more training and more connections between startup teams and experts, with the goal of getting more qualified startups launched in the marketplace, said Matt Bailey, who directs the institute’s Collaborative Venturing Group.

What emerged is the Wayfinder incubator, which will use a cohort model to replace the old model of rolling applications and companies starting at any time. Companies will now be accepted in groups and start at a scheduled time. And when they arrive, they’ll go through a series of workshops on topics such as creating a business model, marketing and finance.

The startups will either be using UCI-owned intellectual property or have an active team member who’s a UCI student, faculty or staff member or alumni.

“The intention is to get more of the value being generated at UCI into the business landscape,” Bailey said. “And we’re looking for more ways to engage with OC business people, whether that’s mentors or potential board members or investors or customers.”

Companies interested in applying can visit innovation.uci.edu/incubator.

Institute Head Honored

Applied Innovation Executive Director and Chief Innovation Officer Richard Sudek received the Luis Villalobos Award from the Tech Coast Angels’ board of governors. The award was created by the angel network to honor and memorialize the late founder of Tech Coast Angels. It’s become an annual tradition for the network to recognize people who’ve provided “outstanding contributions and extraordinary service to both TCA and the community,” the network said.

Sudek previously served as chairman of Tech Coast Angels’ board and as president of the Orange County chapter. Last year he helped establish the Angel Syndication Network, a collection of 15-plus angel groups that cooperate in deal syndication.

The award “is to recognize Richard’s contributions over the years as President of TCA-OC, Chairman of TCA, and many other roles he’s played,” TCA Chairman Emeritus John Harbison said via email. “But this year it is for his work in establishing the Angel Syndication Network…as well as his contributions in establishing The Cove at UCI, which has jumpstarted and nurtured the OC startup ecosystem and helps bring it to a new higher level.”

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