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19 Explosive VR Startups In 2021

Virtual reality (VR) has been an industry known largely for lofty promises and hype... but a little tangible transformation in our daily lives.

That said, the VR space is still going strong. Especially for niche use cases.

From construction to content creation to medicine and beyond, a new crop of VR companies are using VR to change the way we shop, entertain ourselves, and conduct business.

Read on for our list of the 19 promising VR startups that are aiming to fulfill virtual reality’s long-awaited promise.

1. Magic Leap

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5-year search growth: -88%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2010

Location: Plantation, FL

Funding: $3B (Venture Round)

What they do: Magic Leap is among the most well-known virtual reality startups in existence today. Recently winning the award for VR’s top enterprise solution, Magic Leap provides leading wearable technology with their patented Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal. This tech provides a relatively realistic virtual reality experience with life-like augmented objects. Use cases range from medicine to corporate training and beyond.

2. NextVR

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5-year search growth: -27%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2009

Location: Newport Beach, CA

Funding: $111.5M (Series B)

What they do: NextVR is aiming to fulfill one of VR’s most promising use cases, which is producing broadcast levels VR content, like concerts, sports, and movies.

With 26 patents around their technology (display, compression, transmission), the NextVR team is one of the most promising virtual reality startups around. Add in the ability to use existing connections like broadband internet or wifi and the mainstream appeal becomes apparent.

3. Virtualitics

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5-year search growth: 6700%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Pasadena, CA

Funding: $29.4M (Series B)

What they do: Virtualitics combines data visualization and data analysis with the power of virtual reality. Instead of users having to draw insights from typical Excel spreadsheets or tables, Virtualitics allows data to be manipulated in a virtual space.

Over 11 years of research by some of the brightest minds from CalTech and NASA, along with a team of data crunchers, has turned Virtualitics into an extremely attractive VR startup for many investors.

4. Niantic

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5-year search growth: 400%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2010

Location: San Francisco, CA

Funding: $470M (Series C)

What they do: Niantic is best known for launching Pokemon Go, the augmented reality game that took the world by storm. Today, the company’s focus is on building products that inspire humans to go outside and interact in the real world.

The company was started by Googlers and now stands alone as an independent shop. The Niantic Real World Platform is the secret sauce, basically running as a scalable engine that can support millions of users simultaneously and provide a fluid VR/AR experience.

5. Holoride

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5-year search growth: 3600%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2018

Location: Munich, Germany

Funding: $12M (Series A)

What they do: Holoride’s vision is to turn everyday car rides into virtual theme parks. By combining standard navigational data with car data plus virtual reality technology, the experience is both physical and visceral.

Car sickness isn’t a concern either. With little-to-no latency between what a user sees and feels, the experience is a seamless virtual reality journey to provide an exciting alternative to reading a book or watching a movie on a long car ride or trip.

6. Omnivirt

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5-year search growth: 800%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2012

Location: San Francisco, CA

Funding: Not Disclosed (Seed)

What they do: Omnivirt functions as a VR platform that allows advertisers to attract customers with content that’s designed to be more dynamic and compelling than traditional ads.

Publishers who create VR apps can also serve users VR native ads in-app, add a revenue stream, and allow further monetization of apps.

7. IrisVR

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5-year search growth: 87%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2014

Location: NYC, NY

Funding: $13.8M (Series A)

What they do: The building and construction industry is one of the oldest, and some would say, most “old-fashioned” industries around. IrisVR aims to use virtual reality to disrupt architecture.

IrisVR allows construction companies to make rich 3D presentations for clients or prospects, build comprehensive models that bring the architectural vision to life, all with an easy-to-use platform for those that aren’t already tech-savvy.

8. Merge Labs

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5-year search growth: -69%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: San Antonio, TX

Funding: $10.1M (Venture Round)

What they do: Merge is an educational VR company, creating lifelike digital learning experiences that teach students using a traditional school curriculum. But instead of just reading about a Monarch Butterfly, Merge allows students to hold 3D digital objects of the insect.

9. Within

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5-year search growth: 40%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2014

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Funding: $52.6M (Series B)

What they do: Within creates everything from fitness apps to reading apps with the intent of making everything entertaining, while using the latest VR technology. As one of the premier VR content creation startups in the market, Within creates compelling and exciting stories that are compatible with Oculus, Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and Samsung VR.

10. Wolf3D

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5-year search growth: -18%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2014

Location: Tallinn, Estonia

Funding: $3.6M (Seed Round)

What they do: Wolf3D is aiming to do something a little bit different than the other startups on our list. They’re helping users create customized 3D avatars for virtual reality, games, mobile apps, all based on a photo of a real person.

11. Vicarious Surgical

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5-year search growth: 99x+

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Charlestown, Mass

Funding: $43.2M (Series A)

What they do: Vicarious Surgical is solving one of the holy grails of virtual reality tech: allowing robots to make exact movements during highly sensitive surgeries. The trick is that a doctor can be thousands of miles away, wearing an innovative VR headset that allows them to leverage their expertise to ensure a successful surgery.

By combining human knowledge with the precise movements of these medically tuned robots, patients have access to affordable yet powerful medical care with fewer restrictions on where they have to travel to for surgery. Bill Gates has invested in Vicarious.

12. WEVR

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5-year search growth: -85%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2010

Location: Venice, CA

Funding: $38.8M (Series B)

What they do: WEVR is aiming to be the premier VR content creation studio. Unlike other companies on our list, which focus more on VR technology, WEVR is centered around the stories being told inside of a user’s headset.

With creators like Jon Favreau on board, WEVR has been able to attract a large amount of funding as they look to scale.

13. STRIVR

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5-year search growth: 31%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2015

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Funding: $51M (Series B)

What they do: The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the move towards a digital workplace. As well as launching a new market of remote training and workplace onboarding. STRIVR is tackling the challenging issue of creating compelling hiring and training experiences at the Enterprise level.

With clients like Verizon, Walmart, and Fidelity, STRIVR has been able to build out a robust enterprise client base. In addition to the cost savings of virtual training, STRIVR has the potential to drastically reduce workplace injury and accidents by putting onboarding employees in dangerous situations...in a virtual world.

14. The Virtual Reality Company

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5-year search growth: -66%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Funding: $25.1M (Series A)

What they do: The VR Company is another startup focusing on the content side of the space.

The Jurassic World VR Experience (based on Jurassic Park) is probably their most well-known example, featuring a realistic combination of physical movement and leading VR technology.

15. Breakroom

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5-year search growth: 76%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2014

Location: Reykjavik, Iceland

Funding: $120K (Grant)

What they do: Breakroom aims to solve the problems of remote workplace design with their innovative VR technology. By turning compatible VR headsets into multi monitor systems, users can experience the virtual working world that more simulates the physical office.

16. AppliedVR

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5-year search growth: 3200%

Search growth status: Regular

Year founded: 2015

Location: Van Nuys, CA

Funding: $35M (Series A)

What they do: With partnerships with esteemed medical institutions like the Cleveland Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, AppliedVR is bringing the power of virtual reality to chronic pain treatment.

Utilizing over 30 years of academic research and with a client base of over 30,000, with over 200 hospitals, AppliedVR is one of the early leaders in the space for the treatment of acute and chronic pain through technology.

17. Obsess

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5-year search growth: 5%

Search growth status: Regular (New)

Year founded: 2017

Location: NYC, NY

Funding: $3.5M (Seed Round)

What they do: Obsess is targeting retail as the next great frontier of VR. Using Obsess’s technology, retailers ranging from Coach to AT&T to Anheuser Busch are creating virtual experiences and activities for their customers.

The core product is a 360 virtual experience customized to act as digital stores, showrooms (for clothing brands), or even a full retail store experience.

18. Psious

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5-year search growth: -75%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2013

Location: Barcelona, ESP

Funding: $10.1M (Venture Round)

What they do: Mental health is moving into the public’s focus now more than ever. And Psious is aiming to help promote mental wellbeing with their new VR tech.

By building a comprehensive VR platform specifically designed for mental health therapy, patients can take advantage of immersive environments meant to calm and soothe. Along with analytics and metrics that can be used by professionals for patient analysis and treatment.

19. Relax VR

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5-year search growth: -100%

Search growth status: Peaked

Year founded: 2016

Location: San Francisco, CA

Funding: Not Disclosed (Convertible Note)

What they do: Relax VR combines meditation with an immersive virtual reality experience to help clients reach a calm and relaxed state.

Instead of staffing a full spa, Relax aims to let their headset do much of the rejuvenation work that a human would normally be required for. Tranquil landscapes or guided meditations allow the user to have a complete experience of relaxation and engage all of their senses simultaneously.

Conclusion

Virtual Reality has the potential to transform dozens of industries, and even the way we live our daily lives.

From medicine to real estate to entertainment, virtual reality is just getting started. Even though it may never become a mainstream tech, the companies here prove that the industry has the potential to thrive in many industries and niche use cases.

And the VR startups on this list represent some of the best attempts to create value in the space.

Last Updated: 
May 26, 2021
Josh Howarth
Co-founder of Exploding Topics.

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