May 12, 2017

Virtual reality startup raises half a billion dollars

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata

Improbable Worlds, a London-based platform for third-party virtual reality and simulated world game developers, has raised $502 million in Series B funding. SoftBank led the deal in exchange for a minority stake, and was joined by return backers Andreessen Horowitz and Horizons Ventures.

Why it matters: This appears to be the largest "venture capital" investment ever in a European startup, let alone in the software space. It's also yet another massive check from SoftBank, which did this deal off its balance sheet instead of via Vision Fund (although don't be shocked if this, and some other recent SoftBank investments, get rolled into Vision once it closes).

Quotable: "AI gets all the press, [but] this idea of recreating reality is going to become something in the public consciousness that's as important, as significant, as artificial intelligence." ― Improbable CEO Herman Narula to Wired

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Technology

The slippery slope of protest surveillance

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's call to treat antifa supporters like terrorists could be a green light for high-tech surveillance of dissidents.

Why it matters: It's unlikely the Trump administration can designate antifa as a terrorist group in any legally meaningful way, but the declaration gives law enforcement tacit approval to use a plethora of tech tools to monitor protesters and left-leaning activists.

The biggest crisis since 1968

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Bettmann/Contributor

The year 1968 has been on a lot of people’s minds lately — another year of protests, violence and upheaval that seemed to be tearing the nation apart.

Yes, but: This crisis also has moments we’ve never seen before — and some historians and experts say the differences suggest that 2020 doesn't compare well at all.

SoftBank to launch $100M fund backing companies led by people of color

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

SoftBank COO Marcelo Claure said in a letter to employees early Wednesday that the firm will create a $100 million fund that "will only invest in companies led by founders and entrepreneurs of color."

Why it matters: The Opportunity Growth Fund is one of the first to put significant capital behind companies' statements of empathy and outrage in response to protests over systemic racism in the U.S. typified by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans by police.