Sandbox VR Raises $11 Million From Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Orlando Bloom, Will Smith, Others

Janko Roettgers

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Location-based virtual reality startup Sandbox VR has raised an additional $11 million from an illustrious round of funders including Orlando Bloom, Will Smith, Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Kevin Durant, Michael Ovitz and soccer star Keisuke Honda. The new funding round, which brings the total raised by the company to $83 million, comes just weeks ahead of the opening of a new location in downtown San Francisco, which will host a new “Star Trek” VR experience.

“We’re incredibly honored to be able to work with some of the most talented and influential artists, athletes, and actors in the world,” said Sandbox VR founder and CEO Steve Zhao in a statement . “Their support is a vote of confidence that our platform will one day become the new medium for the future of sports, music, and storytelling.”

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The company is currently operating 8 VR centers in cities including Los Angeles, Vancouver, Hong Kong and Singapore. By next year, executives plan to open 8 additional locations, including in New York, Austin, San Diego and Chicago.

Sandbox VR is one of a handful of startups taking virtual reality experiences out of the living room, and into malls and movie theaters. One of the key differences between the company and competitors like The Void is that Sandbox doesn’t use highly customized stages with doors, walls and other props. Instead, it relies on open floor plans for social experiences that rely more heavily on conveying a sense of presence.

Sandbox VR

Sandbox VR’s open floor plan.

“We do full-body motion capture,” explained chief content officer Siqi Chen during a recent interview with Variety. Chen also argued that Sandbox VR’s experience are more like video games than some of the more family-friendly fare served up by competitors. “You can actually fail in our experiences,” he said.

The open floor plan used by Sandbox VR also allows the company to more easily swap out experiences, and run multiple experiences at the same location. Some of the titles currently available in Sandbox VR centers include a “Deadwood Mansion” horror experience, an esports competition game called the “Unbound Fighting League,” and a science fiction-themed experience called “Amber Sky 2088.”

Sandbox also teamed up with CBS for a “Star Trek” VR experience, which will be available at launch in the company’s San Francisco location. That experience is being guided by “Star Trek Discovery’s” starfleet officer Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), and lasts for close to 30 minutes.

The company’s new funding round was led by David Sacks of Craft Ventures and the Andreessen Horowitz Cultural Leadership Fund, with the Dreamers Fund and Rich Kleiman of Thirty Five Ventures participating as well.

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