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HTC Vive founder, FarmVille co-creator launch seed fund for VR/AR

Harmonix, Baobab among first studios to receive funding from Presence Capital

Presence Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on virtual reality and augmented reality startups, announced its launch today as well as its first closing with its inaugural $10 million fund. The firm is led by Phil Chen (pictured), who founded the HTC Vive VR project at HTC and brokered the partnership with Valve, Amitt Mahajan, who co-created FarmVille at Zynga, and Paul Bragiel, who has been an early advisor to companies such as Uber and Unity (he's invested in seed rounds to more than 150 companies).

"We've seen time and time again from our previous endeavors that anytime there's a platform shift, multi-billion dollar companies are created," said Mahajan, managing partner at Presence Capital. "Our goal is to be early to support and empower exceptional entrepreneurs that share our vision and enthusiasm about VR and AR as the next major platform shifts."

Chen remarked, "We believe there's a gap in funding at the early-stage level mostly given the VR and AR markets haven't been clearly defined yet. Now the market is becoming primed it's important that the startups entering the market are providing value, have room to be creative and can help the global community fully explore what is possible."

Bragiel added, "One thing that will allow us to have more than just a capital impact on the VR and AR industries is the hands-on approach we take with our portfolio companies. All of the founding partners have solid networks, a strong operational background and relevant industry experience."

Things have already gotten underway at Presence Capital as initial investments have been made into Harmonix (which is working on a Rock Band for VR), Baobab (story and character-driven cinematic experiences in VR), Waygo (Automatic translation of Asian languages to English), and other companies.

Interest in VR and AR is sky high right now, but how the market truly shakes out remains to be seen. Numerous research firms have taken educated guesses on how large it could grow to. TrendForce recently pegged next year's market at $6.7 billion, with revenues growing to $70 billion worldwide by 2020.

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James Brightman


James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.