SideQuest, a Belfast-based start-up that has developed a platform for virtual reality (VR) games and apps has raised $3 million (€2.59 million) from investors.
Founded by husband-and-wife team Shane and Orla Harris, SideQuest was established two days after Facebook-owned Oculus launched its Quest VR headset in May 2019.
Its platform, which has more than one million monthly active users, provides developers with a resource for uploading work in progress ahead of a public release. The result it that players can access games that are not yet publicly available on the Oculus Store, while also providing developers with a means to validate their work and start building communities.
While VR has been growing in popularity, a distinct barrier for both developers and players is the accessibility of major VR platforms, something which Ms Harris said SideQuest resolves.
“The focus at SideQuest is discovery, community and promotion. We are a community-driven VR content platform that connects content creators with users in meaningful ways,” she said.
The start-up raised an initial $650,000 (€561,000) last year with backers in a pre-seed funding round led by Boost VC. Oculus VR founder Palmer Lucky also invested in the company after its platform became so popular that developers uploaded more than 800 apps in the first six months.
The latest funding round, which values SideQuest at about $10 million, has been led by PROfounders, a London-based early-stage VC backed by successful entrepreneurs founded in 2009 that has backed four tech unicorns to date, including British online furniture retailer Made. com, which listed earlier this year. Other participants in the funding round included Ada Ventures, Connect Ventures, Ascension, SCNE as well as several strategic angel investors.
ProFounders said it believed SideQuest could play a huge role in “shaping the future of the VR market”.
The financing is primarily to be used to continue to develop the SideQuest platform, Ms Harris said. “We are really excited about this next phase of growth. We want to continue to drive engagement within the VR community. It has always been our goal to help developers and the bonus is that the really enthusiastic VR community of streamers, reviewers and players makes that job so much fun for us.”
Outside of SideQuest, investment in the VR space in general has taken off in 2021 with Facebook's acquisition of ThirdVerse, BigBox VR, and the developers of Lone Echo Ready at Dawn. Additionally, TikTok owner ByteDance recently purchased VR hardware start-up Pico. The popular application VRChat also recently secured $80 million in funding.
The investment also comes at a time when VCs are paying more attention to the tech scene in Northern Ireland.
New figures compiled by the Digital Economy Council, which advises the UK government, shows that start-ups based in Belfast raised £18.8 million (€21.9 million) in venture capital funding in the first eight months of the year, ahead of 2020's £17.6 million level.
That figure does not include the $15 million (€12.8 million) fund-raise by Cloudsmith announced late last month, which is among the largest fund-raises ever recorded by a Northern Irish start-up