Stepping into startup accelerator Boost VC is like wandering into a secret society for the techerati. The housing entrance is flanked with black-and-white photos of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. There’s also a bitcoin ATM, virtual reality headsets galore and a Tesla barreling toward you. Wait, make that a “Deskla” — a desk fashioned from the hollow shell of a $70,000 Model S — and Adam Draper is the madman behind the steering wheel.
Venture capitalist princeling Draper has had his eyes trained on the unreal since before the Oculus craze. Boost, a $7.1 million fund, focuses on investing between $25,000 and $100,000 in VR companies that go beyond the obvious (gaming). Along with bitcoin and blockchain companies, their portfolio of 45 VR companies worldwide boast a diverse list: education (Unimersiv), tourism (Realities) health care (Fearless VR), messaging and social networks (Beloola). By “getting in early,” says Nicholas Ochoa, founder of Upload VR, a virtual reality–focused media and events company based in San Francisco, 30-year-old Draper has a “strategic advantage by putting himself at the forefront of the movement in virtual reality.” And it’s a big movement indeed: Venture capitalists and angel investors poured nearly $1.4 billion into virtual reality, up from $35 million in 2011, according to Seattle-based research firm PitchBook.