20th Century Fox Just Poured Big Money Into This Hot Virtual Reality Startup, By Dean Takahashi

Above: The aliens in Invasion! by Baobab Studios. Image Credit: Baobab Studios

Baobab Studios has raised $25 million to create a new kind of animated film entertainment in virtual reality. The company has already launched successful VR animated shorts such as Invasion!, a funny title dreamed up by Baobab’s creative team, which includes Madagascar director Eric Darnell, a cofounder of Baobab.

The success of Invasion! and its subsequent episode Asteroids! — as well as the pedigree of the company’s founders — have made Baobab into a very valuable startup. Baobab has raised $31 million to date.

Horizons Ventures led the funding, with participation from Twentieth Century Fox, Evolution Media Partners (backed by TPG Growth and CAA), China’s Shanghai Media Group, Youku Global Media Fund, and LDV Partners. They join original investors Comcast Ventures, HTC, and Samsung. Collectively, the investors believe in the massive potential of Baobab Studios not only as an early pioneer with palpable vision, but also as a studio driving VR entertainment through strong user engagement, top management and VR animation hires, and multiple coveted awards.

Above: Maureen Fan, CEO of Baobab, a VR film studio. Image Credit: Dean Takahashi
Above: Maureen Fan, CEO of Baobab, a VR film studio. Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

This new round of funding will be used to develop more animated VR movies and grow Baobab on a global scale, said Maureen Fan, CEO of Baobab, in an interview with VentureBeat.

“This is a great validation for us,” Fan said. “We focus on being great storytellers. I’m very happy with the amount raised. and pleasantly surprised at how easy it was because of the traction we have shown in the market.”

Along with the new funding, Baobab is expanding its executive team. Larry Cutler joins as chief technology officer (CTO), bringing deep technical expertise in animation and development. He was Pixar’s technical director for Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc., and then became global head of character technology for DreamWorks Animation. Cutler also judges for the Academy Awards’ Technical Achievement Awards, and is a cofounder of DigiPro.

Baobab has also appointed Chris Milk, well-known founder and CEO of Within — a premier destination for story-based VR content — as a member of its advisory board. Milk has a long history of creating and inventing innovative products that have won multiple industry awards. His work tests the frontiers of interactive technology, including using VR as a canvas for storytelling.

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