TSSG spin-out Immersive VR Education raises €1m investment

23 Mar 2017

From left: Orla Rimmington, partner, Kernel Capital; Niall McEvoy, senior development adviser, HPSU department at Enterprise Ireland; David Whelan, CEO, Immersive VR Education; Pamela Pim, head of Bank of Ireland Waterford; and Barry Downes, managing partner, Suir Valley Ventures, on the set of the Apollo 11 Experience. Image: Immersive VR Education

Husband and wife team’s VR start-up aims for the stars.

Waterford virtual reality (VR) start-up Immersive VR Education, which has recreated historic experiences from Apollo 11 to the Titanic, has raised €1m.

The investment in Immersive VR Education – a previous Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week – comes from Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Venture Funds and Barry Downes’s new Suir Valley Ventures.

‘Virtual reality is such an exciting, new and emerging industry with many new opportunities’

As part of the investment, Downes, former head of Telecoms Software and Systems Group (TSSG) and executive producer on Immersive VR Education’s Apollo 11 VR experience, will join the company as a director.

Moon shot idea gets virtually real

A spin-out from Waterford Institute of Technology’s research-based TSSG, Immersive VR Education’s platform provides VR content that can be used in schools, colleges, universities, research centres and corporate training to teach any subject in a virtual environment. Students can fully immerse themselves in the experience, making hard-to-visualise concepts easy to understand.

“This investment from Kernel Capital and Suir Valley Ventures will allow us as a company to continue to grow, continue to hire and expand beyond our current capabilities,” said David Whelan, co-founder and CEO of Immersive VR Education.

Sinking of Titanic to be recreated as a realistic VR experience

Explore the wreckage of Titanic using a submarine. Image: Immersive VR Education

“Virtual reality is such an exciting, new and emerging industry with many new opportunities.  It’s great to work with such an established institution such as Kernel Capital, with their proven track record of bringing early-stage companies to fruition. We are very lucky to have them on board as partners on this journey to a new, digital, virtual world.”

Last month, the company took home two HTC Viveport Developer Awards, adding to its five other international awards. Immersive VR Education was also recognised for its Engage Platform and Apollo 11 VR, which uses archive footage and audio from NASA to relive the historical moon landing of 1969.

Apollo 11 launched in April 2016, with initial sales of more than 50,000 copies on the Oculus and Steam stores.

The founding husband and wife team, David and Sandra Whelan, have succeeded in attracting high-calibre VR talent from around the world, and currently employ 20 people at their offices in Waterford.

This investment will enable Immersive VR Education to accelerate its growth plans.

The company is currently collaborating with Oxford University and the Royal College of Surgeons to develop VR-based training programmes for medical professionals.

“Immersive’s Apollo 11 VR experience is a [multi-award-winning] interactive journey to the moon and back that demonstrates clearly the power of virtual reality to educate and inspire, and this will be followed this year by Titanic VR, an expansive and highly detailed educational experience and realistic recreation of the Titanic disaster,” said Barry Downes.

“In addition, Immersive’s Engage VR is the leading virtual reality education platform in the market, and we are excited to support the growth and scaling of the company through this investment.”

Updated, 4.46pm, 23 March 2017: This article was amended to remove incorrect references to the company name as Immersive VR, rather than Immersive VR Education.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years