Home / Business / Atomico leads $31M Series B in Varjo, the Finnish startup developing ‘human-eye resolution’ VR and XR

Atomico leads $31M Series B in Varjo, the Finnish startup developing ‘human-eye resolution’ VR and XR

Varjo Technologies, the Finnish startup that made a splash earlier this year with news it had developed a virtual reality headset capable of “human-eye resolution,” has raised $31 million in Series B funding.

Leading the round is Europe’s Atomico, with participation from Siemens-backed venture capital firm Next47. Existing Series A investors EQT Ventures and Lifeline Ventures also followed on. It brings total funding for the Helsinki-based company to $46 million.

Founded in 2016, Varjo (which means “shadow” in Finnish and is pronounced “Var-yo”) aims to bring to market “the world’s first” human-eye resolution virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (XR) product, which will be orders of magnitude higher in resolution than existing consumer headsets, such as Magic Leap or Microsoft’s HoloLens. However, unlike those existing devices — and courtesy of a claimed 20x bump in resolution — Varjo is targeting industrial use-cases for its wares.

In a call, co-founder and CEO Urho Konttori — who was previously at Nokia and Microsoft, where he played a pivotal role in the Meego N9 smartphone and the high-end Lumia devices, respectively — told me that Varjo is looking to sell into “design-driven” industries including simulation and training, architecture, automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, engineering, and construction — along with industrial design more generally.

These use-cases require VR and XR to mimic the human eye as closely as possible, and demand “extreme precision” and visual fidelity. Konttori says the status quo in resolution is like asking designers or engineers sporting headsets to work or train “half blind”. In contrast to existing lower resolution headsets, the startup’s prototype already claims “an effective resolution of 50 megapixels per eye”.

But to really understand the impact Varjo hopes to make, consider how complex design and engineering projects are undertaken today. In car design, for example, clay models are still used at key points of the design stage and form an important part of the creative loop. However, producing these slows down the design iteration process and in some ways stifles creativity because of the lag between tweaking a drawing or 3D CAD file and experiencing it in clay form in real life. Moving this to a high resolution virtual reality domain via VR and XR will remove this obstacle and enable designers to take more risks and try new things. This, in the longer term, should lead to better design and more innovative products.

What is also noteworthy, given VR and AR’s penchant for being the promise that keeps on promising, is that Varjo isn’t a “moonshot” investment, even though Atomico does do moonshot investments from time to time. Instead, the company says it is on track to commercially launch its VR headset later this year, with an AR/XR add-on to the headset available in the first half of 2019.

I’m also told it is already working in partnership with companies such as Airbus, Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, and Lilium, who have had early access to prototypes and have been feeding back and helping iterate the product.

I note that it is refreshing to see a new hardware company based in Europe, and that Varjo, with its ties to ex-Nokians, appears to be benefiting from European hardware talent, Konttori says that European VC firms have seemingly lost their appetite for truly innovative hardware. In Varjo’s case, he says Atomico was the exception, and that — along with flying taxi company Lilium (which Atomico has also invested in) — he hopes it can be the start of a European hardware startup renaissance.

Check Also

Sick of managing your Airbnb? Vacasa raises $64M to do it for you

Airbnbing can be a ton of work. Between key pickups, tidying, and maintenance emergencies, renting out your place isn’t such a passive revenue source. But Vacasa equips owners with full-service vacation home management, including listings on top rental platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway, as well as local cleaners who come between guests. It now manages 10,000 vacation rental properties in over 16 countries. With the peer-to-peer housing market maturing and Airbnb looking to go public, private equity firms see an opportunity in who controls the end relationship with home owners like Vacasa does. So today the startup is announcing it’s raised $64 million in a Series B bridge round led by Riverwood, and joined by Level Equity, Assurant, and Newspring. The cash will fuel Vacasa’s expansion into real estate as it seeks to sell property to people who want to own and rent out a vacation home. Vacasa was impressively bootstrapped from 2009 until 2015. “I’ve always been passionate about vacation rentals. When traveling with friends or family, I love having common spaces to come together in” says CEO Eric Breon. He founded the company after owning a vacation cabin on the Washington Coast. He’d go up in the Spring, spend a weekend fixing up the place, it’d sit idle all summer, and then he’d have to spend another weekend closing it up. He considered a local property manager, but they massively underestimated how much he could earn off renting it out. So Breon built Vacasa to make it easy for home owners to earn the most money without a hassle. After years growing the business organically, Vacasa raised a $35 million series A from Level Equity in 2015, then $5 million more from Assurant. Then in fall of 2017, it raised an $103.5 million series B. Now it’s topping up that round with $64 million and a new valuation warranted by the startup’s growth this past year. That brings Vacasa to a total of $207.5 million in funding While that’s just a fraction of the over $4.4 billion Airbnb has raised. But Vacasa caters to a more upscale market that don’t want to manage the properties themselves. With plenty of popular listings sites out there, Vacasa gets easy distribution. But eventually as the other giants in the space become public companies, they’ll be forced to chase bigger margins that could see them compete with Vacasa after years of partnership. Breon remains confident, though. When I ask him the biggest existential threat to the business, he declares that “We’ve reached a point where failure isn’t a realistic outcome. We have great retention of our homeowners, and strong recurring revenue. The question is more about how quickly we can continue scaling into the huge $32 billion market we’re focused on.” Getting to an exit might not be quite so straightforward, but with life seeming to get more stressful by the year, there’ll be no shortage of people seeking a getaway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Disclaimer: Trading in bitcoins or other digital currencies carries a high level of risk and can result in the total loss of the invested capital. theonlinetech.org does not provide investment advice, but only reflects its own opinion. Please ensure that if you trade or invest in bitcoins or other digital currencies (for example, investing in cloud mining services) you fully understand the risks involved! Please also note that some external links are affiliate links.