Launch Academy opens new VR/AR Hub to boost Vancouver’s thriving industry

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      Growing from 15 companies in 2015 to over 220 organizations this year, Vancouver’s VR and AR ecosystem is one of the city’s best tech success stories. Touted as a key part of B.C.’s Supercluster bid—an initiative that will see the federal government shell out $950 million to fund Canadian industry—and ranked the second largest VR/AR region in the world, the local sector is valued internationally for its immersive experiences.

      That groundswell is the reason why Launch Academy, one of Vancouver’s most prominent incubators, this week announced the opening of a new onsite VR and AR facility.

      Dubbed the VR/AR Hub, the 12,000 square foot Gastown location aims to provide everything necessary for entrepreneurs to get their startup off the ground. Training and education programs, headset rental, mentorship, events, and workshops will be on offer to members, as will the chance to network with those already established in the ecosystem.

      “The reason why Launch Academy is successful is because we believe in community first,” says Ray Walia, CEO of the company, in a press release. “In a nascent industry like VR/AR, it is especially important to cultivate early-stage entrepreneurs, cross-pollinate their networks with other existing emerging tech communities, and provide them with the resources they need to tackle their audacious visions.”

      The VR/AR Hub has been created in partnership with the Vancouver chapter of the VR/AR Association, the sector’s largest membership-driven organization in the city. One of the earliest collectives to promote and mentor the technology across the region, it holds similar goals to Launch Academy’s new initiative.

      “We have all the right ingredients to make Vancouver number one,” says Dan Burgar, president of the Vancouver chapter of the VR/AR Association. “We believe it’s extremely important to keep the momentum up and build the support infrastructure now for companies to accelerate their growth. Launch Academy has a proven track record of incubating over 600 companies and we’re thrilled to work with them on this.”

      Mentors for the new facility have been recruited from big-name tech companies in Vancouver, and from Canada’s neighbours to the south. A selection of the most active seed-stage financiers from Silicon Valley, including Super Ventures, the VR Fund, WXR Fund, Outpost Capital, and the GFR fund, have signed on to support the initiative. Local leaders from companies like Microsoft, Blueprint Reality, Cognitive3D, Vancouver Economic Commission, YDreams, Archiact, Finger Food, LlamaZOO, and LNG Studios will also be on hand to guide the up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

      Space at the new hub, Launch Academy notes, is in high demand. Membership fees start at $300 a month, with the first 10 permanent desks being offered to VR/AR Association members at a 20 percent discount. More information and application details are available here.

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays

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