A London-based start-up co-founded by an Indian-origin entrepreneur has been valued at more than $ 1 billion after raising $502 million from Japan’s SoftBank this week in one of the UK’s largest venture capital deals. Improbable, a virtual reality tech firm, was co-founded by Herman Narula with a Cambridge University friend in 2012.
SoftBank’s investment in the firm, which uses cloud-based computing to create virtual worlds for use in games as well as large-scale simulations of the real world, is said to be the largest ever funds injection in a European tech start-up.
“This investment will allow us to take the big, bold steps needed to fully realise our vision. This investment reflects the potential size and importance of the market for this next generation of games and, ultimately, how massive-scale virtual worlds could become fundamental to how society works,” said Narula, who is the CEO of the company.
He had founded the firm along with Rob Whitehead, the chief technology officer, when they studied computer science together at Cambridge University. They were joined by Peter Lipka, an Imperial College graduate who worked at Goldman Sachs prior to launching Improbable.
Their technology is focused on gaming but the company wants to expand it to solve problems in the real world such as modelling transport systems or power grids.
The firm employs some 200 staff and recently opened offices in San Francisco. The latest investment will be used to develop the company’s Spatial OS operating system and to hire more people in London and San Francisco.
SoftBank has put managing director Deep Nishar on Improbable’s board and will have only a minority stake in the business.