Gembaan enterprise-focused virtual reality (VR) training startup used by some of the world’s largest companies, has raised $18 million in a Series A funding round.
Gemba designs and deliversmaster class» covering topics such as supply chain management and lean manufacturing, working in collaboration with experts in the respective fields to deliver the courses which can last several days. The main selling point behind Gemba’s programs is that they are designed to be as realistic as possible, which means they are delivered live and can facilitate real-time interactions between all participants.
“A Gemba masterclass is fully interactive – it’s 3D, immersive, and we use the same software in which 90% of video games are created (Unit),” Nathan Robinson, CEO of Gemba, told TechCrunch. “In Gemba, you can freely walk around, grab items, participate in simulations – you can do everything you can do in real life, plus one more charge you can’t do in real life.”
All participants have a matching avatar, and they can join pretty much anywhere they want, including their office or living room.
“A typical masterclass brings together 25 senior executives from cross-industry companies, such as vice presidents from Pfizer, Nike, Adidas, Dell, Volvo, Roche and many more,” Robinson added. “It has a class leader who is a recognized subject matter expert and two guest speakers from companies like Amazon and AstraZeneca.”
Although Gemba’s software currently only works with Meta’s Quest Helmetswhich it provides as part of the package, the company said it is working to expand support for all popular VR and AR devices throughout 2023.
The story so far
While the metaverse hype boosted by companies such as Facebook parent company Meta may be somewhat premature, it’s clear that virtual reality, AR and mixed reality have gained at least a bit more traction outside of gaming circles lately time – the pandemic may have played a role in this. Training in particular remains a central focus for many current VR applications, and investors have taken notice.
Last month, for example, Loft Dynamics raised $20 million to address the shortage of helicopter pilots with VR training, while the medical simulation platform FundamentalVR got $20 million to help surgeons learn through virtual reality. And then there is TRUE, which recently raised a whopping $3.2 million to bring VR simulation training to hazardous industries such as the offshore wind sector.
Founded in 2010 initially as an executive training company called The Leadership Network, London-based Gemba took on its current name last April as part of an ongoing transition away from its legacy training business. While the pandemic may have bolstered Gemba’s ambitions in the VR space, she had actually begun to change direction a few years prior as she sought new ways to capture knowledge from her training courses. and adapt them to thousands of users. Indeed, the company delivered its first corporate VR training in 2019, with its masterclasses beginning the following year.
“From start to finish, this process took over five years,” Robinson said. “In 2017, VR was still clunky, difficult, and only really used in niche games, but all the ingredients for the metaverse were there. What we saw was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create learning immersive that feels as good as a face-to-face experience, with limitless creative possibilities, all the efficiencies of a digital platform, and huge environmental and societal benefits for a changing workforce.
All of its research and development through the pivot to virtual reality has been essentially self-funded from the profits it has made through its traditional training programs, but it is now looking to speed things up and build on a base that allowed him to attract major customers, including Coca-Cola. , Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Nike, all of which started as Gemba’s customers in its traditional in-person training business before moving with Gemba into the realm of virtual reality.
The main selling point for customers is that VR helps them eliminate travel time and costs, and also help them meet any corporate carbon reduction commitments they may have in place. However, Gemba’s courses aren’t exactly cheap, with each masterclass costing around $7,250 per person per program, although corporate subscriptions are available from around $120,000 for a team of 50 people each. year, ranging up to $1.2 million for a larger scale. deployments.
Participants can also keep their Meta Quest headset at the end of the program, although with the corporate subscription plan, companies purchase the headsets separately and reuse them in future programs.
With $18 million in the bank, which represents its first-ever external financing, Gemba said it plans to accelerate its growth in EMEA and eventually expand into the North American market. Indeed, Gemba’s Series A round was led by New York-based Parkway Venture Capital, which has previously invested in Lyft, Intel-owned Mobileye, Coursera and Didi in China.