Sandbox VR expands to new locations globally with $37M Series B led by Andreessen Horowitz

4 min read

Some of the worst affected companies during the COVID-19 pandemic have been virtual reality arcades and other out-of-home VR destinations. As the US subsidiary of the group, Glostation USA Inc., filed for bankruptcy back in August, Sandbox VR, one of the most well-funded in the field, was no exception. It's now come to light that they reorganized Glostation, essentially dragging itself out of the bankruptcy of Chapter 11.

Despite having recently reopened a handful of locations, the damage of staying closed for such a prolonged duration appears to have taken its toll on the company. Sandbox VR CEO Steven Zhao told Protocol back in early June that the company had essentially lost "100 percent of revenue," which prompted Sandbox to lie off 80 percent of its employees. Former CEO Siqi Chen and several developers from the company have left the firm.

Sandbox has raised over $80 million in external funding since its inception in 2016, with the most recent round led by celebrities such as Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, and Will Smith. Andreessen Horowitz, Alibaba, Floodgate Ventures, Stanford University, Triple point Money, and CRCM have also funded Sandbox.
The organization was close to attracting over $50 million in equity financing before the pandemic lockdown, according to the WSJ. In March, they put this on hold, destroying plans for the business to open about 20 new locations.

Even Sandbox says it agreed with the lenders of the business to restructure debt and reopen its locations once things get back to normal, eventually. Whether in the short term there would be a 'standard' remains to be seen, though. Many VR arcades, such as Hologate, have placed more noticeable cleaning and sanitizing regimes in place that they hope will ease the public back in, but whichever way you cut it, it will be an uphill battle.

Update (December 10, 2020): A Sandbox VR representative informs Path to VR that the court-approved reorganization plan of Glostation USA Inc., its US subsidiary, as of late last month, has helped it to emerge from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which was filed in August 2020. Sandbox VR tells us that in order to stabilize financials and continue to expand its operations, the company could restructure remaining debts.

After a challenging year for location-based virtual reality startups because of COVID-19, Sandbox VR, a location-based VR startup, is making a comeback with a plan to expand its operations further across the globe. 

Sandbox VR aims to be an immersive social experience through a combination of full-body motion capture and VR technologies. It allows players to step into another world and go anywhere with their friends. The San Francisco and Hong Kong-headquartered company announced it has raised $37 million in a Series B led by Andreessen Horowitz through its Growth Fund, which serves new companies at an inflection point, along with Alibaba and Craft.

The latest funding, which brings its total raised to approximately $119 million, comes on the heels of three new locations launched in July in Austin, Las Vegas and Shanghai. Sandbox VR will use the proceeds to open 10 new retail locations across the globe, including Paramus, London and Toronto in 2022, as well as two corporate and two franchise locations. It will scale its internal studio to increase content cadence and develop a software development kit (SDK) to open up the Sandbox platform for third-party development, CEO and co-founder Steve Zhao told TechCrunch. He also said that the company plans to build a wireless technology to remove the VR hardware backpack that weighs down the players.Sandbox VR uses hardware like head-mounted VR headsets, backpack computers, motion capture sensors and haptic vests for players. 

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