Jadu raises $36 million for augmented reality gaming platform Web3

Jadu, a Los Angeles-based augmented reality (AR) startup, has raised $36 million to create a gaming platform that lets gamers navigate the real world with their NFT avatars.

Bain Capital led the Series A round and was joined by existing investor General Catalyst Partners. Other investors include LG Tech Ventures and Alumni Ventures. The new raise brings Jadu’s total funding to over $45 million.

Launched in 2020, Jadu is developing an AR mobile app that connects to players’ Ethereum wallets, allowing them to turn their 3D animated NFTs into playable avatars. The app, which is expected to come out of beta testing this summer, can integrate avatars from NFT collections like Deadfellaz, CyberKongz and FLUF, as well as some from “The Sandbox” video game, according to Jadu.

Unlike other AR experiences where users navigate from a first-person perspective (think “Pokemon Go”), Jadu players can stay put and move their avatar characters around bedrooms or back rooms. Classes. This has the effect of playing a third-person video game, with the real world as the landscape.

“Add an avatar in the middle of [a player’s] view is a new concept for AR, and it’s a bit counter-intuitive,” Jadu founder and CEO Asad J. Malik told dot.LA. “However, when you do, it suddenly becomes very effective because your AR becomes super visual. You can actually see a representation of a character walking around the room doing things.

The company of around 50 people – which has much of its management team including Los Angeles-based Malik – started with an AR mobile app that lets users dance alongside realistic holograms of musical artists like Lil Nas X and Pussy Riot. The idea was that users could record clips and post them to social media, showcasing complex AR experiences that weren’t available on other platforms, according to Malik. Some videos went viral on TikTok, and Jadu’s initial release was briefly among the top 30 most downloaded entertainment apps on Apple’s App Store, Malik said.

But the goal was always to build a larger AR platform, and the Jadu team saw a chance to do so with the emergence of NFTs and the broader phenomenon of Web3, a vision of a decentralized version of AR. ‘internet based on blockchain technology. Jadu quickly turned to creating AR gameplay for Web3 avatars, selling accessories like jetpacks and hoverboards as NFTs. The startup has earned more than $5 million from initial NFT sales, Malik said, and earns a 5% commission on the roughly $25 million in secondary sales these NFTs have made to date on platforms like OpenSea.

“We’ve always been looking for the right business model for AR and nothing ever clicked,” Malik said, adding that in-app purchases or ads didn’t make sense. So when NFTs emerged, “this opportunity became so obvious to us that we immediately pivoted,” he added.

Jadu plans to spend the new funds to grow his team and grow the gaming platform. Malik said the company is focused on releasing its first collection of in-house avatar NFTs, which is expected to be its main source of revenue. This year. As the platform matures, Malk could anticipate that Jadu would eventually charge third-party commissions to develop game elements or experiences on its platform, he said.

The Jadu founder argues that the near-term future of the metaverse – the loosely defined term for immersive and expansive online worlds – is with AR and not virtual reality, where users are completely immersed in 3D digital environments. He noted that consumers have been slow to adopt VR headsets like Meta’s Quest or Sony’s Playstation VR; by contrast, more than a billion mobile devices can support AR experiences developed by Jadu, Malik said.

“People are building the metaverse as this interoperable virtual world,” Malik said. “We’re building what we call the ‘Mirrorverse’ as the AR reflection of that, and the ‘Mirrorverse’ exists on the physical planet – it exists on top of the world as we know it, and we think that’s super compelling .”

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