New advancements in AR and VR are revolutionizing entertainment, but as consumers we need to ask ourselves if we are willing to invest thousands in a new AR headset only to have it become obsolete a few weeks later when something new is introduced. If the answer is no, then you need a more viable option. Introducing Mira – the mobile first augmented reality hardware that starts at $100 and allows you to explore the world in enhanced AR. Conceived by three college students looking for an affordable AR headset and open for pre-orders now, Mira plans to launch their Prism headset before 2018, making it the perfect gift this holiday season.
LA TechWatch chatted with CEO and cofounder Ben Taft about the Startup and how it raised its most recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We’ve raised $1.5 million in Seed funding from Sequoia Capital, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, will.i.am, Jaunt VR founder Jens Christensen and others.
Tell us about your product or service.
Mira is a mobile-first augmented reality company delivering AR experiences and hardware at a price accessible to the masses. Our minimalist and untethered headset, Prism, gives users the ability to begin exploring the wonders of interactive holographic content. Prism’s clear lenses enable users to remain present in their physical world, setting Mira’s experience apart from the isolation inherent in virtual reality.
The Prism Remote tracks acceleration and rotation and enhances the AR experiences with a touchpad, trigger, and two buttons. The remote can be used as a fishing rod, laser pointer, paintbrush, steering wheel, magic wand and more. With Mira’s app, users can share an experience together, and anyone with an iOS device (iPad or iPhone) can use the app’s Spectator Mode to record video or capture photos of their friends ’experience and easily share via social media.
What inspired you to start the company?
Our cofounders met at University of Southern California’s Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation, where they fully encourage creative thinking and entrepreneurial risk-taking. AR was an area of interest to us, so we started looking for ways to begin developing in AR. However, there wasn’t really an affordable option out there, and as college students, we didn’t have thousands of dollars to invest in a headset.
So we set off to design our own and challenged ourselves to design a solution fully powered by the smartphone. Thousands of 3D prints and cut up plastic fishbowls later, we put together a working prototype and went out to raise a seed round.
How is it different?
It’s the first AR headset to be truly designed around the smartphone in a manner that delivers premium AR experiences to the masses.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
Mira is targeting AR enthusiasts, developers and consumers who enjoy apps like Snapchat and Pokemon Go, and overall, consumers interested in new technology. The augmented reality market itself is predicted to be worth $61 billion dollars by 2023. In fact, over $800M dollars were poured into AR/VR companies in the second quarter of 2017, bringing the total number of capital invested to $2 billion dollars in the last 12 months.
What’s your business model?
Right now, we are selling our Prism headset through our website.
What would you like to see AR do more of?
AR should connect people more. It’s inherently social– you’re still present and able to make eye contact with those around you. People should be able to share experiences together so that the technology can be used to bring us closer together and reverse the effects of people being sucked into their smartphones.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
I think our age was both a challenge and advantage, as the majority of us are in our twenties. Some investors might be more cautious because we’re young, but the scrappiness of our prototype and how quickly we moved countered that and helped investors take a bet on us.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
During our meetings we were able to show investors a working prototype, which was basically a hacked-together 3D printed headset with lenses cut from plastic fishbowls. We would do the entire demo and then tell them that afterward– I think that was a testament to how nimble, scrappy, and creative we are. And our focus on the product and its ultimate goal spoke more about what we were trying to accomplish than anything else.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We currently have a pre-order open for our developer kit, which will begin shipping in the fall, and the consumer headset shipping in time for the holidays. Our goal is to get our SDK into the hands of as many talented developers as possible in order to provide as many quality AR experiences on our platform in time for consumer release. Those are without a doubt our two main goals for the next six months, and we are excited to cross the finish line when we finally start shipping.
What advice can you offer companies in Los Angeles that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
My advice would be to work with all of the resources you have at your disposal. If you don’t have the budget, think of it as an opportunity to get creative. Evaluate where your money and resources are going and if budgets in other areas can be reduced. You might be strapped for cash for a bit, but innovation will lead to growth.
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