Since the concept of metaverse was introduced by Facebook, we’ve seen a number of other tech companies and startups picking up on the concept. Though there’s enough debate on the topic, it might not be long before the concept materializes itself into our reality.
To add to the ongoing debate, we see telecoms betting on immersive media as it is one of the most robust use cases for 5G and the future of video streaming. One such startup that we’ll be covering today is the UAE-based startup, 360VUZ.
What is 360VUZ?
Launched in 2017 by founder and CEO Khaled Zaatarah, 360VUZ is an immersive social app that allows users to virtually become a part of live events, concerts, sports, conferences, and other experiences around the globe using its 360-degree live streams. On top of this, the app also features streams and videos with celebrity interviews, masterclasses, as well as behind the scenes content.
The platform bridges the gap between the physical and virtual worlds by providing its users with the biggest premium immersive content library in the world having more than 20,000 hours of immersive content covering entertainment, creators, and sports segments, and XR, VR, and AR experiences from virtually anywhere in the world.
VUZ’s vision is bringing people together and connecting the world through authentic immersive experiences while removing the constraints of TTA, i.e., Travel, Time, and Access to billions of people around the world.
Background of Founders
Khaled is an alumnus of the American University of Sharjah and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Design Management. He started his early career as a Client Manager at the American company Leo Burnett.
After that, he joined Procter & Gamble(P&G) as a Senior Associate Brand Manager and served there in different capacities over the course of the next few years. Then in 2017, he founded VUZ.
VUZ, which was known previously as 360VUZ has offices in Dubai, Los Angeles, and Riyadh, and has worked with a number of prominent clients including Dubai Government Media Office, Choueiri Group, Samsung, OMD, du, Bentley, Zain, Dubai Film and TV Commission and more.
According to a statement, the platform has connected users in more than 15 countries and provides users and top creators around the world with the latest immersive technologies, different authentic views, and top immersive experiences. Creators’ immersive content collaborations have been one of the core drivers of VUZ where it has top creators with a total reach of over 100 Million globally.
About 70% of the platform’s content is free. However, users must pay between $4-8 for its add-free exclusive content. The company is planning to allow users access content via different media: Meta/Oculus headsets, Qualcomm, immersive avatars, and a web platform, Zaatarah said in a statement to TechCrunch. The extended reality immersive platform reached over 1 Billion Screen Views and is presently aiming to reach 3 Billion Screen Views by 2023.
Seed Round: Raised $1.4 million
In December 2017, the startup raised a seed round of $1.4 million
Series A Round: Raised $5.8 million
In April 2020, the startup raised $5.8 million in a Series A round led by Shorooq Partners with the participation from:
- KBW Ventures
- Media Visions
- Vision Ventures
- Hala Ventures
- 500 Startups, and some other top global investment firms.
The round was also joined by Careem’s co-founder Magnus Olsson and Samih Toukan, the founder of Maktoob and Jabbar Internet Group, and Facebook’s former MD for MENA & Pakistan Jonathan Labin.
Then in June 2021, the startup raised an additional $2.3 million as part of an extended series A round, which brought the startup’s total funding raised to $9.4 million.
Series B Round: Raised $20 million
In 2022, VUZ raised $20 million in series B funding led by international investors including:
- Caruso Ventures
- Vision Ventures VC Fund
- e& Capital
- investment pillar of e& (formerly known as Etisalat Group)
- DFDF (Dubai Future District Fund)
- WIN (Webit Investment Network)
Investors in the round included three strategic funds from Europe including WIN, Elbert Capital, and Yasta Partners. Additional Investors that joined the round are Faith Capital, Panthera Capital, and seven of the existing previous investors followed on. With this round, VUZ is now backed by a mix of investors based in the US and EMEA that will play a major role in supporting VUZ in its international expansion.
Founders Games Grant Secured: €500K
In July 2022, the startup further secured a grant of €500K via the Founders Games, which is an influential event for startups, providing over 1 Million EUR in grant in marketing budgets for up to 200 startups.
The funds will be used to fuel VUZ’s expansion plans in growing its core, accelerating the company’s by 10% month over month in its recurring subscription revenue, investing in top content, hiring additional key senior hires, new social features, launching Web3 products, NFT projects to own and trade virtual assets derived from the metaverse and scaling with asset-light operations into 8 additional new international markets.
Zaatarah further mentioned that partnership and integration with 45 telecom operators is the backbone behind the company’s global expansion. Secured funds will also support VUZ to further scale its Los Angeles office and scale with creators and content in the USA, Asia, and Europe.
The startup said that it has plans to offer additional proprietary technologies as it has recently received a patent related to augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual control, and new advertising solutions, from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.