Virtual and Augmented Reality: The Players and the Game
Virtual and Augmented Reality: The Players and the Game
Virtual reality has been exiled to the dreaded trough of disillusionment for years, but it is finally on the path to escape. Products such as Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are continuously wowing both users and investors, and these technologies will clearly play a significant role in the future of movies and gaming.
Despite this emergence, it is another related technology that has shown even more potential. The market for augmented reality will be worth 3x as much as the market for virtual reality in the coming years, according to a recently updated estimate from AR/VR advisory firm Digi-Capital.
What’s the difference between the two?
Virtual reality offers a closed and fully immersive experience for users inside a virtual world.
Augmented reality offers an open and partly immersive experience that makes virtual elements visible in the real world.
While devices such as smartphones can offer some basic aspects of augmented or virtual reality, there are now several companies in both fields that are on the verge of bringing game-changing products to the mass market.
Facebook made an early bet buy purchasing Oculus Rift for $2 billion in 2014, which is now considered the leader in virtual reality. Phone and game console manufactures have also anted up with Sony, HTC, and Samsung all actively developing products in the ecosystem.
On the augmented side, it’s the Google-backed Magic Leap as well as the Microsoft’s HoloLens that are considered key players for hardware. Apple has also acquired AR software maker Metaio, but has kept plans under wraps.
Aside from the big companies involved, there are also plenty of smaller startups in virtual and augmented reality. CB Insights has created a list of venture capital investments, sorted by firm, in these technologies: (click to expand)
What’s Ahead in 2016?
This year is expected to be a big one for virtual and augmented reality technologies. The TED Conference in Vancouver, BC was littered with VR/AR experiences, and the technology has become the primary focus of the CES event in Las Vegas.
Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony are expected to bring early VR headsets to market. Meanwhile, the low-cost Google Cardboard will continue to whet everyone’s appetite for more immersive virtual reality experiences in the meantime.
The mystery surrounding Magic Leap will continue to grow, and many expect a reveal from the secretive Florida startup in 2016. The sleeping giants, Apple and Amazon, could also wake up this year after keeping their VR and AR efforts highly-veiled thus far.
Original graphics by: Manatt Digital Media, CB Insights
Ranked: Who Made the Most U.S. Unicorn Acquisitions Since 1997?
Roughly 30% of unicorns making an exit get acquired. But which companies have made the most U.S. unicorn acquisitions in the last 25 years?
Who Made the Most U.S. Unicorn Acquisitions Since 1997?
The elusive unicorn is no longer a myth in the U.S. startup world, with over a thousand private startups reaching a $1 billion valuation in the last 25 years.
While some of these startups eventually go public and go on to become household names, it’s also common for founders to exit through mergers and acquisitions (M&A), by selling their startup to another organization. In fact, over half of the 1,110 unicorns in the U.S. have made some sort of an exit—either through an IPO, a direct listing, a SPAC or an acquisition—since 1997.
Ilya Strebulaev, professor of finance and private equity at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, brings us this visualization featuring the companies that acquired the most unicorns over the last 25 years.
Strebulaev’s database lists 137 private and public companies along with PE firms who’ve acquired at least one unicorn since 1997, totaling 177 acquisitions.
The Biggest U.S. Unicorn Acquirers
In total, 27 companies have acquired two or more unicorns, accounting for nearly 38% of all acquisitions. 110 companies have acquired just one unicorn.
|Company/ PE Group||Acquired|
|Johnson & Johnson||3|
|Merck & Co.||3|
|Searchlight Capital Partners||1|
|Internet Capital Group||1|
|Hellman & Friedman||1|
|Fresenius Medical Care||1|
|Keurig Dr Pepper||1|
|Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma||1|
|Mubadala Investment Company||1|
|Saudi Arabia's PIF||1|
|Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan||1|
|Littlejohn & Co||1|
|SoftBank Investment Advisers||1|
|Hewlett Packard Enterprise||1|
|VMware & EMC Corp||1|
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, leads the pack with the most unicorn acquisitions in the U.S., purchasing five unicorns since its founding in 2008, including: Kustomer, WhatsApp, Instagram, CTRL-Labs, and Oculus VR.
Notably, WhatsApp—which closed at a purchase price of $19 billion—was Meta’s most expensive acquisition yet, over nine times their next most expensive purchase, Oculus VR.
Meanwhile, Alphabet (now the parent company of Google) and Cisco are tied in second place with four U.S. unicorn acquisitions each.
- Alphabet: YouTube, Actifio, Nest Labs, Looker Data Sciences
- Cisco: Cerent, Duo Security, AppDynamics, Jasper
Unlike its Big Tech peers, Apple has only made the one U.S. unicorn acquisition: navigation company HopStop that helped bring public transit features to Apple Maps.
Meanwhile, 56% of acquirers received venture capital funding of their own when they were private companies. This includes pack leaders like Meta, Cisco, Alphabet, and Amazon.
Are Unicorn Acquisitions Slowing Down?
Unicorn acquisitions are driven by two factors: the rate at which new unicorns are minted, and the climate for M&A transactions more broadly.
To begin with, the minting of new unicorns is largely influenced by the venture funding environment. Funding opportunities increase when interest rates go down, which makes riskier, venture-scale ideas more enticing. During the last decade of persistently low interest rates up until 2022, unicorns flourished more than ever.
Meanwhile, as tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Meta began seeing outsized profits in the 2010s, venture investors and their LPs looked to get in on the ground floor of tech startups that could emulate their success, often paying premium valuations for the chance. Simultaneously, big tech looked to acquire unicorns themselves, both to augment their business lines and to squash potential competitors.
However, the era of “easy money” may have come to an end, and privately-held startups have seen valuations drop in recent years. This means that for the next little while—at least until monetary policy stops tightening—unicorns could become a rarer sight.
Unicorn acquisitions may also see a similar fate. Persistent inflation and the government anti-trust push are just some of the other factors that have led to VC-backed startup acquisitions falling to their lowest quarterly levels in a decade. The more expensive the valuation, the harder to find a buyer, which means that some unicorns may even lose their $1 billion tag even when they do get acquired.
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