Baobab Studios raises $25M as it looks to bring richer storytelling to VR

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For all of the technical pizazz that virtual reality studios can wow users with, at the end of the day great content is about establishing an emotional connection.

Baobab Studios is aiming to move past the novelty of VR and create characters that people can grow to love (and hate) even more due to the richness of experience and interaction that VR offers.

Today, the company announced that it has closed a $25 million Series B led by Horizons Ventures with Twentieth Century Fox, Evolution Media Partners, China’s Shanghai Media Group, Youku Global Media Fund and LDV Partners also participating. This raise brings the company’s total funding to $31 million.

This Series B is one of the largest single funding rounds for a virtual reality creative studio to date. Co-founder and CEO Maureen Fan says that much of the startup’s success has been earned because of continued traction on nascent virtual reality platforms alongside an ingrained focus on storytelling that eases many of Hollywood’s fears about the VR platform.

Baobab Studios garnered major headlines last month when it was announced that their 6-minute VR animated short, “Invasion!” was going to be turned into a feature-length animated film by Hollywood production studio Roth Kirschenbaum.

Baobab Studios has been getting a pretty significant amount of attention from the gatekeepers of the VR industry as well.

The company has previously received investments from Samsung and HTC, which respectively make the Gear VR and Vive, two very popular head-mounted displays. Baobab was front and center for Sony’s PS VR launch last week, with their title “Invasion!” earning a spot on the demo disc included with every headset. Fan also spoke during the keynote at the Oculus Connect developers conference earlier this month and announced Baobab’s next project, titled “Asteroids!”

The company, which has about 20 employees, is expanding its executive team as it grows larger, notably adding former Pixar/Dreamworks exec Larry Cutler to the team as its CTO while also bringing Within CEO Chris Milk aboard in a position on Baobab’s advisory board.

At this point in time, nearly all of the major consumer VR platforms that have been teased over the past couple years are at last widely available, with the PlayStation VR launching last week. From this point it’s important to get the hardware in people’s hands but the real struggle is in building up worthwhile content that plays to the mediums strengths and shows people why virtual reality is worthwhile.

Baobab Studios holds that as a key to its growth moving forward.

“We believe that the story should always come first and that the technology should work to serve the story,” says Fan.

If the focus on story-telling brought on the established media investors, the more traditional tech investors are excited about some of the “core tech” that Baobab has been building. Fan didn’t reveal too much about what this core tech was, but noted that it would give VR creators “the ability to experiment with new storytelling techniques.”