A Revolutionary Investment in Jaunt

Virtual Reality has been attracting a lot of interest of late, particularly in the wake of Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift announced on March 25. If you haven’t yet tried this new generation of VR headsets, you’re in for a treat. The immersiveness of the experience can simply blow you away. It is a little like going from a small television to a massive IMAX theater — but so much more. Like escaping the Matrix for the first time, you have to see it for yourself.

Still, throughout the history of VR, these incredible experiences have been constrained to virtual worlds, where the required multiple views in every direction can quickly be calculated and rendered. Over time, that rendering has gotten so good that it’s almost indistinguishable from reality, but it still isn’t the same. There’s a big difference between playing NBA Jam and watching a real game on television. The same is true of VR: There hasn’t been a way to record the real world in way that enables playback through a VR headset.

That is, there wasn’t until now. Palo Alto-based startup Jaunt, led by extraordinarily talented Silicon Valley veterans Jens Christensen, Arthur van Hoff, and Tom Annau, is tackling this head on. They are building the hardware and software needed to record real world experiences and play them back through VR headsets like the Oculus Rift. To experience the real world through a VR headset, you need a very complicated custom camera system to record the world, a new type of compression and playback, and a way to get that content to viewers. Jaunt has created all this by engineering an entirely new system of VR recording, distribution, and playback. Jens, Arthur, Tom, and a crackerjack team of engineers have designed their own camera to capture 360-degree stereoscopic video. They have developed complicated stitching algorithms to turn the video into something consumable on the Oculus as well as tools allowing creators to edit these complex pieces of content. And they have created compression and streaming technologies so that the videos can be experienced over the Internet.

The best way to describe the feeling you have while using Jaunt’s system is that’s it’s teleportation — your brain is convinced that you’ve left your living room and are instead on stage sitting next to your favorite guitarist during a concert. Or maybe you are sitting courtside during a basketball game, able to not only watch the action in front of you, but to turn around and see how the fans behind you are reacting. Or you can teleport into a horror movie and hear the back door creak open behind you, spinning around just in time to see a shadow slip into the next room. The possibilities are endless.

Oculus alone is an incredible way to play and experience video games. With Jaunt, you can now experience so much more.

We are very excited about our investment in Jaunt, the all-star team behind the company, and by the future of virtual reality. In Facebook’s announcement of its acquisition of Oculus, Mark Zuckerberg said that what’s really exciting about Oculus is what comes after gaming. We couldn’t agree more. Thanks to Jaunt, that next leap in immersive entertainment has arrived.


Luck & Investing in Curious

Every once in a while, maybe once in your career, you have the opportunity to work with a great entrepreneur/CEO in two different startups. This has now happened for me three times. Reed Hasting (Pure Software/Netflix), Satish Dharmaraj (OneBox/Zimbra) and now Justin Kitch (Homestead/Curious). So right now I am feeling pretty lucky.

It turns out that these entrepreneurs have a lot in common. They have great vision, deep technology skills, intense focus and most importantly they hire super talented management and do it in the early stages of the company. Needless to say we were excited when Justin Kitch decided to join Redpoint as an EIR and incubate a new company. After months of brainstorming, ideation, iteration and prototyping the final result was Curious.com, a technology platform and marketplace for video-based lessons.

We loved the idea, the team and the size of the market. Education is being transformed globally with new online models. From graduate school programs (2u) to language instruction (Open English) and now skills-based learning (Curious) all forms of education are now re-imagined online. Curious empowers teachers with a platform that makes it easy to build/monetize lessons and a rich experience for students to learn and socially interact with other learners. This is right in the wheelhouse of the Homestead team. They are experts at making complex platforms simple, intuitive and elegant. They did it for websites and they will do it again for online education.

So congratulations to Team Curious and thanks to our amazing co-investors Bill Campbell and Jesse Rogers.