Viewpoints Podcast #1 — Virtual Social
w/ Shawn Whiting (Rec Room) and Tipatat Chennavasin (The Venture Reality Fund)
Welcome to the first episode of Viewpoints, the virtual podcast where we talk to the founders, entrepreneurs and investors who are building the category defining companies in Spatial Computing. Your Viewpoint hosts are Petri Rajahalme (Nordic XRStartups) and Dave Haynes (Vive X)
In Episode #1 we discuss the topic of ‘Virtual Social’ and are joined by our guests Shawn Whiting (Rec Room) and Tipatat Chennavasin (The Venture Reality Fund). Shawn founded YC-backed social VR startup Convrge before joining Rec Room in 2017 as Head of Community. Tipatat is co-founder and General Partner of The Venture Reality Fund, an early investor in Rec Room and other companies in the immersive and spatial computing space.
In this episode Shawn talks about how the Rec Room has evolved since the early days, the positive effect of Covid and hints at whats to come in terms of monetization and expansion onto even more platforms (eg. Xbox). Meanwhile we ask Tipatat about his journey into VR and what made him excited enough to commit as one of the first investors into a company that has now gone on to raise a total of $29m. Tipatat also expands upon what gets him excited about the Virtual Social category and what other opportunities he sees for the space.
Formerly known as Against Gravity, Rec Room was started in 2016 by Nick Fajt and Dan Kroymann who originally worked on Hololens at Microsoft. Rec Room was one of the first social platforms in VR, starting out as a handful of casual mini-games such as Frisbee Golf, Charades and Paintball. With the introduction of the ‘Maker Pen’ and a number of community content creation features (see full timeline here), Rec Room has evolved into a community-driven platform that now boasts three million user created levels and forty million unique room visits each month. Whilst the platform doesn’t release specific active user data, they recently announced that it has tripled its user base over the past 12 months, with 60 million friends made to date. This makes it one of the most known ‘virtual social’ platform, standing alongside other early social VR platforms such as VRChat, Wave and Museum of Other Realities. Shawn describes the platform as ‘radically cross-platform’ and notably Rec Room has grown from its VR roots, onto other complimentary platforms including console, desktop and mobile.
0:30 — Welcome to Viewpoints and intros from Dave and Petri.
1:38 — Intro to Shawn Whiting from Rec Room and his journey into VR.
2:32 — Intro to Tipatat Chenavasin from VR Fund and his journey into VR.
3:55 — The origins of Rec Room.
5:26 — Shawn introduces the Maker Pen
6:14 — Rec Room’s evolution into a full UGC community
8:36 — Discussion of Rec Room’s ‘radically cross-platform’ approach and when does it make sense for other startups
13:04 — Why Tipatat originally got excited about making the investment into Rec Room
15:40 — Rec Room has built a community around games. But how has their definition of ‘Play’ expanded?
18:52 — Productivity and meetings within VR platforms
22:32 — How the pandemic has accelerated growth for Rec Room and for social VR generally
25:24 — How does Rec Room make money? Description of Rec Tokens and how the in-game economy is expanding to reward Creators
29:52 — How Tipatat views how to measure KPI’s and success of social VR platforms
30:43 — Discussion around VR’s maturation into a sustainable economy for startups and whether developers should be looking at a free to play model or charging for their experience
32:58 — How Rec Room sees itself versus other competitors such as VRChat (in VR) or Roblox (on other platforms)
38:28 — Discussion on cross pollination between platforms. Will there be one metaverse with unified identity or will virtual social platforms act more as silos?
39:35 — The evolution of social VR and what should investors be looking out for in the category?
46:53 — We wrap up and let people know how to reach us
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