Space, Augmented Reality Drive Creativity For Ad Industry, With Billions Invested

Tech startups exploring new frontiers in space, drones, augmented reality or virtual reality have raised a combined $3.15 billion in equity financing since 2014, across 183 deals, according to a report.

The analysis from CB Insights, released Friday, suggests that the types of technology companies -- from space to satellite and virtual reality -- attracting investments signals an eventual shift in the way images are created and ads get served. The OnePlus2 last month launched using Google Cardboard and VR. The smartphone is designed by the Chinese startup OnePlus. Companies like Google, Google Ventures, Facebook, Qualcomm, and Verizon are making the investments.



Funding for these 30 deals topped $500 million in three straight quarters last year. The first quarter of 2015 ranked highest with $1.3 billion in funding, largely anchored by SpaceX's $1 billion Series D financing. From April through June, funding totaled $866 million. About nine deals at more than $50 million went to frontier tech companies since 2014.

Rothenberg Ventures and Google Ventures have been the most active venture capitalist (VC) in frontier tech companies since 2012. Rothenberg Ventures has made early-stage bets in Altspace VR, Matterport, and Dronebase. Google acquired Skybox Imaging for $500 million in 2014. Facebook acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion the same year. Verizon made investments in Nantmobile, SkyWard.

Space startups in the first half of 2015 raised $1.76 billion for funding and deals. Interestingly, Satellite startups accounted for 35% of the funded companies, which includes those that can capture images of earth via satellites such as Planet Labs, and Spire.

The drone wars between Google and Amazon also caught the attention of CB Insights analysts. Drone companies have raised $285 million since 2014 in equity financing, but the investment activity picked-up in the past three quarters and in Q2 2015 reached $109 million across 16 deals, up from $68 million in the prior quarter.

Companies focused on augmented reality and virtual reality have raised $1 billion since 2014. The technology peaked at $623 million in the last quarter of 2014 and fell to $114 million in the first quarter of this year. Brands have begun to experiment. Discovery will release the first videos for its virtual reality network, Discovery VR, a service testing the limits and capabilities of the technology. The videos debuts Thursday on, YouTube and on Android and iPhone apps, according to the Associated Press.

AR and VR startups with a focus on commercial uses accounted for 40% of all funded startups since 2012, according to the report. Blippar, which enables augmented reality for brands and publishers, as well as Augment, which utilizes AR for sales and e-commerce are some that received the funding.

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