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Comcast Ventures Leads $3 Million Round in VR Startup Spaces

Company founded by former DreamWorks Animation execs Shiraz Akmal and Brad Herman

Spaces, an L.A. startup developing virtual-reality and mixed-reality experiences, announced $3 million in initial funding led by Comcast Ventures.

The company’s two co-founders, CEO Shiraz Akmal and CTO Brad Herman, both hail from DreamWorks Animation, where they worked on the studio’s VR content experiences. In addition to Comcast Ventures, Spaces’ investors include Boost VC, Canyon Creek Capital, Colopl VR Fund, GREE, Kai Huang, the Venture Reality Fund, the Sinovation Fund, Youku Global Media Fund and CRCM VC.

Spaces, officially formed in January 2016, says it’s already working on a range of VR and mixed-reality projects with companies including NBCUniversal, Microsoft, Big Blue Bubble and the Hettema Group. Platforms it’s developing for include Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Microsoft HoloLens, Samsung Gear VR, PlayStation VR and Google Cardboard.

“Spaces has a compelling and clear vision to be the catalyst for companies looking to create VR and MxR (mixed reality) experiences,” Comcast Ventures managing director Michael Yang said in a statement. “Spaces is combining remarkable capabilities, tools and creativity to push the boundaries of the VR frontier.”

Comcast Ventures also is an investor in AltspaceVR, a startup building social spaces in VR.

Based in Santa Monica, Calif., Spaces currently has nine employees, who have various backgrounds in filmmaking, video games and theme parks. Akmal previously was head of business and product development for DreamWorks Animation’s DreamLab, and before that was VP of product development operations for video game company THQ. Herman headed up DreamLab, and previously worked in DWA movies “Turbo” and “Kung Fu Panda 2.” In addition, Spaces executive creative director Dean Orion previously created interactive, location-based attractions for DWA and Walt Disney Imagineering.

“The combination of experience and creativity is rare in this brand-new virtual reality industry, and the work the Spaces team has accomplished sets them apart in an exciting way,” said Ryan Cheung, VP of finance for Chinese Internet giant Youku Tudou, which is now part of Alibaba Group.

The Spaces team also has enlisted an advisory board that includes attorney Dan Offner, an angel investor and Oculus VR’s former general counsel; Keith Boesky, former president of Eidos Interactive and the principal of Boesky & Company; and Indian film actor and entrepreneur Rana Daggubati, star of “Baahubali: The Beginning,” among the highest-grossing films in India’s history.

The company takes its name from the industry term for the base unit of VR experiences. “Virtual reality spaces offer creative challenges we’ve never seen before: to build fully dimensional spaces in which viewers can completely interact,” Akmal said.

Collectively, the Spaces executive team has previously led the development and creation of such projects as a widely acclaimed Dragons VR flying experience for Oculus Rift; the initial version of DreamWorks Color, an augmented-reality app that brings kids’ 2D creations to life; and the DreamWorks VR app.

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