Google Ventures Invests $12 Million in SideQuest
Google’s venture arm has led a $12 million Series A investment in the sideloading platform SideQuest.
There is a lot happening in the industry at the moment. The broader virtual reality industry is currently focused on the upcoming, next-generation virtual reality headsets such as Meta’s Quest Pro, the Pico 4 headset, or PlayStation VR 2. The MetaConnect conference taking place in a week’s time will be watched very closely as the company is expected to make some major announcements at the event.
One surprising news that has come out ahead of the release is Google Ventures (GV) investment in SideQuest, the sideloading platform that allows developers to get their content to the Meta ecosystem without going through the company’s stringent curation process for its official store.
GV is betting big on SideQuest, a startup that is already developing a vibrant ecosystem built around Meta’s hardware. A platform like SideQuest is expected to reap big in the near future; Meta is expected to see a boom in its mixed reality products as it rolls out a new hardware lineup.
The app was launched in 2019 soon after the launch of Oculus Quest. It was founded by the couple Shane and Orla Harris and has been a critical platform for experimental apps that have not yet been added to the official Quest Store. The founders have also been streamlining its user experience and developing a more advanced jumping-off point, enabling virtual reality game developers to reach out to communities of early users and also receive valuable feedback before transitioning their apps to the official store, if they can go past Meta store’s stringent gatekeepers. There are a few experimental apps that have already graduated from SideQuest into the official store such as the virtual reality basketball app Gym Class which was funded by Y Combinator and Andreessen Horowitz early this year.
SideQuest’s founders have been exploring ways of supporting virtual reality game development. The startup got an early investment from Palmer Luckey which enabled them to move from an experimental app into a serious company. The couple behind the startup has criticized the lack of platform diversity in the VR industry and is hoping open-source platforms like theirs will help expand the scope of content offerings and give users more choice.
Since its founding three years ago, the founders of SideQuest have added a lot of functionality to the app and so far, the platform is yet to face too much pushback from Meta, even though it directly competes with Meta’s official store.
The SideQuest store is not monetized beyond in-store advertising. The sideloading platform is also benefitting from increasing regulatory pressure on Meta as authorities gradually move to clamp down on the company’s dominance of the VR market and its data and privacy policies.
According to Shane Harris, the platform has so far been in an accommodating relationship by generally staying “out of each other’s way”. Harris says that by offering an alternative content platform with numerous titles that are not in Meta’s official store, SideQuest is also adding a “huge amount of value” to the Meta headset. Harris says SideQuest is not planning to monetize its content ecosystem on the Quest platform which will bring the company into direct competition with Meta.
At the moment, SideQuest is exploring different monetization pathways for its network of virtual reality developers. These include creating more developer tools. The startup could also roll out a publishing fund for backing the experimental titles on its store that are showing some promise.
Although SideQuest has been a default alternative for experimental apps and apps that don’t make it past Meta’s brutal curation policies, it now faces competition from Meta’s own ‘AppLab’, a new method it launched for distributing content without going through its curation process.
SideQuest developers say that they lobbied Meta to create AppLab due to the cumbersome sideloading process and that Meta worked with them for a year to create AppLab. Orla Harris says that instead of replacing SideQuest, AppLab has in fact created “another stepping stone” through which people access the sideloading store.
SideQuest also has aggressive expansion plans and wants to capitalize on the current quiet period in the virtual reality market. That “quiet” is about to be ruffled with a series of big VR hardware announcements from Meta, Pico and even Sony. SideQuest wants to “double or triple” its team with the new funding.