Studying hard in immersive VR metaverses, London's Gemba raises $18 million

Johnson & Johnson is among clients deploying Gemba's hands-on virtual reality training platform.
Studying hard in immersive VR metaverses, London's Gemba raises $18 million

London-based enterprise metaverse developer Gemba aspires to build virtual worlds for corporate training. It's announcing a $18 million series A raise led by New York investor Parkway Venture Capital. Raised at a $60 million valuation, this funding is expected to help grow Gemba's business in North America while also honing in on EMEA.

Plenty has been said about the metaverse, but one thing most can agree on, at least in terms of the full-on virtual realities that sparked most of the hype, is that metaverses will probably impact the enterprise first, forming part of the future-of-work category.

On January 20, Microsoft announced it is closing an early metaverse-like VR app it acquired a few years back, AltSpaceVR, after rolling up much of the useful metaverse technology into its enterprise-led mixed reality vehicle, Microsoft Mesh.

As far as the enterprise is concerned, learning is probably one of the most obvious wins in the commercialisation of virtual reality. Actually practicing new skills in VR, particularly manual skills in field work or in highly specialised fields like medicine, is likely to engage more visual learners. At Gemba, employees of health products corporate Johnson & Johnson and pharma firm Pfizer as well as Coca-Cola are notable clients.

Learning differs from person to person, so there'll always be room for traditional courses and recommended reading. But where Gemba excels is in supporting corporate executive training whose students will perhaps welcome hands-on practice and experimentation.

Headquartered in London, Gemba was founded in 2013 by CEO Nathan Robinson as a spin off from The Leadership Network, an established provider of executive-level training.

Gemba's executive-level "masterclasses" merge VR classrooms, educational content and corporate-specific services. For example, a logistics executive may be able to walk through virtual factories to understand frontline pressures.

In particular, Gemba seeks adoption among employers with multiple operating locations, virtual reality being a standardised, hands-on approach that doesn't make executives hard pressed for time travel to learn.

"In the digital age, Gemba is an impactful solution to the biggest challenge faced by transformational leaders — the roll-out of powerful and effective training at scale, in a compelling and efficient way", Robinson said.

In conjunction with the series A round, Parkway Venture Capital general partners Gregg Hill and Jesse Coors-Blankenship will join Gemba's board of directors.

Parkway's series A cheque is intended to bankroll further development of Gemba's platform to expand beyond its existing early access customers, some 4,000 executives at 675 companies. The R&D programme will likely lead to a subscription service allowing more enterprises to sign up.

Gemba's product pipeline also comprises new features, including co-location services, adaptable mixed reality, AI-powered consultants, new security features and custom-made teaching VR tools.

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