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14 February 2017

Baidu Ventures gets off the mark in $27m 8i round

Baidu's corporate venturing unit made its first investment as part of a series B round led by Time Warner Investments that included Hearst Ventures and Verizon Ventures.

Author: Robert Lavine, News Editor

Time Warner Investments, the corporate venturing arm of media conglomerate Time Warner, led a $27m series B round for New Zealand-based augmented reality technology developer 8i yesterday, investing alongside several other corporates.

Baidu Ventures, Hearst Ventures and Verizon Ventures, respective subsidiaries of internet company Baidu, media group Hearst and telecommunications firm Verizon, also took part, as did One Ventures, Seed & Speed Ventures and unnamed existing backers.

Founded in 2014, 8i has built an app called Holo that enables users to record and project photorealistic 3D holograms that can be viewed from any angle. They can also form the basis for augmented and virtual reality interactions.

The round represents the first investment to be made by the newly formed Baidu Ventures, and managing partner Daisy Cai said: “We are excited to back the extraordinary team at 8i and help bring its superior holographic experience to mass audiences in China.

“At Baidu, we envision a future where VR and AR can be applied in numerous industries that serve our more than one billion monthly active users.”

The round took 8i’s total funding to $41m and follows a $13.5m series A round in 2015 backed by Samsung Ventures and Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, which invest on behalf of electronics producer Samsung and media group Bertelsmann respectively.

The series A also featured RRE Ventures, Founders Fund Science, Horizons Ventures, Sound Ventures, Signia Venture Partners, Inevitable Ventures, Freelands, Advancit Capital, Kortschak Investments, Rothenberg Ventures, End Cue, Dolby Family Ventures and Boost VC.

Scott Levine, managing director of Time Warner Investments, will join 8i’s board of directors in conjunction with the series B round.

Levine said: “8i makes holographic human content a reality in this new era with its breakthrough volumetric capture technology, while lowering the barrier for creators.

“We are excited to back this world-class team as they continue to push the boundaries of data compression and depth acquisition, and bring holograms to the mainstream with Holo on smartphones.”

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