Envelop founder and CEO Bob Berry. (GeekWire Photo)
Envelop VR, a virtual reality startup out of Bellevue, Wash., has ceased operations, according to the company’s website.
The startup, which specialized in VR apps for businesses, was backed by Madrona Venture Group, Alphabet’s venture capital arm GV, and several high-profile angel investors.
It’s been a bumpy road for Envelop for the past year as the company navigated the nascent VR market with fierce competition in the space. The news of Envelop shutting down, first reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal, comes just four months after the company cut its staff down to about 20.
“We did let go of a few folks mostly around sales and marketing as an adjustment to market conditions,” Envelop founder and CEO Bob Berry told GeekWire at the time.
Envelop launched in 2014 with a unique product that allowed employees to work in a virtual environment. Using the technology, an employee, wearing a VR headset, could interact with a virtual Windows desktop and access infinite monitors in a 3D space.
Envelop for Windows launched in beta in August. (Envelop photo)
At the time of the layoffs, Berry told GeekWire that Envelop was still trying to figure out the best use cases for what he called “immersive computing.” He said selling the product to enterprise customers was a challenge in and of itself.
“Enterprise sales cycles are long, but when you add this new technology on top that you can’t understand until you experience it, it makes everything longer,” he said.
Berry is also the CEO of Bellevue-based video game studio Uber Entertainment.
Envelop, which has raised $7.5 million to date, launched its Windows public beta this past August. Its competitors include Virtual Desktop for Rift and Vive, Valve’s Steam Desktop Theater, and the virtual desktop mode in Microsoft’s own HoloLens, which is a Windows 10 device in the form of an augmented reality headset.
Virtual reality could become a $150 billion market by 2022, according to some analysts. During the first half of 2016, $1.3 billion had been invested in 76 deals for VR-related companies, a growth rate of 85 percent over last year’s total.
But some investors are wary.
“There are no VC opportunities in AR/VR in the near term,” Voyager Capital’s Erik Benson said last month, adding that he sees limited promise in virtual reality.
Benson also said that most of the money flowing in VR today is coming from venture capitalists, not paying customers. “Today, I see no billion-dollar companies in VR,” said Benson, adding that there is basically no consumer market for people buying VR products outside of gaming. He said it will be at least 10 years for that to change.
Envelop, which helped host the IMMERSE technology event in October, is one of several virtual reality/augmented reality startups in Seattle. Others include Pluto VR, Pixvana, VRStudios, VREAL, AxonVR, Endeavor One, Nullspace VR, and several others. Those are in addition to larger companies like Microsoft, Valve, HTC, and Oculus that also are developing virtual and augmented reality technologies in the region.
GeekWire has reached out to Envelop and will update this story with more details when we hear back.
Update: Here’s a statement from Madrona Managing Director Matt McIlwain:
“We continue to believe in the future of VR and AR — for consumer experiences, entertainment and enterprise innovation. We have a strong portfolio of AR/VR related investments and are committed to the category for the long term.”