The creators of MergeVR — a foamy virtual reality headset powered by smartphones that transports users to a 3D computer world — are expanding the company's international distribution network, the San Antonio founders announced recently.
Merge Labs Inc. inked a deal with a department store retailer in Spain, El Corte Ingles S.A., and will be on shelves in more than 200 of its stores. The company is also available in stores in Argentina, Japan, Singapore and Kuwait while online in France and Germany. MergeVR is sold in India for about 5,400 Indian rupees through Amazon — or roughly $79 USD.
The tech company began in 2014 and was co-founded by Andrew Trickett and Franklin Lyons. About a year later, it started selling devices through its first brick and mortar avenue in the United Kingdom during 2015 through retailer Game Digital PLC. It expanded the retail distribution network to the United States and Canada afterward.
Deals with U.S. retailers like Best Buy, Target Corp. and Grapevine-based GameStop Corp. were made this year.
The company is leasing office space inside a historic building at the corner of Soledad and Convent along the San Antonio riverwalk and has grown to 15 employees since raising $10 million from investors this year.
The company's expansion to other consumer markets for virtual reality technology isn't over.
"It's always been part of the roadmap, we haven't yet completed all the places that we want to go," said MergeVR's Trickett in a recent interview. "I think that what we are going to learn is that the customer base is different retailer by retailer."
For example, the company rolled out an exclusive release of a grey headset for Best Buy this year — the first time it diverted from the usual purple model.
In early November, Merge Labs announced it has plans to release a developer version of a controller called Moonshot that pairs with the headset in early 2017. The goal is for the controller to be used across the VR universe but also emerging web-based VR products alongside existing iOS and Android devices.
To do that, the local business is taking a page from the playbook of tech giants like Microsoft Corp., which released a developer version of HoloLens this year.
"There's always some things to work out, the consumer product is going to be a little bit different than the dev (developer) kit not only in the hardware but software," Trickett said.
The company declined to share volume of units sold to date but said that demand is strong.
"With [so much] demand, one of our concerns is how do we keep up with production, especially as we approach the holiday season," he said.
But with some of the new markets, the customers are closer to the manufacturing facilities.
"With some of them [markets] the turnaround time is a little bit shorter. It kind of a matters when it comes to these things [whether] you can put it on a plane or boat, there's a difference in cost," he said.