As virtual reality tech finds renewed momentum, VR ice hockey training startup Sense Arena recently closed a $3 million investment round.
With the new money, the Prague-headquartered company plans to add additional sports to its offering later this year. CEO Bob Tetiva said Sense Arena is likely to focus on other stick-and-ball sports next, such as golf, tennis, cricket and baseball. It’s also looking to expand its casual offering in a bid to attract everyday players in addition to the pros.
“We want to connect the world of the active athletes with the world of the fans,” Tetiva said. “Given the fact that we know how to replicate the physics of the real active sport, it gives a great chance for people around the globe to compete against each other in a multiplayer activity with all the digital flavors of the metaverse it brings—avatars, NFTs, going to places where people couldn’t have been before.”
J&T Ventures led the round, with fellow Czech Republic backers Miton and SYNER joining as well.
“We feel supremely confident in Bob’s vision for the future of sports training,” J&T Ventures co-founder Martin Kesner said in a statement. “We believe that Sense Arena has only scratched the surface of its potential.”
Sense Arena currently boasts more than 2,500 installations across 40 countries, with 10,000 users having run more than a million drills in the app. The subscription simulator, including evaluation and training games for skaters and goalies, runs on Meta Quest headsets and has found a home among more than 30 NHL and other pro teams and nine NCAA programs. Its biggest audience, though, is among 10- to 16-year-olds hoping to join those ranks who use the software either on their own hardware at home, or through team equipment.
Other VR startups are also trying to serve both elite and at-home audiences. StatusPro gave a glimpse of its upcoming NFL-licensed game last month, while Win Reality has built a VR training tool for baseball and softball players.
“Startups are actually like surfers, waiting for the big wave to come and then riding the wave,” Tetiva said. “So when we started five years ago, it was pretty much calm water … and now I can see waves coming.”
(This story has updated the headline and corrected the name of Miton Investment Group to Miton in the fourth paragraph.)