LA-born startup TRIPP doesn't want the metaverse to be a mere "shopping mall for virtual consumers," its founder Nanea Reeves told TechCrunch.
Instead, Reeves' company is envisioning a metaverse experience that can "deepen connection to self, facilitate mental well-being and enable personal and collective transformation."
TRIPP's vision for a mindful metaverse is already a (virtual) reality: Its wellness-centered experience can be accessed through multiple platforms and devices. This includes AR smartglasses and VR headsets, but also smartphone apps -- collectively referred to as XR, or extended reality. Reeves expects mobile, AR and VR to eventually converge, "in the same way as lots of devices came together into our phones."
If this sounds a bit abstract, look no further than EvolVR, the VR meditation community whose acquisition TRIPP disclosed last February. TRIPP/EvolVR's group meditations can be experienced live on several platforms, such as Microsoft's AltspaceVR and Meta's Horizon Worlds.
TRIPP's product itself offers a range of experiences, from breathing exercises and binaural audio to guided visualizations and worldscapes, some of which users can customize through TRIPP's Composer feature.
TRIPP has recently acquired another company, cross-service world-building platform Eden. "The acquisition will enable users to further customize their TRIPP experience, explore artworks and soundscapes while connecting with users from across the globe," the company said.
Reeves worked in several senior roles in the video gaming industry before founding TRIPP and is focused on creating a full experience that goes beyond watching and listening. She surrounded herself with talent that also shares this vision, including the employee who was originally working on Eden as a side project.
Eden's acquisition is funded by an $11.2 million Series A extension led by gaming-focused investment firm BITKRAFT, Reeves said. Other participants include Qualcomm, Amazon Alexa Fund, HTC and Pokémon GO maker Niantic, as well as existing investor Mayfield, which has been backing TRIPP for a while. Indeed, the firm had participated in a $4 million capital injection into the startup in 2017, before co-leading its Series A round in mid-2021 alongside Vine Ventures.
The genesis of this round was a LinkedIn message from BITKRAFT, followed by an offer she couldn't say no to, Reeves said. Talking to TechCrunch, she also emphasized how excited she was about having new investors willing to support TRIPP in broadening its reach across multiple platforms. It didn't hurt either that they came from gaming, immersive technology and web3, as the company hopes to further engage with creators.
Reeves' decision to take this extension capital despite still having money left from its last round is also in line with a lot of the advice we have been hearing from investors lately. For instance, Y Combinator told its startups that in the current downturn, extending the runway should be a priority.
TRIPP isn't in a position where it needs to cut costs, and it is still hiring, but not at the pace it originally planned. "We do want to be cautious with the current unexpected market conditions," Reeves said. "In the next months," she predicted, "a lot of companies are going to have a challenging time." In contrast, she said, TRIPP now has "a lot more cushion" and a strong team to execute on its plan.
TRIPP's focus on mental well-being in the metaverse is timely. First, because the metaverse shouldn't be yet another place to get groped and harassed. Second, because things are looking bleak for mental health. According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of anxiety and depression globally increased by 25% in the first year of COVID-19.
Mental health is the core focus of PsyAssist, which TRIPP acquired in 2021. A standalone offering, it provides clinics and patients with tools "to support the psychological healing journey of patients undergoing psychedelic assisted therapies."
TRIPP's main focus is more on the B2C side of things, but this too could have benefits for mental health. Its investors hope so. According to HTC VIVE vice president, Pearly Chen, TRIPP's platform "represents an important step toward normalizing the broader discussion around technology’s role in mental health."