A stealthy ex-Googler who moved his small startup to San Diego earlier this year has finally stepped out of the shadows with a new augmented reality app and a $2 million seed round.
The company, called GoMeta Inc., has been stirring up excitement for the past few months with hype-inducing stunts around Southern California. The latest was a Pokemon Go-like augmented reality scavenger hunt, in which users of the iPhone app could unlock virtual clues at real-world locations (eventually leading them to real stashes of hidden money to the tune of $10,000).
The startup was founded by Dmitry Shapiro, who until recently worked on Google’s social media projects. Shapiro has an impressive background as a tech executive, including a gig at Myspace where he served as chief technology officer. He was also founder of Veoh, an early competitor of YouTube.
Shapiro has lived and worked locally since 1999, and said he believes San Diego is the next big technology hub. He convinced a team of seven employees to move from the Bay Area (and other tech cities) down to San Diego. The team includes ex-employees of large technology firms like Google, LivingSocial, and Disney, Shapiro said.
GoMeta’s app is called Metaverse, and it’s built to allow anyone to interact with its augmented reality universe. Essentially, users can create Pokemon-Go style games and other experiences within the app. And you don’t have to know code to interact and build in the Metaverse. Using a builder within the app, users can create geo-specific “experiences” and drop them onto a virtual map of the real world. Just like with Pokemon Go, the user can walk up to experiences in real life, see a virtual tag on their smartphone, and tap on the tags to interact.
Shapiro said he envisions the Metaverse as a home for multitudes of user-generated scavenger hunts, interactive stories, and even augmented reality worlds directing you to things like public bathrooms. He also sees a variety of commercial and educational applications.
"Augmented reality is a new medium, just like video or internet," Shapiro said. "Video was once just for entertainment, but now video is used as a tool to sell cars or houses; it's used for dating sites and commercials. The same thing will happen with augmented reality."
Anyone else thinking of Ready Player One?
When asked how GoMeta would make money from the app, Shapiro said the commercial opportunities were widespread. He noted the success of Pokemon Go, which in its first month made $250 million from in-app payments. Shapiro said he found Pokemon Go's "sponsored locations" model particularly intriguing, in which businesses pay to have Pokemon characters "spawn" near their business to drive up foot traffic.
GoMeta has landed $2 million in seed money from former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, former Myspace CEO Michael Jones, along with Greylock Partners and Moonshot Capital. Shapiro noted that all the cash is angel money, not venture capital.
The startup is currently housed in the EvoNexus incubator in Downtown San Diego.
If you’re curious what the Metaverse looks like, check out GoMeta’s debut video on YouTube.