London-based virtual reality firm Improbable has raised $500m (£388m) in one of the biggest investments in an early stage European technology business.
Japan’s Softbank is backing Improbable in a funding round that values the business at more than $1bn.
The deal gives SoftBank a “non-controlling” stake in the company, valuing it over the $1bn magical mark for technology companies in the US, in exchange for a board seat which goes to Softbank’s Deep Nishar.
Improbable was founded five years ago by Herman Narula and Rob Whitehead, two computer science graduates from the University of Cambridge.
They have stated that they intend to use the funds from the investment to continue to develop the company’s technology for large-scale virtual words, the key to which is the distributed operating system Spatial OS.
Spatial OS uses cloud-based distributed computing to enable the creation of virtual worlds for use in games as well as for large-scale simulations of the real world.
“We believe that the next major phase in computing will be the emergence of large-scale virtual worlds which enrich human experience and change how we understand the real world,” said Herman Narula.
The company stated it plans to go on a recruiting spree in its London and San Francisco offices.
“Beyond gaming, this new form of simulation on a massive scale has the potential to help us make better decisions about the world we live in,” said Narula.
“Improbable’s technology will help us explore disease, improve cities, understand economies and solve complex problems on a previously unimaginable scale.”
The move marks one of the largest ever investments in a British technology company and an unusually Silicon Valley-like commitment in Europe’s more sedate market.
The investment is the second Cambridge-born venture that SoftBank has splashed on in the past year.
ARM Holdings, one of the world’s leading chip designers, was acquired in 2016 by the Japanese multinational for more than £24bn.