HTC is launching a $100 million accelerator program for startups that want to use its VR technology. The program, called Vive X, will launch in Beijing, Taipei, and San Francisco, with the possibility of expanding to more cities over time. It's supposed to offer mentorship, help securing investment, and access to VR tech, doing things like temporarily providing office space and hosting demo days for potential investors. Companies can apply now, and a pilot program will start in Beijing in May.
The money for this doesn't come solely from HTC: it's described as an investment fund "led by HTC" instead. We don't know exactly how much support the Taiwanese phone manufacturer is putting in, and the company declined to list other investors. We also don't know precisely how focused the program will be on Vive-only development, although HTC says the goal is to "support a healthy and vibrant ecosystem for the Vive." Companies in the Vive X program will be given between $50,000 and $200,000 in exchange for handing over "a small amount" of equity, alongside other benefits.
HTC is serious about VR
Whatever the specifics, this is a major signal that HTC is serious about VR — especially given that the rest of the company has been struggling for a while. The Vive is still a niche product, but it's by far the most exciting thing HTC has done lately, making frequent appearances at gaming conferences and film festivals. The Vive is currently the only major headset on the market that comes with motion trackers, and HTC seems to have been more forthcoming with kits for VR developers than its competitor Oculus.
Oculus has put a lot of work into stimulating VR game development, funding a $1 million game jam for the mobile Gear VR and publishing a number of exclusive titles for the Rift. HTC and Vive co-creator Steam have apparently leaned more toward simply handing out kits, resulting in an uneven and highly experimental catalog. But this accelerator bolsters a very reasonable theory: that the companies are much more interested in capturing the attention of non-gaming companies that use VR. Last week, HTC announced a partnership with 3D software company Dassault, and this accelerator could theoretically lead to similar deals in the future.
It's also notable that HTC is putting money into boosting the Chinese VR market. Big headset makers like Oculus have made relatively few inroads into China, but there's still a large fledgling industry there. It's just one focused heavily on mobile and all-in-one VR devices — in other words, one with a gap Vive X could help fill.
Correction: HTC's partner is Dassault Systemes, not Dassault.