Making it Work

Waterford VR firm ready to launch its own ‘enterprise metaverse’ and targets €4.5m turnover

Engage hopes to launch its new product, Link, in the final quarter of this year

David Whelan and Sandra Whelan, co-founders of Engage: ‘All the tools we’d built for education were what you’d need for a metaverse’. Picture: Shane O'Neill

Engage, the virtual reality company based in Waterford, expects to double its revenues this year as it launches its own “enterprise metaverse” for businesses and educators, its co-founder has said.

David Whelan, who set up Engage (previously known as Immersive VR Education) in 2014, said the company was hoping to launch the new product called Link in the final quarter of this year.

Engage is targeting €4.5 million turnover this year, having increased its headcount from 30 to 120 in the past two years. The firm has evolved its software over recent years, from a VR tool aimed only at educational providers to a full-scale “metaworld” where clients can stage events, trainings or other collaborative projects.

The Enterprise Ireland-backed company, which has been listed on the London and Irish stock exchanges since 2018, now counts Vodafone, BMW, HTC and 3M among its enterprise clients. On the educational side, Oxford University and Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab are customers.

The pandemic supercharged the company’s growth as well as its widening reach, Whelan told the Business Post.

“As a company, we were building the Engage platform anyway, but we were building it with more focus on education at first,” he said.

“But when the pandemic hit and everyone had to work remotely, they were looking for better solutions for corporate events, and we started getting more and more enterprise clients. All the tools we’d built for education were what you’d need for a metaverse.”

The term “metaverse” is today commonly associated with Facebook, or Meta, after Mark Zuckerberg announced that his company was setting out to build a virtual reality universe online. But Whelan said that the metaverse was not a Facebook product, but instead a concept which encapsulates a rapidly evolving digital space.

“People think the metaverse is what Facebook is building, or that it’s owned by Facebook,” he said. “But it’s really a marketing term for the evolution of the internet. It’s where people are walking into virtual environments, where you’re sharing those spaces with avatars.”

In January, 3M Company, the US industrial conglomerate with more than 95,000 staff around the world, used Engage’s software to host a virtual event for employees. It was a sign of the Waterford company’s ambition, Whelan said, and it showed how Engage’s software can deliver value to even the biggest businesses.

“Normally 3M would have a physical event, where they’d invite people from all over the world to come, but they couldn’t do it because of lockdowns. And then they tried a conference with a Zoom conference where they had 1,000 people logged in, but they found it was just Powerpoint after Powerpoint,” he said.

“With Engage, you can have an avatar and stand up, walk down a corridor and have a conversation, the same way you would at a real conference.”

About 30 per cent of Engage’s revenues still come from education, but its focus now is on helping companies build their own metaverses. “It really goes to show how strong our tech is, and how early we were in the space,” Whelan said. “The market is just coming to us.”

This Making it Work article is produced in partnership with Enterprise Ireland