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Razer starts US$30 million fund to seek out startups in robotics, virtual robotics, e-sports

Razer Inc., which has 20 million gamers worldwide using its controllers, keyboards, high-performance laptops and other paraphernalia for computer games, has launched a US$30 million fund to invest in technology companies, as it looks to add new businesses to its customer base.

Launched in September, the zVentures fund will seek out promising startups in virtual reality, robotics and the Internet of Things, focusing on locations where it already has a presence, such as in China, said co-founder and chief executive Tan Min-Liang. The California-based company will provide businesses with funds, and advice gleaned from its own experience in hardware and software.

“What we would like to do is to find start-ups that can also potentially add value to our customer base, bringing new products and software to our users,” Tan said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. “It’s a bit of a symbiotic relationship where we will be able to help the start-up become successful and at the same time provide them with a user base.”

Razer was founded in 2005 and produces systems, software and hardware for gamers. Earlier this year, the company raised US$75 million in funding from Hangzhou Liaison Interactive Technology, bringing its valuation to a reported US$1.5 billion.

The zVentures fund will make investments ranging from US$100,000 to US$1 million, Tan said, adding that there is no current time frame for the fund.

The fund will focus on startups that develop technology around the Internet of Things , or connected devices, virtual reality, alternate reality, robotics, analytics and e-sports, an area Tan said is a natural fit for the gaming company.

Research firm Juniper predicts VR hardware market will be worth US$50 billion by 2021, up from the expected US$5 billion revenues for this year.

Earlier this year, Razer launched its own VR platform called Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) providing a set of open hardware and software designs developed by Razer and its partners to facilitate VR functions.

Competitive gaming, known as e-sports, is drawing interest from investors including the US basketball team the 76ers which bought two e-sports teams. The number of people watching e-sports has grown to 292 million this year, according to e-sports data tracker Newzoo, with revenue hitting US$463 million, up from US$194 million in 2014.

Tan said the company’s expertise in both hardware and software makes it able to assist start-ups developing a wider range of products and to add value as they grow.

He expects to see an increasing number of U.S. start-ups developing hardware, an area that is currently more familiar to Chinese start-ups.

“We’re seeing a lot of start-ups, not just in China, but in Silicon Valley trying to figure out how to make great hardware,” Tan said. “That’s something that we have a huge amount of experience in and we think we can help these start ups by educating them on manufacturing processes.”

Razer’s business is split evenly between the U.S., Europe and Asia, Tan said, adding this will allow it to assist the start-ups it invests in to become global players ‘pretty much overnight’.