How Green D Ventures Became a Value-Add Investor in Hyprsense
January 6, 2021 | Scott Murphy
Green D Ventures (AVG’s fund for Dartmouth alumni and friends) made a 2016 investment in Hyprsense, which develops facial motion-capture tech for digital avatars. The company was recently acquired by Epic Games, which will leverage Hyprsense’s technology for its popular game Fortnite (350 million accounts) and Unreal Engine, a widely used game development engine.
We sat down with Co-Founder and COO Kenneth Ryu to discuss how a value-added partnership with AVG and Green D ultimately led to Hyprsense’s acquisition, and what he found uniquely compelling about AVG as a co-investor.
Will you explain how Hyprsense’s technology works? Why did you help launch the company?
Hyprsense develops real-time facial motion-capture technology, enabling customers to put their facial expressions onto any digital human/avatar with a simple 2D webcam. When Oculus was acquired by Facebook in 2014, we believed that the digital human/virtual avatar market would follow developments in VR/AR and that facial expression tracking would play a key role in bringing a social aspect to the market. We founded Hyprsense and introduced the best facial-tracking software to work with AAA gaming companies and social messenger apps. In 2020, Facebook launched a digital avatar system in their virtual space, Facebook Horizon; Roblox acquired Loom.ai, a digital avatar creation start-up; and Epic Games acquired Hyprsense. The market opportunity is still huge, and there will be more interesting innovation in this space for the next few years.
How did your acquisition by Epic Games come about?
Epic Games has been very aggressive in digital character innovation and acquired the best startups in this domain, such as 3lateral and Cubic Motion. Hyprsense provides the best real-time facial- tracking software in the market, and it was mutually agreed that Hyprsense would join and collaborate with other members of Epic’s digital human team. We’re bringing the tools and systems for Unreal Engine creators to deploy and drive the most advanced character assets.
When did you first connect with Green D?
Green D reached out to me via a LinkedIn message that they were looking to support startups founded by Dartmouth alums. The fund was very new back in 2016, and I was very surprised and glad at the same time that I was able to help Hyprsense get the additional funding because I am a Dartmouth alum. Of course, there were rounds of due diligence and interviews before funding.
What value do you expect from a VC partner, beyond capital alone? How did Green D and AVG fulfill that partnership?
A VC is another type of startup and grows with its portfolio companies. I have always looked for what other business values that investors can bring to Hyprsense beyond capital, and we liked Green D and AVG with one very critical reason: the Dartmouth community. Dartmouth alums are everywhere in any company in any industry. Especially as a B2B technology licensing startup, Hyprsense was able to get great intro connections with potential partners through Green D/AVG and the Dartmouth alumni network. That support continued until the moment our company was acquired. The alumni network is very unique to Green D/AVG; other VCs cannot bring/pitch that to startups.
What has your experience working with Green D and Alumni Ventures Group been like?
Mike Collins, CEO at AVG, once told me, “Treat Green D as your uncle. We just trust you and support you. We do not ask for anything from you, but let us know at any time when you need us.” My experiences with Green D/AVG have been exactly what he said. Green D/AVG has always trusted our business decisions and provided full support. Laura Rippy, Managing Partner at Green D, has hopped on a call with us late at night, and her email responses have always been within a day.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I put great value on the concept of alumni supporting other alumni, and the first thing I did after my exit was to join Green D as an investor. I got what I need from the community; thus I am happy to provide my support back to you. I wish this virtuous cycle brings my alumni community more success stories in this startup/entrepreneurship world.
Alumni Ventures Group’s fund for the Dartmouth community, Green D Ventures, invested in Hyprsense in 2016. AVG provides smart, simple venture portfolios with community to accredited individuals.