Edtech startup Pixaera has secured $5.7m in fresh funding to boost its immersive professional training platform. However, the CEO rejects being called a metaverse company, despite its own missives referring to itself as one.

“We don’t consider ourselves as metaverse-focused,” Mousa Yassin, Pixaera founder and CEO, tells Verdict. “[Traditional] games have been creating collaborative, immersive multiplayer experiences for years and that industry just keeps on growing and evolving. Our goal is to provide game-based learning for professional development, regardless of the platform or tool used – which is why we focus on building a single app experience that works on any hardware.”

Pixaera has also referred to itself as the “Roblox for enterprise”, referring to the gaming company that has made no secret about its own metaverse ambitions.

An avid gamer himself, Yassin founded Pixaera in 2020 amidst the edtech boom fuelled by the pandemic. Social restrictions forced people to remain under lockdown, meaning they were unable to attend school of workplace training in person. Edtech companies jumped on this opportunity to satisfy the demand for educational tools. As a result, edtech funding surged over the next two years.

In 2019, the total amount of venture capital funding going into the edtech industry peaked at $2.9bn, according to data from research firm GlobalData. That figure jumped to $6.6bn in 2020 and $7.7bn in 2021. So far in 2022, VCs have backed the industry by injecting $3.3bn into it.

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The Pixaera funding round shows that while the flow of VC money may have slowed down since the heydays of the pandemic, capital is still available for edtech ventures. The new funding round is actually two rounds – a $1.2m pre-seeding raise and a $4.5m round led by early-stage EMEA investor LocalGlobe. The founders of multiplayer gaming platform FACEIT, renewable energy service company ERM, and strategic growth firm York IE also participated in the raise.

How does the Pixaera edtech platform work?

Yassin came up with the idea for the Pixaera edtech platform after worked in a professional setting and saw that the interactive training needed was woefully unsatisfying.

"Growing up gaming, I was learning so much – about collaboration, negotiation, teamwork – and this was in stark contrast to my formal professional development, where the very important training that I was going through was nowhere near as engaging or impactful as those games with which I had grown up," he says.

"I realised that gaming technology, though currently so far removed from the professional world, has extraordinary potential to completely transform the way professionals work, learn and collaborate; which led to the creation of Pixaera."

Yassin suggests that the virtual reality (VR) platform enables companies to "access large sets of industry-proven game-based learning modules" that they can "securely deploy to a global workforce". Customers can also, supposedly, use the Pixaera platform to build their own bespoke modules.

VR has been touted as a revolutionary tool for everything from education to gaming, but despite years of buzz around the technology, mainstream adoption remains far off. This doesn't dissuade Yassin from playing up the benefits of VR training.

"Immersive learning bridges the gap between theoretical learning and learning by doing – it places the user in real life situations and provides them with a safe space to fail," he says. "Companies needn’t jump straight from e-learning into VR: PC-based learning is already considerably more effective than traditional learning methods or courses, which is why it’s important for our products to be hardware agnostic. However, VR goes even further to improve retention of information and provide the most engaging, interactive and immersive experience. Once they’ve tried our games on VR, 99% of our end-users want to continue to use VR."

Yassin could have a point about the usefulness of VR training in corporate settings. He is not alone in making that claim. When Meta unveiled its latest headset the other week, many commentators were shocked to see the hefty $1,499 price tag attached to it. Zuckerberg debuted the new high-end device at Meta’s Connect conference on Tuesday 11 October, saying it was aimed at corporate customers and not regular gamers – highlighting how his vision of the metaverse is not just games and fun, but serious business.

Credit: Pixaera. Mousa Yassin is the founder and CEO of Pixaera.

Metaverse boom but little to show

The news about Pixaera's funding round comes in the same week as investors told Meta to stop spending so much money on the metaverse. This may surprise those remembering that when Facebook rebranded to Meta last year, it was a way to underpin Mark Zuckerberg's ambitions to become a metaverse company. The decision set of a boom in companies referring to themselves as metaverse enterprises. Global Google searches for "metaverse" have shot through the roof in the months since.

However, so far the only thing Meta has seemingly succeeded in is to set off waves of ridicule on Twitter every time The Zuck unveils yet another demonstration of his vision, with critics panning everything from the graphics to the CEO's hammy delivery.

This week, Altimeter Capital chair and CEO Brad Gerstner said in an open letter to Meta, urging him to cut staff by 20% and to limit metaverse investments to $5bn per year. The letter was delivered almost in tandem with Meta's underwhelming quarterly results caused by a drop in ads sales.

“Investors are understandably worried about the company transitioning their best engineers away from building ad models to building virtual worlds," said Marcel Hollerbach, chief innovation officer at product-to-consumer platform Productsup,

This comes as only 28% of Brits are excited by the metaverse, with 36% saying they are not excited at all, research from digital experience company Acquia revealed this week.

Interestingly though, a new study from KPMG suggests that 47% of UK executives plan to invest in non-fungible tokens and the metaverse in the next three to five years. Moreover, 70% plan to outsource and/or partner with technology companies to build and deploy metaverse and Web3 technologies.

GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.