Virtual reality (VR) company Mesmerise has kicked off 2021 with two new additions to its advisory board, including former Microsoft Vice President Derrick Connell.

UK-based Mesmerise creates VR and augmented reality (AR) environments for businesses. This includes VR training, AR companion apps and VR gatherings.

Connell spent 28 years at Microsoft in a number of senior roles, most recently as corporate vice president for search & AI. He retired in 2020 and now spends his time as a product and strategy adviser for non-profits and startups.

Also joining the advisory board is business coach Anna Rowley, who has spent more than 20 years as a consulting psychologist to tech companies including Microsoft, GoDaddy and Yahoo. Like Connell, she has most recently been working with startups.

They join seasoned tech executive Sean West and Juan Pujadas, retired PwC vice chairman, member of the board of directors at Wells Fargo and chairman emeritus of the Association of Management Consulting Firms, on Mesmerise’s advisory board.

“VR technology has huge untapped potential to help improve the effectiveness of gatherings and to enable people to achieve more from the time they spend together,” said Connell.

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“I’m excited to start this journey with Mesmerise and support its development in 2021 and beyond.”

Mesmerise bets on virtual events

Mesmerise said it plans to add up to 30 additional people to its headcount this year, adding that it will ramp up growth and product development in 2021.

The startup’s hiring moves reflect a growing interest in virtual gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic, as company’s look to recreate physical events online.

Recently Mesmerise partnered with financial platform Morningstar to create what it describes as the “first-ever VR global investment conference”.

VR has long promised to be the next entertainment revolution but has had many false starts due to poor uptake among consumers. In part this has been down to headset prices being beyond most consumers.

Despite this, VR has increasingly been adopted in the enterprise and the pandemic seems to have created fresh interest in the technology. According to a prediction by consultancy firm PwC, some 23.5 million jobs worldwide will use AR and VR by 2030.

“VR is rightly being embraced by the business world as a brilliant new way of engaging, connecting and training global workforces,” said founder and CEO of Mesmerise Andrew Hawken.

“This presents us with a huge opportunity, and with the amazing team we’re building, backed up by an all-star advisory board, we’re in the perfect position to grasp it.

“Both Derrick and Anna bring unique and invaluable tech sector knowledge, and I know they will play an instrumental role, along with the rest of our advisory board, in supporting the Mesmerise team for what’s shaping up to be our biggest year yet.”

Read more: Lenovo launches smart glasses aimed at distributed workforce