Rahul Sood returns to play with $ 5M increase for Irreverent Labs

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Gaming veteran Rahul Sood returns with a new startup today called Irreverent Labs, which has raised $ 5 million to build games with AI characters.

The Seattle-based company is working on an available “play-to-earn” game with a veteran gaming team and artificially intelligent characters living on the blockchain as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Sood, a former Microsoft Ventures director, wants the game to harness the power of NFTs, which can use the transparency and security of blockchain’s digital ledger to uniquely authenticate digital objects, such as AI characters. And he said the game is designed to evolve over time with machine learning and decentralized player ownership via NFTs.

The ambitious new startup, which has a team with extensive experience in gaming, blockchain and machine learning, took less than a week to close a $ 5 million round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z Crypto) and further investment from The Chainsmokers’ Mantis Fund, Keen Crypto, Unlock Ventures and AdvancIt Capital.

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Irreverent Labs said its mission is to create artificially intelligent, 100-year-old blockchain entertainment experiences. The first project is a game set in a fun and engaging metavers that transcends any player and is designed to stay fresh for generations, the company said.

Microsoft Ventures GM Rahul Sood

Above: Microsoft Ventures GM Rahul Sood

Image credit: John Koetsier

Game developers want it to be easy to learn with simple onboarding for players at any level of blockchain experience. It has artificially intelligent non-player characters (NPCs) that live and breathe on the blockchain as NFTs, thereby enabling decentralized private ownership. This huge framework will be supported by a function-complex economy with game-and-earn experiences.

Other companies, such as Alithea AI, share the ambition to create NPCs that can conduct intelligent conversations with human players not just in a matter of minutes – as is common today in games like massively multiplayer online games – but for hours thanks to new AI technologies such as Open AI’s GPT-3 technology.

“Our first game is fun and I’ve never had as much fun as I’ve had with the Irreverent Labs team,” Sood said in a statement. “I often talk about the inevitable convergence of games and blockchains. Players should own their gaming assets the same way they own physical games, and blockchain allows us to give players control back to own, trade, sell, use and build new metaverse experiences. using components from our games. “

The play-to-earn genre, as I have called the leisure economy since 2017, exploded this year with NFT games such as Axie Infinity and Zed Run rewarding players as they are able to resell their NFT-based collectibles earned as rewards to play games.

Sood was an early investor in Zed Run, which was recently valued at more than $ 200 million.

Irreverent Labs’ ambition is to go even further and create multi-generational, ever-evolving worlds where players and AI mix to create a whole new experience: the 100-year game.

Each game will feature artificially intelligent NPCs that can be purchased, sold, and used as NFTs, allowing players to earn and own all of the core components with decentralized blockchain technology.

Irreverent Labs will focus its initial efforts on a game that will be announced in late December 2021, although the ambition is to create a fan-driven gaming environment that adds ownership back into the hands of players, in stark contrast to cloud gaming services, offering a future in which players increasingly lose ownership of their gaming experiences.

“Irreverent Labs’ first game is so wonderfully eccentric and simple to play that it’s easy to overlook the technical performance by shaping true original NFT characters with advanced machine learning,” said Arianna Simpson, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement. . “Rahul and the team have a long experience of innovation in gaming and blockchain technologies, and we look forward to having fun with their creations.”

By investing in new technology, Irreverent Labs will create a futuristic gaming world in constant change with deeply engaging artificial intelligence, real market economies, unlimited modification potential for player-created gaming experiences and real-life crossovers with augmented reality gaming capabilities.

“This team – and the impact their games and technology can have on the world – excites us all,” Alex Pall of The Chainsmokers’ Mantis VC Foundation said in a statement. “As entertainers, we recognize the entertainment vision when we see it. We expect Irreverent Labs to transform games and blockchain by merging their new technology with a truly outrageous world in the first of what we expect will be many amazing games.”

Soods background

Rahul Soods Unikrn was backed by renowned investor Mark Cuban.

Above: Rahul Soods Unikrn was backed by renowned investor Mark Cuban.

Image credit: Unikrn

Sood made a name for himself as an enthusiast and co-founder of VoodooPC, a maker of custom gaming PCs, which he started in 1991. He sold this business to HP in 2006, and he spearheaded HP’s gaming efforts through 2010.

He moved to Microsoft and started Microsoft Ventures in 2013. In 2014, he left to start Unikrn along with co-founder Karl Flores. Uniquely activated bets on e-sports events. The company focused on regulated esports betting on blockchain technology, but it ran into problems with regulators over an initial coin offering (ICO) in 2017, at a time when the legal consequences were not so clear.

In 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission fined Unikrn a total of $ 6.1 million for selling its Unikrn Gold tokens as unregulated investment contracts, which the SEC decided constituted unlicensed securities. It said Unikrn should have obtained a securities license.

After that happened, the British-owned gaming company bought Ladbrokes Unikrn for an undisclosed price. That experience will be important to Sood as he navigates the emerging markets for NFT games, which also operate in a regulatory gray area. Valve recently decided to ban all NFT games, in part out of concern that the NFTs may have “real-world value” and could constitute illegal gambling under Washington state’s strict gaming laws. Critics of Valve’s move say companies have plenty of ways to design games with NFTs that have no chance of violating securities or gaming laws.

Sood was also the first investor in Vrvana, Sood actively helped the AR / VR metaverse company when it was acquired by Apple in 2017. He is also the chairman of Maingear, creators of gaming PCs.

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