By Anthony Noto

Mark Cuban has “never been a big San Francisco fan.”

Those tech bros are “pretentious as f***,” the Shark Tank host said on a recent podcast. “I do all I can not to let any of my investments work out of Silicon Valley.”

: Owner Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks leaves the court after the game against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Center on February 23, 2023, in Dallas, Texas. The latest influx of capital, including money invested by Cuban, is expected to help Illumix expand to new categories, such as sports arenas, concerts and theme parks. TIM HEITMAN/BENZINGA

Well, almost every investment. Silicon Valley-based Illumix, an augmented reality innovator under the helm of founder and CEO Kirin Sinha, just closed an $18-million Series A funding round, Benzinga learned. And Cuban is one of the startup’s investors.

“[It’s] the exception that proves the rule,” Cuban told Benzinga of his involvement with Illumix.

“Sit with Kirin, and it’s obvious she is not pretentious — not a tech bro,” he added. “Kirin is super smart, and she has already captured market share that has established her company and technology.”

In addition to Cuban, Illumix also scored backing from KKR & Co. co-founder Henry Kravis, Epyllion CEO Matthew Ball and Illiad SA founder Xavier Niel.

“Any time you’re able to find the right partners, it’s a wonderful feeling,” Sinha said.

Illumix is seen as a possible game changer in the AR tech sector bridging the digital and physical worlds, according to Forbes.

The last time Illumix raised capital was in 2018. At the time, Sinha — a graduate of MIT, Cambridge and Stanford — raised an $8.6-million seed round of funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Maveron, Radar Partners, Unusual Ventures and 451 Media, a firm co-founded by filmmaker Michael Bay.

For the Series A effort, Lightspeed and Maveron returned. This time they were joined by LightShed Ventures, RW3 Ventures, OV, Visible Ventures and Sony Group’s venture capital arm.

Illumix is now in the enviable position that all startups would like to find themselves in: being able to turn away investors.

“We were very specific on who we thought could truly add value to the business we were building,” Sinha said.

Maveon, for example, proved to be “phenomenal investors” for Illumix when it came to commerce, Sinha adds. The firm, founded by Dan Levitan and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, specializes in direct-to-consumer and boutique apparel (i.e., Allbirds, Dolls Kill and Everlane). Illumix’s software, as it turns out, equips these types of businesses with virtual try-on tools. That way shoppers can wield augmented reality to see if they like an outfit or accessory before making a purchase.

Illumix is also in the entertainment business; It developed “Five Nights at Freddy’s: Special Delivery,” a mobile game akin to “Pokémon Go” in which players must fend off malfunctioning animatronics “appearing” in their homes.

An Apple Inc sign is seen at the Apple Campus on January 20, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Cuban has rarely invested in start-ups in the Silicon Valley. BRANDON BELL/BENZINGA

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” was a hit, garnering some 40 million downloads and earning Sinha a spot on the 2022 Forbes 30 Under 30 list for games.

Sinha calls the augmented reality movement “a different level of engagement; Where we have evolved is taking that core tech platform and basically licensing that out to other entertainment providers.”

The latest influx of capital is expected to help Illumix expand to new categories, such as sports arenas, concerts and theme parks. Simply hold up your phone, and Illumix’s tech will personalize the whole experience in a way that’s more immersive and visceral, Sinha predicts.

“To me, the impact is absolutely enormous,” she says. “It’s what I think about all day. This is the way the world is going to be in the next decade and I want to be the voice that helps get us there.”

Augmented reality, or AR, continues to be a burgeoning part of the tech space along with virtual reality. Together, their global market size is more than $25 billion, according to Statista.

It’s an area that Cuban and other famous names are indeed curious about. Last year, the Dallas Mavericks owner invested in Immi, an AR platform that allows users to create animated personas. The company counts Paris Hilton, Tony Robbins, Armando Christian Pérez (aka Pitbull) and music producer Steve Aoki among its backers.

Produced in association with Benzinga

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