The money for RealWear’s big investment round came from just up the road.
The Vancouver-based augmented reality company disclosed a $17 million investment round two weeks ago but hadn’t said where the money came from. On Wednesday, RealWear identified its backer: Columbia Ventures Corp., a longtime Vancouver investment firm.
RealWear builds augmented reality into a rugged, $2,000 hardhat, connecting industrial and construction workers to information they can use to make on-site decisions about maintenance, assembly or repairs.
“RealWear has proven that it has the experience and ambition to make AR and wearable solutions function in actual industrial use cases, and an unlimited number of other uses to explore,” said Ken Peterson, Columbia Ventures’ chief executive.
Columbia Ventures has its roots in the Northwest’s aluminum industry. It acquired the shuttered aluminum smelter in Goldendale, Washington, in the 1980s, then later invested in aluminum production in Iceland.
The Vancouver firm has sold its aluminum assets. Columbia Ventures’ current, eclectic portfolio includes telecom companies in Australia, Ireland, eastern Washington and California; a Vancouver software business called PokketMe; a pulp mill in Dayton, Washington; and a housing development in Texas.
Formerly based in Silicon Valley, RealWear moved its headquarters to Vancouver last summer. The company had 20 employees in Vancouver last last fall, with plans to add 80 more by the end of 2018.