• Tripp is a startup platform that aims to change people’s moods, headed by gaming industry veteran Nanea Reeves.
  • Tripp's launch product is a VR experience that combines visuals, audio and gameplay elements to relax users or it can get them ready workouts.
  • The Tripp experience debuts in 2018 through pop-up lounges before officially launching in the spring.
  • Tripp received $4 million in Series A funding from venture capitalist firm Mayfield.
  • With the data it collects about VR’s emotional impacts, Tripp could expand beyond the gaming and VR market into a service.

There are plenty of games and media platforms that hope to make audiences feel different emotions, but new start-up company Tripp is using VR to take the concept to a whole new level.

Tripp is focused on creating transformative digital experiences, with the first being a VR product that will combine visual and audio elements with simple meditation-like game elements to change the way a person feels. Users may use Tripp to relax after a long day at work, calm down after a difficult conversation or take it in the other direction by getting pumped before a workout or special event.

Nanea Reeves, CEO and co-founder of Tripp

The platform, which announced $4 million in Series A funding from venture capital firm Mayfield, is expected to launch in 2018 and will evolve to suit users’ needs, helping them to live more happy and effective lives.

“Essentially, we’re trying to go after a ‘flow state,’ and we’ve been doing this with video games for a long time,” gaming industry veteran Nanea Reeves, CEO and co-founder of Tripp, told AListDaily. “This is why some people find video games addictive, but we’re being more calculated about those interactions and stimulations—we’re using VR for stimulation rather than simulation. When you take all those elements and combine them with the immersion of VR, you can produce different responses.”

Playing With Emotions

Researchers have been exploring VR as a means of treating PTSD, rehabilitating substance abuse, managing pain and improving cognitive functions. Although Tripp makes no medicinal claims—it’s an entertainment experience—the data it collects about how VR impacts the mind could benefit these fields of research.

“It’s less of a game and more of an experience,” said Reeves. “We want everyone to be able to jump into a Tripp. Our challenge as a team is ‘can we get you to want to do it again?’ That’s our big focus for our launch product.”

The idea for Tripp dates back the early days of Oculus, when the headset was still in development. Reeves was an investor in the technology through her friendship with former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, who she worked with at the cloud gaming service Gaikai (which was subsequently bought by Sony to power its PlayStation Now service). To test the headset, Reeves and her friends made a VR solitaire game that took place in a haunted house, and that sparked a major interest in VR development.

“While we were testing out games, we started to notice that we felt like we were being taken away from our lives in a very positive way—it was refreshing,” said Reeves. “That got us looking at the effects of VR on the brain.”

However, Reeves recounted how it was at a casual gathering with Liz Lee, the former star of My Life as Liz on MTV, and her friends that the idea really started to come together. After playing with the VR equipment, Lee said, “Thank you for giving me an experience that’s as close to ecstasy without actually having to take it.”

Coincidentally, Tripp’s chief technology officer Andreja Djokovic studied neuroscience and pharmacology in college before deciding to become a game developer, so things seemed to align perfectly for the new company. But having come from the mobile gaming space, the entrepreneurs didn’t want to make casual VR games or do traditional experiences in virtual spaces. Instead, they wanted to stand out by doing something native to VR.

“As entrepreneurs, we’ve built a lot of foundational mobile games that were marketed in the US and worldwide, even in the early days of flip phones,” said Reeves. “It doesn’t matter what game you create—whether it’s on a flip phone or deeply immersive in VR—if it doesn’t have that very simple dynamic of being fun, you can really overdevelop it. It’s that little element that we’re taking out and we’re applying it to the very accessible interactivity we’ve integrated into Tripp.”

The company plans to debut Tripp in early 2018 with pop-up lounges at events, which should get people excited for the spring product launch. It will also provide the company with useful data leading up to the holiday season. Although the first Tripp experience will have elements of meditation, it won’t involve users staring at candles or quietly clearing their minds of distracting thoughts.

“With our experience, meditation is the beginning part of the journey,” Reeves explained. “We use meditation in a unique way, and the beginning of the journey gets you into a state of receptivity. Then the environment starts to transform in a way that’s calculated to stimulate the response or feeling that you’ve selected. The transformation is unique—we’re not trying to replicate anything that exists in the real world—it’s about using VR as a native application to do something that can only be done in VR. I expect that we will see mixed reality devices show up within the next ten years that can bring immersion into real-world environments more easily than VR headset do now. [But] for us, it’s less about VR and more about how we need that deep immersion.”

Reeves also explained how Tripp will keep users coming back for more.

“It has a music layer, a very specific sound layer, some personalization that makes your experience very different from mine, and you get a different trip every time,” she said. “As a standalone product, I think that it will be something that people will want to engage in regularly just to see what the next trip will be like. We will also have some interesting community aspects, and we will continue to layer in and evolve the product over time.”

Getting A Feel For The VR Marketplace

The Tripp experience is being built using the Unity Engine, which has worked well for the startup, and the development platform has also provided useful market data.

“We have a very realistic view of the VR market install base,” said Reeves. “For us, it’s less about that. If we can focus on the benefits of this service, making sure it does what we think we can get to.”

That data is crucial, as analysts and even those in the VR and gaming industries say that consumers are currently in the “gap of disappointment and disillusionment” for the technology. Reeves said that the key to navigating this era of VR is through preservation of capital and staying within means.

“I’m very grateful to Mayfield for giving us enough money to survive for much longer than we were originally asking for,” said Reeves. “With that goal in mind, we want make sure we have enough capital to get to market or have something that we can measure. That’s our main focus—we’re going to stay lean and mean as a team and stay laser-focused on our charter. Once we have something that we feel is marketable, it’s conceivable that by just focusing on the benefits of the service, we can start to create our own revenue streams by going direct to consumers with our experiences. We’ve been approached by a number of opportunities that go beyond the app store ecosystem, and I also think that our data will have some value. I think that if we can create an experience that changes the way that you feel, it will have a life of its own beyond the current two million monthly active users in VR.”

“I think that if we can create an experience that changes the way that you feel, it will have a life of its own beyond the current two million monthly active users in VR.” — Nanea Reeves, CEO and co-founder of Tripp

Tripp will be coming to multiple platforms, including mobile VR, and although there is are no plans to support AR at this time, it could adopt the technology later. Reeves also said that she believes that mobile VR, with its ubiquity, will ramp up in 2019.

“When we met with [Mayfield partner] Tim Chang, he got it right away,” said Reeves. “He actually said, ‘I’ve been waiting for someone to come in and do this pitch.’ We knew that he was our person to help us craft this early journey because you need someone who believes in you enough to do something so bold. I was very humbled by the support that he brought to this. I feel that this is the most exciting company I’ve ever been involved with, and I’ve been involved with a lot of great companies.”