The virtual reality industry is in experimental mode and facing challenges, but that might be to the advantage of L.A.-based companies, according to Don Karl, partner and lawyer at Perkins Coie’s Century City office.

Those conclusions were drawn from a nationwide survey of 650 entrepreneurs, technology executives, investors, and consultants in the virtual reality and augmented reality industries conducted by the firm.

In particular, 37 percent of respondents viewed the industry’s lack of compelling content as its biggest challenge.

Demand for better content could be a boon for local production companies and studios, Karl said. “The finding about the lack of sufficient content plays right into what we do best in Los Angeles.”

At this stage, much of the money flowing into the virtual reality and augmented reality industry is funding experimental projects, said Karl.

“A lot of smaller companies are getting paid to create content, low budget, low levels, as an experiment,” he said, noting the spread of small virtual reality startups. “L.A. is chock-full of creative people, so it doesn’t surprise me that there are lot of small companies working on this, oftentimes working with some of the bigger companies.”

Much of the funding flowing into virtual reality is coming in the form of strategic investments from studios, such as Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Ventures, the venture capital arm of NBC Universal parent company Comcast Corp., said Karl. Facebook is also a player, having acquired Orange County headset maker Oculus VR in 2014.

Nearly 90 percent of investors responding to the survey reported that the bulk of their investments during the last year totaled $5 million or less, highlighting the early stage nature of local virtual reality startups.

As the industry matures, Karl said, it is likely that the number of virtual reality production companies will shrink.

“The people who show that they can create content will survive,” he said. “There’s likely to be some consolidation, sort of like there was consolidation in the special effects business.”

Career Rivals

Comparably, which is beginning to move into the job matching space, has hired former eHarmony President Armen Avedissian as chief marketing officer.

Avedissian worked at eHarmony while the dating service was developing its Elevated Careers job matching website. Comparably, of Santa Monica, collects data on salaries and company cultures and announced it would be rolling out its own job matching product in the coming months, a product that appears to directly compete with Elevated Careers.

Avedissian was brought in to help acquire additional users and scale the firm’s business, said Jason Nazar, Comparably’s chief executive and co-founder.

“Armen is one of the most seasoned tech execs in SoCal,” he said. “He’s absolutely incredible at big data analysis and scaling consumer brands.”

Comparably.com allows employees to share salary histories anonymously, enabling them to compare their earnings to what others make in similar work environments. The website has gathered salary and company culture information, which is free to view online, for about 10,000 tech companies. Comparably is aiming to generate revenue by using its underlying employee data in a paid service that will better match employees to companies. The startup, which launched in March, has raised $6.5 million in seed funding.

On-Demand Consulting

While most online marketplaces for hiring workers are usually geared toward service-oriented jobs such as caretakers, drivers, or cleaning staff, Business Talent Group of West Los Angeles has found a niche connecting highly paid white-collar professionals with employers.

The firm, founded in 2007, has a database of more than 5,500 independent consultants, many of whom have worked for consulting firms such as McKinsey & Co., Bain Capital, and Deloitte. The firm’s clients typically hire consultants on a project-by-project basis, though interim C-suite executives are also recruited on the platform. Companies in the private equity, life sciences, consumer technology, and financial services industries are frequent users, according to Jody Miller, BTG’s chief executive, who added the company has seen an explosion in the need for independent consulting.

“The people in this category, earning more than $100,000 a year, have grown more than 50 percent since 2011,” she said.

BTG closed an $8 million Series B round led by NextEquity Partners on Sept. 12, which will be used to further enhance its platform, Miller said.

Staff Reporter Garrett Reim can be reached at greim@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 232.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.