WILMINGTON – The Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs (WALE) has invested in Brilliant Sole, which has developed a shoe-based sensor system for the virtual reality industry.
WALE, according to founder Jim Roberts, typically invests from $25,000 to $50,000 in a startup and has gone as high as $150,000. The WALE money is the first outside investment in Brilliant Sole, bootstrapped up to now. “We’re usually the first money in,” Roberts said
Overall, WALE has made ten investments in North Carolina and one South Carolina based company since forming in November 2015. Five of these investments have been into military veteran founded startups, important as WALE founder Jim Roberts also works for veteran support organization Bunker Labs. “We find veterans, with their military discipline, focus better,” said Roberts.
Brilliant Sole has won significant recognition, including the winning the Cucalorus Connect Pitch Contest in 2017, being named as one of the Top Ten Startups to Watch at the NC Tech Association Awards in 2017, and participating in the CED Tech Venture Conference Demo Room. Brilliant Sole was also one of 10 startups selected nationally to demo at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Unveiled event in November 2018 and will be presenting at the main CES Show in 2019. Wilmington resident Jeff Guard is founder and CEO.
The sensor embedded footwear solves multiple problems around the use of feet in VR, which have prevented virtual reality from becoming more mainstream in the gaming, industrial and defense sectors. The footwear allows users to see and feel their feet virtually, and control movement through virtual spaces more intuitively, while simultaneously reducing motion sickness. “It’s not a vitamin product,” Roberts says. “It’s an aspirin product. It solves a pain point in the industry.”
The investment was announced at the last meeting of the Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington (NEW) , another group Roberts founded. He said NEW regularly attracts 100 or more people to its monthly meetings and has been holding events for entrepreneurs since May 2015. Most events are held at Ironclad Brewery. Ironclad Brewery founder Tom Coughlin is a major WALE investor and NEW attendee.
Brilliant Sole is beyond the prototype stage and looking at potential military clients, who would use it for VR simulation training, said Roberts.