VR Startup Mursion Raises $8M to Combat Workplace Bias

Mursion provides immersive VR simulations to develop interpersonal skills in workplaces settings

30.06.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by Mursion
Photo by Mursion

Soft skills play an important role in the workplace. In LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trend Report, 92 percent of human resource professionals reported that soft skills are as important or more important than technical skills, and 89 percent said that bad hires tend to lack soft skills.

Global employment portal Monster has stated that skills such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving, critical observation, conflict resolution and leadership are not only essential to progress in one’s career, but they can also be difficult to quantify, intangible and hard to develop. Soft skills cannot be taught in a classroom or measured on paper.

As such, Mursion has developed a platform for professionals to practice complex interpersonal skills.

Founded by Mark Atkinson in 2014, Mursion uses immersive virtual reality technologies to improve emotional intelligence and reduce unconscious bias in the workplace. This “safe practice space” offers simulation environments in several sectors, including healthcare, education, corporate and defense.

“Soft skills present a complex challenge for organisations because they require authentic opportunities to practice and improve,” said Mursion CEO Mark Atkinson, as reported by Tech Startups. “Mistakes, failure, and reflection are part of the process. What makes these essential skills rare and valuable is also what makes them difficult to obtain. VR enables us to create a safe, anonymous space to practice difficult conversations. Learners experience emotional ‘danger’ and stress, but they do so within the safety and anonymity of the simulation.”

In-person role play and traditional soft skills training have limited effects, according to research. Arjun Nagendran, co-founder and CTO of the startup, proclaimed that Mursion “may have finally achieved the right balance of artificial intelligence and human-reasoning to create effective training” with “the potential to evoke changes in human behavior through virtual reality experience.”

Over 150 leading companies are currently using Mursion’s technology with their employees, such as LinkedIn, Ebay and Coca-Cola. However, immersive VR simulation can also be used in university settings, getting students off on the right foot before entering the workplace. At East Carolina University, education students practice what they have learned in the classroom and receive feedback from virtual students, peers and their professors.

“Research at UCF [University of Central Florida] has shown that Mursion provides candidates with a unique opportunity to practice collaborative and communication skills that are not often addressed in teacher education programs,” the university’s website explained. “The group process of observing, brainstorming and reflecting is one of the most valuable components of this experience that cannot be replicated with typical fieldwork.”

Mursion raised $8 million in Series A funding through a round led by New Markets Venture Partners, with participation from Schusterman Family Investment Office, Zoma Capital, New Schools Venture Fund, Propel Capital, Figure 8 Investments and the Strada Education Network.

“The potential for realistic simulation to achieve significant breakthroughs in emotional intelligence was a driving factor behind our decision to invest in Mursion,” said New Markets Venture Partner Jason Palmer. “They’re tackling a set of challenges that are tightly coupled with our social impact mission, using technology that is both novel and increasingly scalable.”

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