The Global VC

INVERSE Is Building Immersive Virtual Events for a Post-Covid World

Most of us are now comfortable with virtual interactions, but current virtual events and meetings apps can struggle to create an engaging online environment for participants.

Article image

From left to right: Matt Wills (Head of Tech), Hugo Zoells (Software Engineer), John Lee (Software Engineer & Designer), Joe Lee (CEO), Sarah Nguyen (Community Manager), Maaz Baig (Software Engineer), Jay Sarmiento (Creative Coordinator), Tanya Jones (Artist) Picture courtesy of INVERSE

Yingjie Wang

Yingjie Wang






The global Covid-19 pandemic produced a rapid shift to remote work, distance learning and virtual happy hours that entrenched tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams in a new normal. But these basic video conferencing platforms just scratch the surface of what’s possible when it comes to the future of virtual events and socializing. 

People now recognize that 2D platforms are only optimized for small group video calls and we see an opportunity to create more immersive, engaging and customizable online events. We’re excited to back Inverse — a Chicago-based startup that uses 3D immersion and gamification to help organizations create interactive experiences that drive user engagement and create new monetization opportunities for businesses. 

The Nuts & Bolts

Problem: The pandemic has changed how we work and stay connected, and spurred the mass adoption of new platforms facilitating virtual gatherings. A variety of events have transitioned to online formats, ranging from Super Bowl watch parties to the G20 summit. 

Most of us are now comfortable with virtual interactions, but current virtual meetings and events can be lacking in several ways. Increasingly, people are growing tired of interacting through conventional video conferencing apps (see: Zoom fatigue). These apps struggle to create an engaging online environment for participants which leads to many people simply turning off their cameras and being distracted on call. Additionally, many platforms don’t provide organizers with the necessary tools to customize interactive spaces or effectively monetize and collect analytic data from events.  Such interfaces limit what participants can do beyond video calls and sharing screens. 

We see value in building immersive 3D platforms with gamification to create exciting online experiences that drive engagement among attendees, while offering more opportunities for brands and sponsors to monetize events without disrupting the flow of virtual interactions.

Solution: Inverse is creating a more engaging and interactive virtual events platform where anyone could easily build an online space for socializing and sharing information–from casual hangouts to company meetings, conferences, exhibitions and beyond. Rather than just watching a webinar or presentation statically, Inverse is using gaming technology to enable attendees to become avatars and explore fully customizable, immersive 3D environments.

Participants can join Inverse from a standard web browser and don’t need to download additional software. Once on the platform, users can create their own unique avatar that represents their personality and explore different online environments, challenge someone to a breakdance competition, or play the various built-in games, such as golf, together. Participants can drop in on a fireside chat with hundreds of other attendees, or invite another attendee into a private one-on-one conversation using voice, video or text chat. Users who want to take a break from socializing can also spend a relaxing time roasting virtual marshmallows by the campfire or fish in the outdoor pond. 

Inverse can provide organizers with powerful opportunities for brand activation and valuable information as to their users’ interactions once in the platform.  For conferences, exhibitors can purchase virtual booths featuring company slides, create custom company mascots, and remotely staff their booth to chat with visitors. Sponsors can also create custom-branded items such as drinks, masks, t-shirts and hats that attendees can wear and collect. Sponsors can also receive valuable insights as to what users interacted with most or clicked on in the environment.

Getting to know Inverse

Inverse was originally conceived as Gamerjibe in 2018 in Chicago by founder and CEO Joe Lee. Before starting Gamerjibe, Joe led product teams at Grubhub and Pivotal and consulted on innovative tech projects at Fortune 500 companies. He also led game and cryptocurrency projects while at Rose-Hulman, and led the development of a marketplace that connects technical volunteers with nonprofits. While there, he met Matt Wills and Tim Davis who eventually joined Joe to kickstart Gamerjibe. 

In 2019, Joe met Daniel Valentino, a former UCLA professor and serial entrepreneur who pioneered the use of VR in medical imaging and was most recently the Global VP of Innovation and CTO at LANDAUER, which was acquired for $770 million by Fortive in 2017. Joe and Daniel, together with their co-founders, Matt Wills and Tim Davis, hosted their first virtual event in 2020, an immersive tech job fair which was sponsored by the U.S. Marines, and began hosting a variety of events in emerging markets like Esports and NFTs. They rebranded to Inverse in 2021 to emphasize their growing traction and focus on the metaverse.  

Why now?

The pandemic accelerated the adoption of virtual interactions on a global scale. Virtual events have been growing tremendously, with the market valued at over $94 billion in 2020. From 2021- 2028, the market is expected to grow at a rate above 23% every year. 

As we contend with the ongoing impact of Covid-19 variants, many live events and social gatherings will continue to be held online. Many organizers are realizing that virtual events are more affordable and logistically simpler to run than in-person events, and understanding that immersive 3D environments are a more effective way of building their online community brand.

The future of Inverse

We believe that Inverse is on track to be a leader in the virtual events and metaverse space. Earlier this year they partnered with ETHDenver, one of the largest Ethereum conferences in the world. A few thousand visitors attend ETHDenver in person every year. However, once ETHDenver hosted its 2021 event on Inverse, the organization was able to host many more users than it could in the past. In the end, over 35,000 visitors attended the event– significantly higher than in previous years. 

Looking ahead, Inverse is helping companies and people rethink how they interact online. We’re excited to support Inverse’s vision of immersive and inclusive interaction in the metaverse. 

You can learn more about Inverse at:  


Legal Disclaimers: 500 Startups programs (including accelerator programs), investor education services, strategic partnership consulting services and events are operated by 500 Startups Incubator, L.L.C. (together with its affiliates, “500 Startups”) and the funds advised by 500 Startups Management Company, L.L.C. do not participate in any revenue generated by these activities. Such programs and services are provided for educational and informational purposes only and under no circumstances should any content provided as part of any such programs, services or events be construed as investment, legal, tax or accounting advice by 500 startups or any of its affiliates.

The views expressed here are those of the individual 500 Startups personnel, or other individuals quoted and are not the views of 500 Startups or its affiliates. Certain information contained herein may have been obtained from third-party sources, including from portfolio companies of funds managed by 500 Startups. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, 500 Startups has not independently verified such information and makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy of the information in this post or its appropriateness for a given situation. In addition, this content may include third-party advertisements or links; 500 Startups has not reviewed such advertisements and does not endorse any advertising content contained therein.

This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal, business, investment, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own advisers as to those matters. References to any securities or digital assets are for illustrative purposes only, and do not constitute an investment recommendation, offer to sell or solicitation to purchase any investment securities, or offer to provide investment advisory services. Furthermore, this content is not directed at nor intended for use by any investors or prospective investors, and may not under any circumstances be relied upon when making a decision to invest in any fund managed by 500 Startups. (An offering to invest in an 500 Startups fund will be made only by the private placement memorandum, subscription agreement, and other relevant documentation of any such fund and should be read in their entirety.) Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by 500 Startups, and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results.

Charts and graphs provided herein are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Unless otherwise expressly stated, figures are based on internal estimates and have not been independently verified. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. All logos and trademarks of third parties referenced herein are the logos and trademarks of their respective owners and any inclusion of such trademarks or logos does not imply or constitute any approval, endorsement or sponsorship of 500 Startups by such owners.

Please see Section 2 of our Terms of Use for additional important information.


Yingjie Wang

Yingjie Wang


Yingjie Wang is an Associate at 500 Global.