Ready At Dawn, developer of the game “Lone Echo,” above, was purchased by Facebook and joins the Oculus Studios team.

Irvine tech startup joins Facebook family

by TOM BERG

It started in a coffee shop on Michelson Drive.

In 2003, three entrepreneurs sat around a table and shared their vision for a new company.

Today that vision is the world-renowned Ready At Dawn Studios – a virtual reality pioneer and part of a $150 billion-a-year video-game industry.

“When we decided to start a game development studio, it was clear we were going to stay in Irvine,” says Ready At Dawn co-founder Ru Weerasuriya, who came from Irvine-based Blizzard Entertainment. “We had roots here, and it’s where the talent is.”

Ru Weerasuriya

Now, Weerasuriya has a new vision.

After nearly two decades of success, Ready At Dawn joined forces with Facebook’s Oculus last month — a dream outcome that Weerasuriya again credits Irvine for helping to create.

“I will tell you, the gaming industry in Irvine is one of the strongest anywhere,” Weerasuriya says. “Our acquisition by Facebook reaffirms that.”

Irvine is also home to Amazon Game Studios, Obsidian Entertainment and other game developers appealing to a worldwide audience of 2.2 billion video-game players.

For Weerasuriya, Irvine’s X-factors are local talent and its innovation‑focused economy.

“One thing that Irvine provided us was a great base for creative people,” he says. “There’s creativity all around Irvine. It’s a really cool place, especially for those that don’t want the congestion of Los Angeles.”

But it’s not just local talent he’s recruiting. People are coming from around the world to work at Ready At Dawn and other Irvine tech companies.

“Irvine has been this great attraction for tech talent,” Weerasuriya says. “Not just the ones already here, but from Europe and other places in the United States.”

“It helps that it’s sunny all the time,” he says.

Innovation-based economy

There are more than 900 tech companies that call Irvine home. Gaming is a big part of that tech ecosystem that’s supported by UC Irvine and proximity to other companies.

When asked if UC Irvine is a training ground for his industry, Weerasuriya says, “Absolutely. Graduates have an entry point into the tech industry. That’s awesome for everybody.”

Ready At Dawn’s offices are at UCI Research Park, which is directly across from the university and designed to connect high-tech companies with the nation’s top research university.

Ready At Dawn’s “Echo VR” game.

Growth mode

As with any industry, the current pandemic is causing Weerasuriya to think about the future. But he sees growth and stronger creativity for its customers.

“I know the times are hard right now,” he says. “I think the great thing actually with this industry is we allow people an avenue to kind of break away from the norm when they need to.”

He’s optimistic about the future and sees growth on the immediate horizon in Irvine.

“We’re going to be hiring,” he says. “We’re going to be growing, and we’re going to be growing in Irvine.”