Augmented Reality pioneer Blippar – which has had a tortuous history after early investors pulled out and the company had to scramble for new backers – has now closed a $5 million funding round, after 18 months of re-positioning as a B2B company in the AR space.
The pre-Series A round was co-led by Chroma Ventures and West Coast Capital. Canadian entrepreneur Anthony Lacavera also participated via his Globalive Capital investment firm. Chroma is the investment arm of Paddy Burns’ and Chris van der Kuyl’s gaming company 4J Studios, while West Coast is the private equity arm of Scottish entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter and family.
The new investors join existing shareholder Candy Ventures; the multi-stage investment firm founded by British property entrepreneur Nick Candy, who came to Blippar’s rescue. This new entity acquired the company’s assets in a patent sale and managed to keep on sounder Ambarish Mitra, although he is now acting as the company’s “Chief Product Officer”. At hits height, Blippar burned through $130 million in funding, claiming a $1.5 billion valuation, and tried to crack the consumer AR market. But Blippbuilder, its SaaS AR creation platform, is the asset that is now seeing it make a B2B comeback.
At its height Blippar employed 340 people, Now it’s 30 people. But it has all the IP and assets from its previous incarnation, and is now ‘making hay while the sun shines’.
AR technology is now being used in several areas such as live events (when they return!) retail, FMCG, automotive, healthcare and education.
Rumoured AR glasses from Apple and the inclusion of AR results in mobile search results may well help its adoption, as well as the continuing need for social distancing.
While the tech giants are developing AR tools, these are platform-dependent, whereas Blippar hopes to be the agnostic alternative.
Its two routes to market are, firstly, via its Blippbuilder SAAS platform, which enables agencies, brands and AR content creators to create communications and campaigns. It also does bespoke work with an in-house team “Studio B”.
Faisal Galaria, CEO of Blippar, commented: “We are very excited to have attracted investors of this caliber to Blippar… 2020 was a transformative year for Blippar with a 200% increase in revenue quarter on quarter, continued strengthening of the senior leadership team, and delivery of cutting-edge AR campaigns for major global brands including OnePlus, Kellogg’s and Dr Pepper. We have leveraged our 10 years of investment, provenance, and technology leadership in the AR space to come back leaner, more focussed and better than ever before.”
Burns and Van der Kuyl are best known for porting Minecraft to the Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo games consoles. The latter said in a statement: “The immersive nature of AR makes it one of the most important use cases for the gaming industry. Blippar’s AR technology is by far the most advanced and innovative that I’ve seen in years and there is huge potential for AR to power the ultimate gaming experience of the future. We look forward to being part of the Blippar journey.”
Hunter commented: “Blippar has demonstrated strong progress with the turnaround plan put in place by Faisal and the team, and the business is now well placed to maximize the opportunities presented by the growing AR ecosystem hence we are delighted to invest.”
In addition, Justin Cooke, Venture Partner at tech investor Northzone, has also been appointed to the Blippar Board this month. The UK Government also has a minority equity stake in Blippar via its Future Fund match funding scheme< which was design to assist struggling tech companies through the pandemic.
Blippar re-enters a market which includes Niantic, Unreal, Unity, 8th Wall, Zappar and Magic Leap. But as AR matures, it may be back in the right place.
Here’s an example of how brands are using the platform: