Blippar returns after finding a buyer of key assets
- Blippar is preparing to relaunch its business after finding a buyer of its key technologies, almost a month after firing all its staff and entering administration, a U.K. form of bankruptcy. British property tycoon Nick Candy, whose Candy Ventures had helped to finance Blippar, bought the startup's name and underlying augmented reality (AR) technologies, the Financial Times reported.
- Blippar is returning as a new business led by former chief executive and co-founder Ambarish Mitra. The new company, also named Blippar, will focus on developing its "Blippbuilder" software tool to help everyday mobile users create mobile AR experiences.
- Candy Ventures in a statement blamed Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the sovereign wealth fund of Malaysia, for not approving of additional funding that would have helped Blippar to avoid insolvency, Next Reality reported.
While Blippar is coming back after a brief period of uncertainty, it still faces many competitors across the AR landscape. Software tools created by Apple and Google have opened AR to a wide range of developers, and platforms like Facebook and Snapchat have also moved into the space, making it more difficult for Blippar to work with brand marketers. Perhaps the company sees an opening to become the AR platform for everyday mobile users as a consumer-facing product.
Blippar's rebirth shows that the insolvency procedures were a painful part of determining the value of its underlying business and focusing a sustainable growth strategy for mobile AR. Much about the company appears to remain the same, including CEO Ambarish Mitra, who told the Financial Times in a 2015 interview that Blippar had received a buyout offer valuing the startup at $1.5 billion. The valuation of more than $1 billion gave the company "unicorn" status. However, a 2016 financing round suggested the company was worth just $500 million, and the company posted huge losses and was forced to close several offices before finally entering administration last month.
Blippar was a pioneer in developing technology to overlay digital images on a real background seen through a smartphone camera. The company marketed its first product to advertisers, letting them "augment" products like consumer packaged goods with computer-generated videos and information that customers could see on a mobile device. Blippar likely was overextended when trying to expand into tech such as virtual reality (VR), computer vision, machine learning, location-based AR and facial recognition. The market applications for these technologies have taken years to develop, straining many promising startups that weren't as well capitalized as bigger, more established companies.
The U.K. company may find a path to profitability as the broader AR industry shows strong growth, according to recent forecasts. Worldwide spending on AR and VR will grow 68.8% from last year to about $20.4 billion in 2019, according to estimates from the International Data Corporation. The most popular commercial uses for AR/VR technology in the year ahead will be training ($1.8 billion), online retail showcasing ($558 million) and industrial maintenance ($413 million). The industries that will spend the most on AR/VR are personal and consumer services ($1.6 billion), retail ($1.56 billion) and discrete manufacturing ($1.54 billion), IDC estimated.