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Billion Dollar Unicorns: Blippar Bets on Its Visual Browser

Posted on Tuesday, Oct 4th 2016

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According to a report by Digi-Capital, the augmented and virtual reality market is estimated to grow to $120 billion by the year 2020, compared with the forecast of less than $10 billion in 2016. In 2020, virtual reality (VR) is expected to account for $30 billion of the market while augmented reality (AR) will account for the remaining $90 billion. Billion Dollar Unicorn player Blippar is focused on making a mark in this high growth industry.

Blippar’s Offerings

London-based Blippar was founded by Ambarish Mitra and Omar Tayeb in 2011. The idea behind Blippar came about when the two friends were sharing a joke about seeing the Queen come to life out of a £20 note. Inspired by the joke, Omar went on to build a working prototype. Soon the two found Steve Spencer and Jess Butcher, and the four teamed up to set up Blippar.

What began as a joke has now turned into a visual discovery engine that uses advanced technology of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and computer vision technology to deliver incredible results through its Blippar app. The service allows users to blipp about objects or brands and see those blips converted to informational and interactive content on their mobile device. For instance, a user can scan an orange using the app, and the app will tell them where they can purchase the fruit from their local grocer and also give them additional information, including nutritional content and recipes.

Additionally, Blippar also provides a self-service platform called Blippbuilder that enables license-holders including publishers, agencies, or brands to build blipps into products, pages, and advertising cotent on their own. The web-based program allows the marketers and creative agencies to convert a print product including advertising pages, billboards, packaging, and merchandizing to become interactive. For instance, to promote a new line of nail paint, Maybelline allows users to scan a print ad and virtually try the various shades of the varnish on their nails.

Blippar claims that its app has been downloaded 65 million times in more than 170 countries globally. Its advertising customers include names like Condé Nast, TIME Inc., Unilever, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Heinz, Coca-Cola, Anheuser Busch, L’Oréal, Universal Pictures, and Jaguar.

Blippar’s Financials

Blippar is privately held and does not disclose its financials. The company earns revenue through its advertising relationships. It has revealed that its revenues are in significant millions of dollars. It is still not profitable as it continues to invest in expansion.

The company has raised $99 million in funding so far with investments from Khazanah Nasional and Qualcomm Ventures. In March this year, Blippar had raised $54 million in a round led by Khazanah Nasional that valued it at $1.5 billion dollars.

Analysts have been speculating about Blippar being acquired by the likes of Google and Microsoft who want to have a bigger presence in the AR space. But Blippar is confident that it will not sell itself because what it is “trying to build is bigger than the Internet itself”. It does not rule out an IPO though.

Google’s attempt at a virtual browser includes tagging everything in the world so that when any object is scanned, Google’s impressive search results can appear. Despite the impressiveness of the objective, Google too is not committed to implementing it. Blippar, on the other hand, believes that it can get there through acquisitions, artificial intelligence, and plain determination.

More investigation and analysis of Unicorn companies can be found in my latest Entrepreneur Journeys book, Billion Dollar Unicorns. Unicorns will also be discussed with some special guests during our 1M/1M Roundtable programs over the next few weeks. To be a part of the conversation, please register here. The term Unicorn was coined in a TechCrunch article by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures.

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr.com 

This segment is a part in the series : Billion Dollar Unicorns


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