Augmented reality (AR) is a term that more of us are becoming familiar with, as we see increasing press coverage of mobile games like Pokemon Go. But what exactly is AR? What are its uses beyond gaming and which companies are at the forefront of bringing it to the mass market? We take a look at Blippar, an AR and visual discovery solutions company, to find out more.

Cutting edge tech

Blippar was founded in London in 2011 and since then has grown rapidly to become one of the UK’s most successful scale-up businesses in recent years. The company focuses on AR used in the commercial space and has an impressive client book including L’Oréal, Sony and Nike. The technology involved allows users to ‘blipp’ objects in the physical world using an app and the camera on their tablet or mobile device. Focusing on an object with the camera unlocks content on your device, e.g. more details about a particular product or service. It uses best-of-breed visual recognition software to do this, so companies can encourage their customers to engage more with their brands. It may sound futuristic, but the tech is gaining ground all the time.

Hard work, late nights

The road to the Blippar’s current success was a challenging one. As with all businesses in the start-up phase, the directors initially faced several hurdles relating to finance, staffing and establishing the product. Co-founder and director of the company Jess Butcher recalls all the hard work and long hours put in at the beginning, an experience which is common to many entrepreneurs. The company pitched itself anywhere and everywhere and as awareness and appreciation of it grew, it rapidly acquired funding from multiple investors.

Scaling up

The scale-up phase of the business required different skills, so Blippar went from being a “scrappy and agile” business to a major player in its field. The directors recognised they needed to adapt their approach, empowering others in the organisation to take ownership of different parts of the business so it could expand effectively. It now has offices worldwide and a valuation of over $1bn.

As first-time entrepreneurs, the directors learned quickly and stayed true to their vision – this is to make the verb ‘to blipp’ an everyday word and behaviour, in the same way that ‘googling’ has become part of everyday language. Admittedly, there is some way to go before this becomes a reality, but Blippar is making significant strides in this direction.

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By Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurial services, Smith & Williamson

Originally posted on Smith & Williamson