The post was originally published in Russian on Startup of the Day. Alexander kindly agreed to republish what we think is of great value to our readers.
Do you remember the Jaws ad in Back to the Future? Marty stands there minding his own business, and a shark hologram flies right out of the movie theater to attract attention to the movie. Blippar, the English startup of the day, is convinced that this ought to come true now.
The startup developed a toolset for promptly creating a new augmented reality object and tying it to a real object. According to Blippar’s idea, it takes a supposed Nike half a day to draw Michael Jordan holding a real basketball and revealing sincere admiration. Then, the shopper goes around the store and points his phone all over, and suddenly – among dozens of balls from different brands – finds the idol. Or, someday, after the total adoption of the technology, there will be great basketball players hanging around every ball.
If you ask me, such an ad will be efficient, but there is a small detail. The user must deliberately launch the program that will show them the right clip. If they wander around the store and switch on the brand app, then the ad is excessive – the person is already super loyal. Blippar makes its own universal app where all content is visible, but a regular consumer won’t launch it as well – because why would they?.. It’s possible to come up with variants where everything aligns, but the startup hasn’t come across any truly mass-market scenarios. There is a technology, but nobody knows how to apply it to its fullest.
Correspondingly, there is no serious income. Blippar charges for using the tools and sells custom development to those too lazy to draw a shark or Jordan themselves. The last published revenue was USD 8M in one year, those are pennies against the invested amounts. The startup already burned USD 100M and got another USD 37M recently. What the founders sell to the investors is the future where AR ads are standard and not a tool for one-off promos.
This is a rerun from 2018. The ‘recent’ round didn’t happen back then, after all, the startup boasted about the investment before it saw the actual money on its account, – never do anything like this. Finally, one of the investors changed their mind, the deal didn’t happen, and Blippar went bankrupt one month after. Today, a new team under the same name is working on a similar product – doesn’t look like they have a lot of success. The old founder was also going to make his own Blippar version 2.0 under a new name – but there isn’t anything in sight at all.
Alexander made his career in Russian internet companies including Mail.Ru, Rambler, RBC. From 2016 to 2018 he was Chief Strategy and Analytics officer in Mail.Ru Group. In this position, he worked on M&A, investments, and new project launches. In 2018 he became Deputy CEO in Citymobil, a Russian Uber-like company that was invested by Mail.Ru Group and Sberbank (the biggest Russian bank), then he left the company to launch his own projects. Now Alexander is a co-founder of United Investors – the platform for co-investments in Russian early-stage startups. His blog #startupoftheday (#стартапдня) is one of the most popular blogs about startups in Russia.