Blippar, London's AR unicorn, is folding

Sian Bradley's picture
Credit: Blippar

Once a hyped UK unicorn, Blippar has fallen into administration following a funding dispute.

Since its inception in 2011, Blippar has experienced a rollercoaster of triumphs and failings.

The AR firm, once worth an alleged $1.5 billion, reportedly lost £35 million last year.

At the height of its success, Blippar employed 300 people. That number reportedly sunk to about 75 at the time it headed into administration.

Founded by Ambarish Mitra and Omar Tayeb, its technology was used in partnership with the BBC's Planet Earth II series.

The company began to fall into disarray when a 2017 Financial Times report claimed  Mitra has exaggerated the story of his business development and birth details; he had claimed to have founded his business from a Delhi slum, leading him to be dubbed a "real-life Slumdog Millionaire".

In 2015, Mitra also declared a $1.5 billion offer for the firm. It was later revealed that the company made huge losses that same year; and at the beginning of 2018 it shut its Mountain View offices and lost key executives.

Co-founder Ambarish Mitra
Co-founder Ambarish Mitra

Blippar’s decline is reflective of a the difficulity in finding mainstream success with an AR product. Intel’s Vaunt smart glasses also collapsed, while Magic Leap’s mixed reality specs have proven largely disappointing.

At the start, Blippar began offering an app that names household products and landmarks, and a platform that let users turn their face into a “digital billboard.” Later, it tried to appeal to a B2B audience, hoping to sell to other firms.

Even this wasn’t enough to keep Blippar afloat, and it will now be sold corporate insolvency firm David Rubin & Partners to whoever will take it, either in parts or as a complete entity.

The row was triggered when major investor Khazanah Nasional blocked an emergency $5 million round of funding for the startup. The funding round would have diluted the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund’s share in the company.