AR startup Blippar crashes and burns, a single shareholder blamed

The augmented reality startup says one investor is the reason for the need to go into administration.

Blippar, a startup which generated a huge amount of hype and expectancy in the augmented reality (AR) space, has announced that the firm is entering administration.

In a company update on Monday, the London-based startup said it was "disappointed" to do so, and the reason the startup has failed is a single shareholder.

Founded in 2011 by Ambarish Mitra and Omar Tayeb, the startup was an early innovator in AR, developing technologies which could recognize objects in real-world scenarios and offer additional context based on object detection.

The company has raised $131.7 million in four funding rounds. Khazanah Nasional, Qualcomm Ventures, and Candy Ventures Sarl are among the firm's main investors.

However, Blippar ran into serious financial trouble last year, suffering a pre-tax loss of £34.5 million ($44 million).

In a last-ditch attempt to salvage the company, in addition to $37 million raised in September, Blippar asked for a further $5 million in funding.

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Blippar says the cash was needed to refocus the startup and reach profitability, as well as secure "long-term value to shareholders."

Reports suggest that the startup was burning through roughly $3 million per month after being in the business over six years, and constant pivots in business strategy had rocked investor and employee faith in the company.

The original idea of AR apps which could be used in marketing prompted the interest of advertisers and encouraged early enthusiasm. Since then, however, the startup has shifted to visual search engine technology.

While the strategy had been approved unanimously by Blippar's board and the funding was secured, all of the startup's shareholders had to agree.

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One investor voted against the additional funding. It has been reported that the dissenter was Khazanah Nasional, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

Blippar says this move "effectively blocked the investment even if they were not asked to participate in any further financing of the business, and despite our extensive efforts to reach a successful resolution."

Administrators will soon take hold of the business and assets such as servers, and all employees have been made redundant. Paul Appleton and Paul Cooper have been appointed as Blippar's administrators under the UK's Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAEW). 

A buyer may be found for all, or part, of the business. However, the startup is not at liberty to provide any further details.

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Blippar said this is an "incredibly sad, disappointing, and unfortunate outcome." Especially so, considering a potential $1.5 billion acquisition deal was rejected in 2015.

"We are grateful to all our Blippar team members, customers, partners, our board and investors who have contributed meaningfully to our mission to bridge the physical and digital worlds," the startup said. "We are proud to be one of AR's early pioneers, and we will continue to be champions for Augmented Reality long into the future."

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