This interview is part of our SOLA (Spirit Of London Awards) series. Omar Tayeb is one of the finalists and for good reason. You might of heard of Blippar recently, they have been growing rapidly and partnering with some high profile brands. In fact Blippar was included in our 'Top 20 UK startups to watch in 2012' list. So here is a bit of insight in to one of the founders, Omar Tayeb:
Can you give me a bit of background about yourself?
I graduated from Imperial College, London in 2009 - studying Mathematics and Computer Science. After a short career in financial data and insurance I left to start Blippar.
What is Blippar?
Blippar is an image and object recognition phone app, which turns objects into augmented reality experiences. To blipp is to hold your phone up to anything in the real world and enjoy an instantaneous interactive or content-rich experience.
How did the idea come about?
The idea of Blippar came from one random evening outing with Co-Founder Ambarish Mitra, where we were joking about the ability to make the Queen speak from a bank note. We made that joke a reality and then realized that we can do this to all brands’ real world assets like logos, press ads, outdoor, packaging and more.
How has take up been since launch?
Blippar has had huge success since launch in August 2011 both on the user and brand take up. Over 1.5 million users current have Blippar, mostly in the UK. Hundreds of brands are using it to engage with users and fans from Domino’s and Nestle to Justin Bieber and JLS. The user engagement has been massive with average dwell times ranging from 2-6 mins.
It’s not just the interaction of the users with the real-world objects, but the data behind it that makes Blippar so useful. Brands can find out if an ad in Waterloo is more effective than an ad in Victoria – at which times of the day and how long people spend with the ads. Here’s an example of Blippar being used recently and some of the useful data that the client receives.
We've recently opened a New York office and are getting great traction from brands there.
Who are your customers and how did you go about getting the first few?
Our customers are the brands. Getting the first few was a big achievement for the business development team early on as we were asking brands to come on-board a platform that has no users and to help us build that user base. Jess Butcher (CMO/co-founder) came on board soon after we’d built the initial prototypes and demos to lead the business development team to our success so far.
How have you funded the business?
We funded the business ourselves for the first few months, but were quickly revenue generating and able to sustain ourselves. We received a round of funding from Qualcomm in January 2012 to help speed up expansion and growth.
How did you find the funding process? and what advice would you give to someone raising funding for the first time?
Fund raising is a time consuming process especially the first round and finding the right investor so you have to manage your time efficiently between working on the company and raising money. I would advise to attend VC events around the city (there are a lot of them) . They run competitions and talks so it's a good place to get the company name known in the community. Some VCs (individuals) also run blogs, which give you an opportunity to see where they think the market is heading and what sort of businesses they'll be interested in investing in.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Since what we’re introducing is a new behaviour and a new market there’s a lot of consumer education required.
How have you overcome them?
There are a number of ways that we’re tackling this. First was to design the app in a way that allows the user to figure out what to do with it. Steve Spencer (Chief Creative Officer/co-founder) leads that. The BD team has also done a good job in partnering with brands and publishers to spread the Blippar call to action on their magazines, ads and products, which serves as a great education piece for using Blippar.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
Getting the right people on board with Blippar who believe in the vision has been the essential factor so far. The first members of the team are critical and can be the reason for leading a start-up to success. We were fortunate to have Stephen Shaw and Dave Black as part of the team early on to kick-start the awareness of blipping among brands and users.
It’s easier said than done, but getting over disappointments and moving on quickly is important too.