Through the Eyes of the Investor: Why Ideaspring Capital is backing this Bengaluru startup building the future of AR
How does an investor make an investment decision? What guides this decision? What prompts them to rally behind an idea, an entrepreneur, and a certain product with their support, and, more importantly, with their money? And once they do, why do they choose to stay the course?
All of this and more answered in YourStory's video series, Through the Eyes of the Investor.
Over two months and across five episodes, YourStory has brought to you five unique startup stories told from the perspective of an investor. The series started with Bengaluru-based Lavelle Networks, followed by a look at India’s deep tech sector while highlighting the achievements of IISc-incubated Simyog. The spotlight was next on AI startup worxogo, once again based out of Bengaluru, before moving to the inception and growth story of Karomi, a packaging and labelling management tech platform.
And anchoring the narrative throughout this journey we had none other than Ideaspring Capital’s Naganand Doraswamy, who delved into the many reasons why he chose to invest, support, and back a particular startup. If tech was the hero at times, acting as the deciding factor behind an investment, at other occasions the prudence of the founder (or the founding team) took precedence in the decision-making process.
In the last leg of the series, the focus is on Whodat, a marker-less augmented reality platform designing state-of-the-art AR apps and experiences.
Watch the fifth episode of Through the Eyes of the Investor, hosted by IdeaSpring Capital’s Naganand Doraswamy. In this episode, Doraswamy leads the way into the world of spatial mapping and augmented reality, a field in which Bengaluru-based Whodat has established its expertise.
Where the virtual meets the physical
“Whodat is a startup that is based out of Bengaluru and this is the youngest team that we have invested in,” says Doraswamy, introducing the fifth and final startup of the Through the Eyes of the Investor series.
Launched in 2013 by Kaushik Das and Sriram Ganesh, Whodat is a tech startup that builds spatial mapping and augmented reality solutions for large enterprises. In other words, the company provides an AR stack or software, using which developers and businesses can build AR-based applications, products, or experiences without an in-depth knowledge of computer vision technologies or deep learning.
At present, the company boats a growing clientele, including the likes of Urban Ladder, Huawei, Mastercard, Taj, Ariel, and US retailer Target.
“They are already building applications for customers in the real estate domain using their platform and this led us to believe that we should invest in this team,” says Doraswamy, adding, “[it’s because] we perceived that AR as a market would take time to mature and the ability to build applications on top of the platform would be extremely important.”
For the uninitiated, AR is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world to provide a composite view. Although a relatively newer branch of tech – as compared to virtual reality (VR), which can be defined as a computer-generated simulation and a recreation of a real life environment – AR has been rapidly gaining popularity across different industries, including retail, marketing, entertainment, healthcare, fashion, travel and tourism, and even education.
So much so that non-tech verticals are also looking at this tech and embracing it to enhance user experience. Whodat dabbles in this very area, augmenting reality and helping people visualise products in a given environment before making a purchase.
What ails the AR industry?
The AR experience is extremely relevant in the sectors Whodat operates in.
For instance, Whodat can help users visualise their dinner table setup on their mobiles or tablets before they make the purchase. Users can even visualise how a mat, plate, or bowl would look individually or stacked on top of each other on their dining table and move them around. All this by leveraging the AR technology stack, which the startup is further consolidating in a visual mapping and positioning platform called Origin.
That the AR industry is on an upward spiral is hardly a surprise. Globally, in fact, the AR market is expected to reach $60.55 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 40.29 percent according to a Markets and Markets research. It is the current market trend, however, that seems to concerns Doraswamy.
He explains: “As a technology, AR is yet to gain traction in the market because we are yet to find that killer app that will catapult this technology to become common news in the industry.”
In this regard, global tech giants like Apple and Google have also developed their own platforms – Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore – to encourage more users to build AR applications. A move, Doraswamy notes, is again taking time.
As for Whodat, they are addressing this segment with their very own Origin platform, a hyperlocal location-based AR service that is designed to enable AR creators to place any object or content with ease.
“We are hoping that in the years to come, this technology will be used by many AR creators and it will enable the industry to adopt AR as a common technology for solving many problems in the real world,” the tech investor says.
Why Ideaspring is betting big on Whodat
In April 2017, early-stage tech fund Ideaspring Capital invested Rs 3.9 crore in Whodat, marking its third ever investment. The capital was raised as part of the company’s first round of external funding to be deployed for product development, R&D, and team expansion.
It’s been more than two years since the Ideaspring Capital-Whodat partnership, and Doraswamy reasserts that their engagement is stronger than ever with the AR startup.
“In case of Whodat, we are taking a wait-and-watch approach,” says our host. “We took a bet on the team and the technology with the assumption that the market would catch up very quickly. But due to various reasons, the market is yet to catch up in case of augmented reality,” he adds.
But that’s another reason for Ideaspring Capital to stay engaged with Whodat. It is because the team – led by a computer engineer and a Stanford graduate and comprising members with a deep understanding of computer vision and machine learning – is building a platform that Doraswamy believes is going to be extensively used by AR creators when the market catches up.
“When you take technology bets, it’s hard to predict when the market is going to catch up,” says Doraswamy. “We have patience and will wait for the market to catch up so that Whodat is there when AR takes off in the industry.”
Concept: Tenzin Pema
Director: Aditya Gowtham
Camera: Rukmangada Raja
Editor: Anjali V
Writer: Sutrishna Ghosh
Content Editor: Teja Lele Desai