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Innovation in advertising: Ads in augmented reality

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Spandana Govindgari and Jaydev Ajit Kumar, Founders of Hype AR Inc., backed by Unshackled VenturesDisrupting the advertising industry – one AR app at a time

With backgrounds in advertising at leading technology companies, we saw first-hand how ad tools use granular details of the life of a consumer to win their attention at the cost of being intrusive, and at times, annoying. It’s no wonder people dislike ads.

In fact, a survey conducted by the video marketplace UNRULY found that 65 percent of consumers skip ads online and 90 percent consider using ad blocking software.

That’s why we created Hype, an ad network for augmented reality, to bring contextualized ads into every AR app in a non-intrusive and engaging way.

The idea came to life at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017 hackathon, an event where thousands of developers, designers and product dreamers converge and create innovative products that apply tech to real world problems.

At the hackathon, we utilized augmented reality to create a cool ad for Coca-Cola and the magic was in the modern design, non-intrusiveness and contextual nature of the advertisement. Technically speaking, we built the first advertising network for augmented reality that would noninvasively place ads using computer vision and distribute them within various AR apps based on the user’s context.

Following the TechCrunch event, interest in augmented and virtual reality boomed everywhere around the world. Brands were actively working towards bringing AR experiences to their apps and retail stores to delight their customers. And with the introduction of ARKit and ARCore, more and more camera centric apps became accessible to millions of people.

We understand that innovation and entrepreneurship is a high stakes game, especially when your immigration status is on the line

Within 6 months of introducing ARKit, the app store received 13 million downloads of AR apps. This proved to us that the market opportunity was huge and the timing was perfect.

Advice to entrepreneurs

We understand that innovation and entrepreneurship is a high stakes game, especially when your immigration status is on the line. That’s why it was so important for us to share our experience with others who are interested in turning their visions into a business.

One of the hardest things to do as an entrepreneur is to prove the value of your idea and make your story marketable. This not only attracts investors, but it also generates enthusiasm among the public. We found that working with futuristic technologies like AR is difficult because the adoption rate is uncertain, so innovators often make educated bets based on historical patterns.

In our case, it was important to test if people were excited about the new technology after seeing it in action. To measure enthusiasm among prospective consumers, we tested ourprototyped AR advertisement on the campus of University of California in Los Angeles. Students expressed awe, and many said they’d “never seen an ad like this before.” Ultimately, the test reinforced our idea that people do not mind ads as long as they complement their experience – not interrupt it.

On top of proving the value of your idea or product, it’s important to educate yourself about the legal and financial challenges that come with bringing that vision to life. The good news is you don’t have to do this alone. In fact, most of our support in this department came from Unshackled Ventures. The venture capital fund supports foreign-born entrepreneurs, investing very early, often at pre-product stage. With a team comprised of a first-generation American and an immigrant, Unshackled was the perfect partner because they understood our specific obstacles as immigrant founders. More importantly, they believed in our visions as much as we did.

As a final note, we want to emphasize the importance of perseverance. While the idea that entrepreneurs need incredible tenacity is not a new one, it’s worth mentioning again here. We believe perseverance is fueled by a strong sense of purpose, a briefcase of knowledge, and of course, a team of supporters.

As you continue to grow and develop your company, you should expect more challenges to come your way. That’s how the industry operates. But having a handful of people who align with your thinking and have faith in your vision is invaluable to your long-term success.