Plattar: A Kea Connect Journey
Rupert Deans is an accomplished Kiwi Entrepreneur and has been working on the frontline of immersive technology solutions for over 15 years. Since reaching out to Kea Connect in 2017, Plattar has had a compounded annual growth in revenue rate of 572%. We spoke to Rupert about his journey with Plattar, and his advice for other innovative entrepreneurs.
Tell us about yourself and what Plattar is?
I grew up with dyslexia as a child and relied on visualisation to learn, understand and engage with the world. This led me to create one of NZ’s first digital agencies: One Fat Sheep. The defining moment was when we created the “World’s First Augmented Reality 3D Zombies Shooter on a Pizza Box” that became a viral marketing sensation in 2010!
On the back of this, I was captivated by the enormous potential of Augmented Reality (AR) to solve practical problems, setting out to create a tool that would enable anyone to build their own AR experiences. I formed Plattar, and in April 2016 successfully raised A$1.1 million in a seed funding round led by News Corp. Since then Plattar has gone on to establish a blue chip client base in Australia, New Zealand and the US including Fortune 500 and ASX 100 companies. More impressively, Plattar is now leading the world in creating AR/MR/XR Product Experiences.
What problem does Plattar solve? Every day we spend $70 billion dollars online and instore. And, every time we buy something, we’re taking a gamble. How will it look? Does it fit? Will it suit my needs? Ultimately we find it difficult to visualize things. For a retailer, manufacturer and/or brand, this visualization gap increases friction, reduces sales and impacts the overall customer experience. The Plattar platform allows brands to virtually put products into their customers’ environment with one click from a website, increasing purchase confidence, fast-tracking purchases and most importantly increase conversions. Plattar offers a single solution to create, manage and deploy 3D content for visualisation and Augmented Reality through the browser.
See here to watch the Plattar platform in action.
Experience it for yourself: Open Camera > Scan QR > Tap Icon & Place
Did you have global ambitions from day one?
Yes. We believe AR has global application to support consumers’ visualisation of goods and services. We have recently opened a new office in Singapore and look to expand to other markets off the back of securing key accounts in new areas.
Tell us about your experience with Kea Connect
Kea has been invaluable at enabling us to get access to key accounts globally that we normally would have found it hard to get a line into. One fantastic example of this is an introduction to the Walmart head office, off the back of this connection they now in the process of piloting and testing internally our 3D & WebAR platform.
I highly encourage any emerging business to engage with the team at Kea.
How has Plattar grown since first reaching out to Kea Connect in 2017?
From 2017 – 2020, Plattar has experienced a 572% compounded annual growth rate, and a 20% compounded monthly growth rate.
What are the key challenges you have faced in relation to Plattar?
Where do I start? Being 5 years too early for the market, it did not mature at the rate that we hoped it would. This turned out to be a key challenge, so we had to bootstrap to get through. Finally, the market is turning. With uptake increasing globally, things are much more aligned to our projections.
What was your approach to funding?
We created a really amazing pitch deck and demo to exemplify the vision of what we were looking to create. Then it was a matter of taking it to the market. Luckily, through the kiwi mafia I had an amazing connection in Nigel Delton who was very senior at REA, and he was part of the NewsCorp family which gave me a great introduction. This led to NewsCorp leading the round, and we also followed the FFF rule to approach Family, Friends and Fools (did not find any fools ;))
What does your team structure look like and do you have advice for businesses looking to hire offshore?
We have a core team of designers, developers, product, marketing and BD that supports our clients and continually develops our platform. We also have an advisory board to support developing and implementing our strategy, including funding. A new office in Singapore will also support our growth plans for Asia. When it comes to hiring in a new market, I absolutely recommend using your expat connections to find the right resource for the job.
What was your strategy for entering a market without established networks? Please share any advice for other entrepreneurs looking to do the same
What worked really well for us was finding an accelerator program that would bring us into the market, provide some equity funding and help with business development. We are part of the Singapore Tourism Board accelerator, which gave us access to not only a new market, but also other key resources.
How has your go-to-market approach differed from Australia, compared to NZ and the USA?
We have found the scope of opportunities greater in Australia in terms of size of projects and willingness to commit to more innovative products. However, within the NZ and US market there has been a greater readiness to use AR and mixed reality as part of their marketing plans to educate and engage customers and internal stakeholders. We are now developing opportunities in Asian tourism industries, utilising product visualisation.
What has the past year looked like?
It really has been a mixed year full of exciting projects and of course the massive disruption that COVID-19 continues to have. 2020 is fast becoming a milestone year as the pace of digital transformation and the virtualisation of commerce has increased dramatically. Businesses are recognising that they need to respond to this new business environment quickly, and that includes ourselves. We have extended our offering to create Remote Assistance solutions for B2C and B2B through Virtual Stores and Showrooms in conjunction with web AR. Virtual Stores enable the digitisation of bricks and mortar retail to extend the retail CX into the web. Virtual Showrooms enable customers to have a brand experience in an ideal 3D showroom before for their drilling down into an endless aisle of the complete product range.
This has impacted their marketing investment, so we look forward to a number of these postponed projects being actioned to support our clients’ business objectives. That said we are seeing a number of our existing clients continuing to invest in building their engagement activities across a range of sectors including retail, tourism & education. AR offers a chance to engage with customers in a new way, and our clients are fully embracing the journey.
Can you talk about resilience and perseverance when it comes to launching a business, and what is your advice to others on how to best look after yourself and your team?
It’s so crucial to build the best team around you, full of people who specialise in their areas of expertise. This, combined with the drive to share your vision both with your team and also with customers. It really does take focus, perseverance and commitment to pioneer a new technology. Along the way, we’ve continually invested in our platform and employed the best team. I also can’t recommend enough that entrepreneurs work with experienced advisors and mentors.
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