CNBC Disruptor 50

Augmented reality start-up Blippar collapses and lays off all staff

Key Points
  • Paul Appleton and Paul Cooper, of David Rubin and Partners, were appointed as Blippar's administrators
  • Blippar said "all employees will be let go" as part of the administration process.
  • The start-up once claimed to be valued at $1.5 billion by investors.
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Blippar, once a much-hyped augmented reality start-up, has fallen into administration.

The U.K.-based firm said Monday that Paul Appleton and Paul Cooper, of David Rubin and Partners, had been appointed as administrators by a U.K. court.

"Blippar's services are likely to come to halt once the administrators take control of the business and its servers," Blippar said in a blog post Monday.

It added that "all employees will be let go" as part of the administration process, and that the news marked an "incredibly sad, disappointing, and unfortunate outcome."

The administration process is similar to filing for corporate bankruptcy in the U.S. It can result in the recapitalization or sale of a business. Blippar's administrators said they were exploring "all possible options for the future of the business."

The collapse highlights a dramatic shift for a company which once claimed to be valued at $1.5 billion by investors — a valuation that would have seen it rise into the ranks of Europe's fledgling "unicorn" companies.

Blippar: Using technology to transform the 'illiterate'

The start-up's technology was touted as a form of so-called augmented reality (AR) that would let a user point their smartphone at an object and be given information about it on an app. Blippar co-founder and Chief Executive Ambarish Mitra has said in the past that its product could help educate the illiterate.

Once dubbed the "real life slumdog multi-millionaire," Mitra's credentials had come into disrepute following a Financial Times report which raised doubts over the executive's history as an entrepreneur. One of Mitra's claims was that he had been educated at the London School of Economics, but this was slapped down by the British university, which said he never studied there.

Blippar said its downfall came on the back of an investor dispute, where one investor blocked a deal to help Blippar raise additional funding "even if they were not asked to participate in any further financing of the business."

According to reports, that investor was Khazanah Nasional, the sovereign wealth fund of the Malaysian government. Khazanah reportedly blocked an attempt by British property tycoon Nick Candy to inject new capital in Blippar, due to fearing its stake in the company would be diluted. Neither Khazanah or Candy were immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Blippar has raised nearly $132 million to date, according to Crunchbase data. Its most recent funding round arrived in September; a $37 million investment led by Candy and Qualcomm's venture arm.