Zugara is changing the face of multi-channel retail. Since 2008, they have been developing Augmented Reality Retail solutions for the web, events and in-store retail. With a growing patent portfolio specific to AR and retail, Zugara is focused on developing the future of retail today.
Today CEO and Founder, Matthew Szymczyk spends some time with us to introduce his vision for the future of retail.
Tell us about the product or service.
Zugara has been in the Augmented Reality space for 8 years now and our focus has been on the Augmented Reality Retail sector. Our core product is the Webcam Social Shopper (WSS) Virtual Dressing Room software that is available online and for kiosks. WSS allows you to view yourself in a live video feed with virtual apparel and accessories. Our online product is targeted at ecommerce websites while our kiosk product utilizes Kinect and is used at events, in-mall, theme parks and more. We also have a prototype product, VSS, which is undergoing trials and is optimized for in-store retail use.
On the services side, we have done a variety of custom AR projects for brands over the years, and most of our recent projects involve Mobile AR with geolocation.
How is it different?
Zugara’s DNA is in UI/UX so we tend to think of the User Interface and User Experience before the technology. Most companies in the AR space tend to put the technology before the experience. Our products utilize gestures (as part of the Natural User Interface or NUI) so this is a new form of interaction for most consumers. Our focus is on making the natural user interface as easy as possible for people to adjust to and interact with.
Since we have been in the space for quite some time, we also have multiple patents specific to the AR Retail space. One of our key patents is related to the method of utilizing Augmented Reality to try on virtual garments and accessories.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Our main market is ecommerce and in-store retail but we also have sub-markets including events, in-mall, theme parks and so on. We’re finding that there’s a lot of retail opportunities for sub-markets like sports stadiums where our product can be used as a tool to drive traffic to the in-stadium retail store.
Recent projections from Digi-Capital put the entire AR market at $120 billion by 2020. A good portion of that AR market is divided up into different sectors including retail, theme parks, etc. Digi-Capital has a great breakdown.
What is the business model?
Our current business model is based on licensing of our software. We plan to offer other features we’ll be adding to our software for areas such as behavioral analytics, inventory usage data, etc.
The core group of Zugara realized that AR and the NUI was the future of UI/UX. In 2008, we shifted our business model to focus solely on AR and products we felt would solve problems in different areas of retail.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
AR is very dependent on R&D. There are a lot of companies that utilizes exiting AR technologies or platforms to offer AR-based services. Zugara has created our own technologies that we have offered as a platform for others to utilize. In the next six months, we plan to have a 2.0 version of our web software available, announce new features with our WSS for Kiosks / Kinect 2 product and hopefully have VSS ready for in-market licensing.
If you could be put in touch with one investor in the community who would it be and why?
It wouldn’t be a specific person but rather an individual or firm that understands how disruptive AR will be and is already starting to become. Most VC’s we have met with seem infatuated with startups offering commoditized services (i.e. sharing economy) or get caught up in near-term hype around technologies with much lower market projections than AR (i.e. virtual reality). I understand the lack of investment in AR in the early years because the technology was not ready for prime time. But with recent hardware advancements to power AR 2.0, I’m still puzzled by the lack of investment in the space – despite Apple recently acquiring one of the leading AR companies.
What does being “Made in LA” mean to you and your company?
LA has a lot of wondeful talent. Obviously, we’re overshadowed by Silicon Valley and SF but I think in LA there’s more of a focus on building a business to generate revenue vs. building a business to scale and grow (at expense of revenue). We also have some of the most knowledgeable (and approachable) VC’s here in LA.
What else can be done to promote early stage entrepreneurship in Los Angeles?
The community is still developing but events like the Silicon Beach Festival that Digital LA runs is a great event to get to know other startups and entrepreneurs in the area. There’s also a great newsletter that Jackie Domanus from Hostess to Hostess sends out weekly that lists all the startup and investment related events for the LA area.
What’s your favorite after work activity in Los Angeles?
I’m a film buff by nature and though I have a technical background, I also have a background in screenwriting. So I tend to read and/or watch as many films, screenplays or novels that I can. When I have extended time away from work, I always try to get back to Chicago to visit family, friends and spend time with my nieces.