Poplar nets $2.1m funding as AR demand climbs amid lockdown

By Lucy Ingham

Augmented reality (AR) startup Poplar has closed a $2.1m seed funding round for its AR creative platform for brands, amid significant growth in consumer interest in the technology during lockdown.

The seed round was led by Fuel Ventures, with additional funding coming from Haatch Ventures, Ascension Ventures and Super Ventures.

Poplar is rapidly gaining a name for itself as a tool to create 3D and AR experiences for brands, particularly in fashion and beauty, entertainment, food and drink, gaming and retail.

Its platform automatically assembles teams of AR and 3D creators vetted by Poplar for brands, which then can create interactive digital experiences including branded face filters, at-home virtual try-ons and product visualisations.

So far, it has created more than 120 campaigns for major brands including Universal Music, Jack Faniels, Speedo, L’Oréal and Disney. It has also become a partner with TikTok for branded AR effects creation, and is a Trusted Partner for Swirl, the 3D display advertising format from Google.

Poplar plans to use this additional funding to further its goal of becoming the “world’s leading augmented reality platform”.

Poplar funding comes as consumer AR interest climbs

AR has been one of the quiet winners during the lockdown, with consumer engagement in the technology climbing by 19% in March, according to Poplar.

As a result, many are now seeing increased market potential in technology, a view that has likely contributed to the success of the seed funding round for Poplar.

“With Covid-19 dominating our lives, brands are turning more to digital and social channels to reach consumers in new, immersive ways,” said David Ripert, co-founder and CEO of Poplar.

“Augmented reality is central to that and success will be determined by the quality of the experience. We are growing our platform to bring the very best AR creators together to quickly deliver premium campaigns, without the huge price tag.”

“Augmented reality has been on the rise but now, as a result of the pandemic lockdown, is its time to shine,” added Mark Pearson, founder and managing partner at Fuel Ventures.

“I believe it represents the future of commerce – from being able to see a car in 3D without being in a showroom to trying on clothes in virtual changing rooms. Poplar sees the future of content creation in this medium and I am excited we are on board to help Poplar’s journey to making AR technology more accessible, as the technology grows further in popularity.”

Poplar also argues that AR is producing far better conversion rates for brands, making it an appealing option at a time when much of the economy is in jeopardy.

“With 75% of consumers expecting retailers to offer an AR experience and 11 times more likely to make a purchase when AR is available, retail is definitely leading the way in terms of adoption,” said Ripert.

“We expect more industries will follow suit, particularly with the challenges that social isolation is posing to every industry.”

Read more: Ex IKEA VP launches startup to bring “augmented reality revolution” to retail