The series Startup in the Net collects interviews done to innovative startups which are part of the EmiliaRomagnaStartUp network and that ART-ER supports in their development process.
A smartphone in your pocket certainly weighs less than an instruction booklet and is surely more at hand than the colleague that gives you a hand to fix a piece of equipment. According to Emanuele Borasio, this is a task that augmented reality can handle and he proves it every day through the success of his startup.
weAR is the name chosen to tell the entrepreneurial mission through a pun: on the one hand it links back to the field of wearable devices (such as smart glasses or smart watches) which project us in an always-connected world, but on the other hand the pronounciation is a reminder of the idea of "being present", non only through a device on our wrist but also standing side by side to the company that uses the startup products.
“We see augmented reality as a form of comunication" states Borasio, CEO of weAr, "in particular, for us it's a shortcut to reach the wanted result”.
The result he's referring to is obviously helping a company save time and money when it needs to face the exchange of skills between a senior employee and a less experienced one.
Marko is the first product created by this startup, funded un Ferrara in 2014 by the entrepreneur who leads a team of 10. Born in 1971, Borasio has a degree in geology and a specialisation in geomatics.
“More or less ten years ago I become very interested in those softwares that could process images." He explains how it all started, "I realised that these algorithms could help us interpret the world around us”.
It was the early days of augmented reality: for the first time, pointing a phone towards an object one could gain new information. The first entrepreneurial experience for this startupper was to bend this gesture to marketing purposed, until he realised that, as well as a benefit for the consumer, this new technology could be applied in the human resources department.
“In the great world of augmented reality, what was missing was a platform that could help people work better every day" Borasio specifies. "We are living in a time in history, especially here in Italy, in which many are retiring and we are running the risk of losing their enourmous experiential storage. Marko is a very simple platform that allows companies to exploit augmented reality without the need for a developer" the startupper clarifies, "it's as if the senior employee would leave virtual post-it notes directly onto the real object: once the manual is put together, everything is sent to the cloud and it becomes available to all who need it”.
In a few words, weAR changes the channel of communication from on paper to digital.
The startup started thanks to the collaboration of the fund ClubItaliaInvestimenti 2, of Aruba Spa and of Gruppo Digital360.it. Now the strategy is to find a limited, but prestigious, niche of clients that could allow the startup to strengthen its position to enter the foreign market counting on a solid and competitive product.
“At the beginning we got our target wrong as we addressed small companies" Borasio confesses. "The clients we aimed for afterwards helped us better the product”.
Enel, Aeronautica Militare and now Vodafone - which granted a conspicuous investment to develop a second product that runs with 5G - are the names that weAR can proudly add to their CV.
“From our clients we often receive problems that need solving: this allows us to be very creative as each time we need to find a solution, but at the same time we get to gain a lot of experience in realities that are top notch in the tech world in Italy" shares the entrepreneur, who is very much requested aborad. "Thanks to the Regione Emilia-Romagna and to Art-er, we also had the possibility to go to Silicon Valley: there it's a lot easier to offer something disruptive; in Italy it's more complicated" Borasio says. "But there's not just the Silicon Valley" the entrepreneur reveals "in Hong Kong I had the chance to pitch in front of an Alibaba investment fund: the venture capital funds aborad are willing to invest in a startup as weAR, but I want to try make it in Italy. Here we received trust" a grateful Borasio addds. "It's true, starting companies in Italy is hard and there's less money fot it" he admits "nonetheless, mine is a long-term vision: from this point of view it would be a realy pity to leave everything and move to another country".
Find out more about weAR and check out their profile in our dedicated section "Linked Startups" by clicking on the banner below.
Author: Giorgia Olivieri, freelance journalist. Works in business development since 2003 having curated communications projects for Progetti d'Impresa, for BAN Bologna, for the Metropolitan City of Bologna, for Incredibol and for Almacube. She collaborates with ART-ER since 2017 on various projects including StartCup Emilia-Romagna.