Hey fellow entrepreneurs! Startup Radius interviewed Biba – quite an amazing company that combined two major industries which are augmented reality (AR) and children. The best part is that they did it not with the help of an ordinary AR game as you might think, but with cool apps and the whole system that magically mixes real playgrounds and AR technology. How awesome is that?

Learn how they already integrated their system to almost 4000 playgrounds, how they went from 0 to “most innovative company of 2019”, why you always need to provide value (no jokes), why partnership marketing matters, why Facebook and Twitter marketing works for them, and more. Enjoy, and read below!

Can you tell us about what you are working on? What is Biba?

At Biba we are reinventing traditional playgrounds by using augmented reality and smartphone technology to get kids off the couch and back outside.

Currently, we have fitted more than 3,800 playground sites around the world with our smart playground system, which uses imaginative prompts and iconic family entertainment brands to bring families through a series of active playground adventures.

Not only are we getting children more active, but Biba also collects invaluable information on what is happening at local playgrounds. This data can then be used by municipalities for key decisions around expenditures, maintenance, and programming for playgrounds and public open spaces.

Why are you building this? Was there a particular source of inspiration or money-making idea?

The team at Biba comes from the mainstream game industry and some of us are now starting families of our own, so, in many ways, we approached our game-changing innovation with a sense of karmic obligation to fix the problem we helped create, trying to reverse a compulsion pattern – for gaming – back to something healthy.

Matt Toner, CEO at Biba

Along the way, we discovered that many governments and community organizations don’t have access to playground usage data, which can be an essential tool in coming to all manner of decisions. Our smart playground system generates both raw information and nuanced insights that they need, and we do so in a way that is “kid safe” and COPPA compliant.

Time for bragging! How big you are – traffic, users, anything else?

Currently, our smart city business play has resulted in more than 3,800 Biba systems being installed in playgrounds across 1000 cities in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and Israel, supporting 7 languages including English, French, Gaelic, German, Hebrew, Italian, and Spanish (Latin/EU).

Our company’s initiative has not gone unnoticed. Our team of 25 was recently honored as one of Fast Company magazine’s Most Innovative Companies of 2019, landing on the list of ‘Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Gaming’. Biba was also shortlisted for a BAFTA award, nominated for a KidScreen Award and Rockie Award, and won a National Growth Alliance Award in Australia.

Who are your main competitors, and how good/bad they are?

Biba is an interesting spot as there are no real competitors in the playground industry itself.

On the other hand, augmented reality (AR), particularly location-based AR is very much market-ready: the breakout success of Niantic’s Pokemon Go catalyzed awareness around how AR experiences can transform how games are played, where, and by whom. But, with respect to specific apps that interact with public play spaces, we have yet to see another successfully launch and achieve scale.

Biba playground, AR apps for children

Who uses Biba? What is your perfect buyer persona?

The answer to this question is two-fold. On one hand we have playground manufacturers and municipalities who are purchasing Biba smart playground technology to implement on various community playgrounds – both to get kids outside and active, and to also collect important data on how, when, what, why, and who is using the outdoor spaces.

Then on the other hand, we have parents, caregivers, and families downloading our free-to-play apps and games for personal play.  We put much of our product development effort into understanding their needs and requirements; if you can create healthy kids, you will create healthy communities.

Were there any early ‘growth hacks’ or tactics that have contributed to your current success?

For a small software startup entering bricks-and-mortar territory, it was important for us to develop deep partnerships with industry leading companies like PlayPower.  Pure disruption wasn’t really possible (or desirable). Transformation and evolution has proven to be a good strategy, but it requires patience.

Biba AR apps and games

What were some of the biggest challenges while building Biba early on and how did you solve them?

We live in a time where people have begun to view technology as more likely to be the problem than the solution; this is certainly true when talking about children and their activities.  Fortunately, younger parents are looking increasingly to find meaningful and ethical solutions to family challenges. We fit that description quite nicely.

If you could give a marketing advice to other companies, what could it be based on your experience?

As a small team, you can’t do everything. So move in the direction of what will make the most impact. Test, learn lessons, assess, and move on.

Get really clear on WHO your market is and do your best to be where they are. And, be ok with the fact that your product or service won’t be for everyone but know that those who it is for, will love it if you treat them right.

Provide value, always provide value.

Which marketing channels do you prefer and why?

We have found success in using social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. We also use a localized, organic approach to marketing. Biba is experiential, so we want people to try they apps on the playground before they decide if it’s for them or not. Local media, influencers, bloggers and events have been very successful for us.

Is Biba monetized? Why did you choose the current monetization method?

It was important to us that Biba games are always free to the families that want to use them.  We want to make sure that everyone has access, especially those kids that may not be quite as advantaged as others.

What are the top products/services you use in your company?

  • Google GSuite including Gmail, Docs, Drive, and Calendar.
  • Slack for day to day team communication, document sharing and editing.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud which provides us access to a collection of software used for graphic design, video editing, and web development.
  • Google Cloud for running all our backend services and soon, our data warehouse.
  • Honeybadger informs us of errors, and allows the team to debug and error easier.
  • Honeycomb allows our tech team to capture metrics from our backend
  • Unity as a game engine is extremely flexible, and does most of the hard work to export our projects to iOS and Android, which allows us to focus on our content.
  • Fork is a very fast and friendly Git client. Since the development team is bouncing features between new games and our own Framework, we have to be constantly looking out for our version control. It allows us to co-develop very smoothly.
  • Jenkins automation service helps us save time when deploying the latest version of a game to the App Store or maintaining our build workstations.
  • Visual Studio Code and VS Community are integral to our development process. It’s a powerful tool that helps us locate and narrow down the best opportunities to make our games work smoothly.
  • Harvest for web-based time tracking.
  • Social Media including Facebook and Twitter for marketing and promotion, and to engage with stakeholders and investors.
  • Agility PR Services for media monitoring and measurement