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How Big Companies Can Benefit from Being Digital

Digitization is a great way to optimize the business process—but what does it mean for businesses? With companies moving to a greener, more digital workflow, it's essential to understand the benefits of this transition. This episode explains how going digital can help increase efficiency and improve customer service.


Darabase is the AR Outdoor Media Company, a turnkey platform and solution for brands, advertisers, and retailers wanting to run immersive Augmented Reality Outdoor Media layered on the real world.

They augment existing outdoor media screens and billboards, deliver permission-based AR campaigns in iconic locations and provide scale geographic coverage through our "Run of World" AR inventory network. They help retailers use AR to drive footfall and sales and enable property companies to monetize their estate.


Know more about Darabase:


How Big Companies Can Benefit From Being Digital


We have Dominic Collins, who is the Co-Founder and CEO of Darabase, an AR outdoor media company. Dominic, thank you for coming to the show.


No problem, it's nice to be here.


Why don't you give us a quick background of your very interesting career and explain to us quickly what Darabase does as well?


I spent most of my career working in large organizations, helping them be more digital, once digital existed, going way back when. In the 90s I worked for Hearst and worked in some magazines. I used to run Esquire magazine in the UK. I then joined an Italian startup called Buongiorno, which was an email and wireless marketing company. I then went back into large organizations and ran the digital team at Sky, a large satellite TV broadcast in the UK. I was hired by Apax, a private company to do the digital transformation of AutoTrader in the UK, taking up from print to digital.


I then joined Orange or France Telecom who had done a joint venture with Deutsche Telekom, which was T-Mobile but over here in Europe. Both France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom had kept a bunch of stuff outside of the JV. I basically ran two of the businesses for Orange outside of the joint venture. One was called Orange Digital, which is all the digital bits of Orange that weren’t the telco, and then also, Unanimis, the company that they'd acquired, which was their global advertising business.


From there, I then moved into the mothership of the joint venture itself, which at the time was called Everything Everywhere. It was the first, new brand in the UK to launch 4G, which became EE, and then was subsequently bought by BT or British Telecom. I ran the digital P&L of Orange, T-Mobile, and also EE in that role. I then moved across to be Chief Marketing Officer for a company called Legal & General, which is a big investment management insurance business who were looking to drive constant transformation through that organization.


It got to a period in my career where I'd felt that I'd surf this wave of change through all these different organizations, studying classifieds, and ending up on the beach out of FinTech. I thought where I am personally and professionally, whilst I've spent most of my career helping big companies be more digital, it might be more fun to help digital companies be more big.


It was my little personal pivot. I was out in Silicon Valley. WPP, the advertising agency, does this thing called the West Coast Tour where they take a bunch of chief marketing officers out to meet patented technologies, Google, and a couple of hours of Jack Dorsey of Twitter, Facebook, and so on. There are a billion dollars of ad revenue in the room all over the world.


You get to see the great and the good of Silicon Valley, especially where they have an advertising spectrum of that business. The very last company that we saw was this company called Jaunt, which is a virtual reality and became an augmented reality company too. They just closed a C-round from a bunch of Redpoint, Highland, some big VCs as well as Disney, Sky, and other more strategic investors. It was the first time I put on the virtual reality headset and I was like, "This is storytelling at a new level." I was intrigued by it.


Long story short, I ended up joining Jaunt. I was that first hire outside of California. I helped to begin to grow the business, turn it from a project into a product a little bit, and help commercialize it both in the States and then set up international. We're trying to be the capital of Shanghai Media Group and then towards the end, I was also President of Products and Engineering in San Mateo on the West Coast.

I was always based mostly out of London, where my family is. It was while we were there and we were packaging up the sale a little bit and ended up selling it to Verizon, that I had the seed for what became Darabase. This realization that I believe strongly as do many others that increasingly our digital lives will be layered on the physical world.


The digital content that we see will increasingly be layered on the physical world. We were starting to see that happening with Snapchat's Landmarkers and ads being put on Buckingham Palace, the Flatiron Building, and so on. My feeling was like, "This is outdoor media but truly digital, not digital screen, but this is digital content viewed through a lens or a mobile phone. Maybe in the future, wearable smart glasses and so on. That we can dig into as well.

Our digital lives will be layered on the physical world more and more.

What's happening at the moment is that the property owner isn't at the table. All these digitally native companies are getting excited about slapping AR augmented reality content on the world around you, not just on your face but also on the place. They weren't engaging with a property company and didn't have any permission. There were a bunch of regulations and laws that it was contravening. It felt like the digital equivalent of graffiti or fly posting, especially where it's commercial and advertising in nature.


We thought we need some AR database or some kind of registry, hence Darabase. At its heart, we can register permissions and digital rights for the physical world, and then start to have a permission-based and brand-safe place. If you want to monetize an audience with advertising or commercial content within their field of view, you can do that by calling upon the APIs, the registry, and database that is our company.


We can enable this permission-based and brand-safe advertising market in this new medium which I believe will be huge. It's already a multi-billion-dollar industry and doing so in such a way where the property companies are engaged and rewarded. That's the heart of Darabase, we've been running for over three years now. I'll gladly tell you more about how that's going but we're seeing a lot of traction and this is a super interesting space.


The timing right now with the whole movement around Web3 and Metaverse is creating a lot of excitement. You've got major brands trying to figure out what they should do. JP Morgan announced a big presence in the Metaverse and released an interesting white paper, encouraging all types of businesses to make a play and make a move. There's no downside in their words to making the move and experimenting with these emerging platforms.


We tend to think of the Metaverse often as bound to a headset and think of it as virtual. Your belief is that around us, the real world, the physical world can have an overlay. AR brought that in some way because the advent of games like Pokemon Go, even scanning QR codes, or having filters allows you to interact with your physical world in a digital realm. What happens when you have property or real estate and people start messing with that real estate? They start creating digital twins, adding graffiti and advertising, what happens? That's the challenge of solving.


It's an interesting distinction and I'm glad you made it. There's quite a lot of evangelism around Metaverse. A lot of people writing made by purists and quite evangelical around it saying, "There will only be one Metaverse. The Metaverse is the internet. You cannot have multiple Metaverses." It's certainly a way of thinking that this becomes the Web3, an entirely new way of being able to read, write, and interact with an additional realm. The way we think about it is that basically, it's about being immersed in the three-dimensional content. It's about content that you very much live within as well as it being on a flattened two-dimensional screen.


There's a far bigger opportunity in what we think of as the physical Metaverse, as you say, the way that we all commanded the world around us. There isn't virtually much but certainly in the short to medium term and the next 5 to 10-year timeframe. Many people reading this will have probably seen or read Ready Player One as an example. In this film and book, which I personally love, people are residing in their Oasis. It's a dystopian view, they're doing it because the real world is so horrendous.


There's a place to play in terms of a headset-related, fully-alternative reality within which you can interact, buy, play, love, enjoy, etc. As human beings, what I'm excited about is the fact that everyone's walking around right now with their head down, looking at this flat tiny screen in front of them. This is the way that they're increasingly living their lives.


What I believe is that the physical Metaverse allows us to be able to look up in the not-too-distant future because everyone will have heard that Facebook will have already launched Ray-Ban glasses, Apple is heavily rumored to be launching something in the next several months. Google had Google Glass some time ago but a lot of investment going in on Facebook or Metas. 20% of their entire engineering workforce, I understand is now working on virtual reality and augmented reality.


All these very large companies which are worth more than the first seed 100 each, all betting that our future will be digital. There's a huge opportunity from a human perspective, with controls in a non-dystopian way, start to augment the world around us in a way that is additive, which is entertaining, educational, and useful.


We see the beginnings of that, as you say, Pokemon Go, which some people will think, "I remember that was quite a flash in the pan some time ago." They made over $1 billion. This is a franchise which is incredibly successful and is painting the world with content. Similarly, Google Maps. If you go into walking directions and you choose live view instead of trying to work out where the hell you are, where the button is or, "Is it over there?" It uses a point cloud and visual technology to be able to understand where you are, and then start putting arrows on the world around you. You follow the arrows.


There are some useful and entertaining ways that AR can start to be addressed. We as Darabase work with a lot of property companies and brands to help them to do that too. Especially when it's commercial content, we're getting into the freedom of speech. A couple of things. One, we believe that has been persistent to nature. If I'm walking down the street and, in the future, I'm wearing glasses and in the field of your view, comes up some email. That's a little bit like me checking my email in the train station. It's not contextual to the train station. I just happened to be in that location.


If there's content there that everyone can see all at the same time, or there's inventory there. Even if people are seeing different types of content, that inventory is persistent and is available for multiple users. Especially when it's contextual to the location and it's also commercial in nature, then there's a bunch of existing regulation and law, the Lanham Act in the States, and passing off an IP and contract law. Things like the CAP code for advertising in terms of permission-based media that already apply to this new medium. We will see increasingly new case law that is specific to this new medium as well.



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About Zain Jaffer:

Zain Jaffer is an accomplished executive, investor, and entrepreneur. He started his first company at the age of 14 and later moved to the US as an immigrant to found Vungle, after securing $25M from tech giants including Google & AOL in 2011. Vungle recently sold for $780M.  


His achievements have garnered international recognition and acclaim; he is the recipient of prestigious awards such as “Forbes 30 Under 30,” “Inc. Magazine’s 35 Under 35,” and the “SF Business Times Tech & Innovation Award.” He is regularly featured in major business & tech publications such as The Wall Street Journal, VentureBeat, and TechCrunch.

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