Barra Studio: seizing opportunities in startup competitions and developing AR technology and innovation

10 2018 | Issue 29
Text/Hazel Ma

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Company profile

Year of establishment: 2017 | Company scale: 3 employees

Initial capital: $50,000

Business scope: AR content production; 3D model development; AR interactive design



Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment whereby the objects that reside in the real-world are augmented by computer-generated perceptual information. The technology has stirred up a craze in the industry. Nowadays, users only need a smartphone to enjoy AR experiences. Barra Studio, founded by millennial entrepreneur Cheong Ka Man (Kammy) and his partners, Leong Ka Chon (Alex) and Tong Weng Hou (Felix), is a student startup focusing on AR content. The startup pays extra attention to 3D model development and AR interactive design.


Kammy and his two computer-science-major partners are all from the University of Macau. They became partners in the 2017 Youth Entrepreneurship Programme organised by the Macao Economic Bureau during their summer vacation and won the third place. After graduating from college, they decided to start an actual company. The three of them have different specialties. Alex is a designer while Felix is a tech professional. Kammy on the other hand specialises in business operation and innovation. The characteristics of the three founders dictated the three directions the company aims for: innovation, technology and design.


Making use of its own advantages


"AR content is unique as it is an experience based on both physical and virtual elements. We can use AR technology to augment real-world objects and tell stories through virtual content. For instance, our naked eyes can see the Ruins of St. Paul. But with AR, we will be able to show the audience the church behind the ruins that is no longer there,” Kammy said. “Or we can make animations for real dishes at a restaurant to make the meal more enjoyable.” Barra Studio has self-developed technologies while having experience in different design areas. The startup is still trying to add AR element into different designs to fully utilise its advantages.

Barra AR interactive marketing platform is an ongoing investment for Barra Studio. The platform covers different industries and makes it simpler for users to dive into marketing operation. The platform implements AR technology to tell brand stories, helping them provide consumers with additional experiences. Apart from that, they are also dedicated to diversifying consumption experience through content design. For instance, the AR Menu project allows consumers to actually see what the dishes look like. At present, their project has been announced at Sky 21, a local restaurant in Macao. But the project is still in the experimental phase and hasn’t been officially rolled out to the market.


Startup competition veterans


The three young entrepreneurs have participated in all entrepreneurship-related competitions in Macao from September last year to May this year. Compared to startup competitions in other places, the ones in Macao have three distinct features: the cash reward is big; there aren’t many participants; and less competitive. Besides, startup competitions in Macao offer great infrastructure, from consulting service, office space, to even administration procedure, etc. That is why Kammy highly recommends startup companies in Macao to participate in competitions to gain more experience.

However, he believes that Macao positions itself as a tourism-centric city with focuses on the gambling industry and exhibitions, and that limits entrepreneurs’ choices regarding industries. Subsequently, companies like Barra Studio that focus on technology and innovation lack local capital support for sustainable development. There aren’t many companies in Macao that are dedicated to these two areas either. Such companies have no choice but cater to the existing pillar industries in Macao when it comes to developing applications in the market. Entrepreneurs from these areas often find themselves looking for investors outside of Macao.


Careful operation


As newbies in the startup scenes, they need to keep building up their knowledge base on the current economic status, finance, business operation, human resource management and company strategy, etc. to make up their lack of understanding of startup management.


The AR industry is still in its early phase. Everyone is still exploring. Barro Studio is exploring the possibilities in AR and other potential application scenes just like any other AR company in the industry. The studio also encounters many technical difficulties when they are trying to develop 3D models based on physical objects. “The company is still exploring. We don’t have a long-term project that profits yet,” Kammy said. “Even though we have got a lot of praises at startup competitions, we still need to invest more attention in our strategy, technology development and business operation.”


Future exploration


At present, Barra Studio hasn’t reached the break-even point yet. The cash reward the startup company got from startup competitions is not enough to sustain the long-term operation of the company. Fortunately, the market accepts AR quite well, which is a rather surprise. But it remains unknown whether AR can be successfully commercialised.


The company is working to find investment and specific use cases to enhance its fundamental competence like AR technology and production capability, while seeking an adequate business model that can achieve stable operation and profit. Barra Studio hopes to promote AR in the future and assist companies and other organisations to produce demos. This will not only enrich their portfolio but also garner more attention from the market.