Dany El Eid, the founder and CEO of Pixelbug Technologies Inc.—a pioneering AR company that has worked with such multinationals as P&G, Nestle, Lego, and Sony—is moving back to Montreal.
After growing up in the city, he moved with his family to the United Arab Eminates and started a career in digital marketing. But after hearing about Montreal’s burgeoning AR/VR ecosystem, he decided to move back and set up a new HQ for Pixelbug here.
“I grew up in Montreal when I was much younger, then I moved with my family to the UAE. I first started off my career with Puma as their digital marketing manager for the region. From the exposure I had with this multinational I started exploring different technologies that could help increase brand engagement and loyalty. Subversive ways of communicating the brand.”
After that, Dany started a company called Out of Bounds that helped with grassroots marketing using social media before returning to the corporate world and starting another company.
“I’ve been going in and out of entrepreneurship throughout my career, so I’ve had experience with startups as I was progressing. All the while using digital means to help market brands to their target audience.”
“The way Pixelbug started off was I was building a proposal back in 2010 for a head mounted device, and I pitched that to the Qatar Foundation. They were running a program called Stars of Science, and out of 7,000 participants—people submit their ideas and their innovations from all around the world—I was selected as one of the 16 that got their project funded. And that’s when I really started diving into AR and VR.”
When Dany realized the region he was in was not conducive to hardware development, he chose to focus on software. When he returned to Dubai in 2012 he launched Pixelbug.
“Very quickly I landed my first client, which was Proctor & Gamble. We did three projects with them. And then we did a very big project for Nestle that also incorporated AR elements to help increase sales for the Nesquik brand. From what we learned with Quicky’s World, the AR app we built for Nesquik, we created our own free-to-play B2C app called Colorbug that brings colouring books to life using augmented reality. The reason we created Colorbug was that we heard feedback from parents that their kids were spending too much time on passive play, not devoting their motor skills enough. So we thought AR was the perfect way to combine the traditional activities, like colouring, with innovation of augmented reality.”
Colorbug is available for free on iOS and Android and allows you to colour in sheets just like you used to when you were a kid. Except using the app brings that colouring to life with AR while staying true to the way the colours appeared on the page.
“From there we managed to get a grant from MIT, we raised a seed round from investors and multinationals in Silicon Valley, and then I started realizing there was a cap to how much I could progress with this step of technology in the region here. And hearing how much was going on with AI and gaming out of Montreal, I thought that this was the best time to transition back.”
Dany was hearing murmurs about Montreal from where he was in Dubai through all the usual tech channels and blogs: how Montreal was up and coming in terms of being an entrepreneur-friendly city.
“I heard about the government subsidies supporting tech entrepreneurs. And obviously the city is well known for its gaming, where VR and AR have their roots and a lot of potential. Ubisoft being headquartered there with so many other gaming companies, there seemed like there was a big push from the government to support AR and VR companies out of Quebec. That made it very attractive for me to really consider. And I’ve been considering it since last year, planning the entire transition ever since I was in San Francisco with Boost VC and thought that if I really wanted to take the company to the next level I had to be somewhere where there was a much friendlier ecosystem for entrepreneurs.”
El Eid visited the city recently to register and incorporate the company and expects to move here by early April. He’ll be building an entire dev team here, the idea being that they will continue building on top of Pixelbug’s existing products like Colorbug or the AR platform currently in beta, then transition the entire R&D team here as well.
“I’m really excited about it. I’m really eager to come back to Montreal and see how we can push the AR industry forward, especially with the great talent that’s there.”