Austin’s Zebra Imaging Closes $5M Loan to Boost Retail 3-D Holograms
Zebra Imaging closed on $5 million in a planned $5.2 million debt financing obtained, in part, to see the company through the budgetary chaos of the federal government’s two-week shutdown in October.
Chuck Scullion, Zebra’s CEO, called the deal “a bridge loan to ease over that timing.”
The cash is important since Zebra’s primary customers are government entities. The Austin-based imaging company provides military and intelligence officers holographic tools that create 3-D images—that can be seen without needing special glasses—to analyze terrain for field incursions or to plot out a sniper’s line of fire. It also works with businesses, offering imaging of offshore drill platforms or architectural models for trade shows.
“You just shine a light on the hologram and you can produce a 3-D image you can see with the naked eye,” Scullion says. “From a satellite image, you can create a perfect topographical map.”
The money, which the company closed on last week, is also earmarked for Zebra’s plans to expand its customer base beyond government and to include retail consumers. Under the “Order Your Hologram” tab on its website, users can upload a photo to convert into a 3-D hologram. “It can be as large as you want, say a wall,” Scullion says. “Most consumers want to do a picture of a child to create a 3-D hologram that you hang on the wall.”
Though it can offer consumers made-to-order holograms, Scullion admits that Zebra’s current website isn’t as good as it should be, and needs upgrading. Part of the recently raised funding will be used for this, he says. “We need to work to make it more accessible for consumers,” he adds. “So you can take your iPhone and go around the object and capture it in 3-D frames to send in to us and and print out.”
Zebra was founded in 1996 by scientists in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Laboratory and moved to Austin a year later. It now has just under 20 employees. “It’s time to look and go down the commercial ramp and expand our scope there,” Scullion says.