Startup to launch augmented-reality consumer product

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Leah Venegas, CEO and Co-Founder of Peekosa in her home office March 3 in Somers. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Augmented reality — technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on real life — has been around for a long time.

It wasn’t until last year’s Pokémon Go craze, though, that augmented reality tapped into the general population in a big way.

“Now people understand what it is. The market is more accepting to embrace that technology,” said Leah Venegas of Somers, the president and co-founder of Peekosa LLC, an augmented-reality solutions company.

Peekosa’s first product, PeekPerks, is designed and developed specifically for retail in an effort to help retailers and brands find more engaging content for consumers.

“Depending on the industry, it has an enormous range of applications,” Venegas said. “We’re starting in consumer-based businesses.”

PeekPerks aims to help retailers encourage foot traffic to their businesses.

“We’re trying to encourage people to come to stores,” she added. “Consumers are looking for experiences that relate to products and brands.”

Peekosa has developed a prototype of PeekPerks but is still working on a minimum viable product. The company has just contacted a production company to produce a video demonstration of the project.

“We need feedback from the industry,” she added.

VENEGAS, A 1991 Lincoln County High School graduate and University of Montana graduate in information systems, has nearly 20 years of experience in management, software development and systems design. She has led the design and development of complex civilian and military systems such as the U.S. Geological Survey’s Landsat-5/7 satellite programs, and also has worked on Army and Navy contracts.

“Most of my career was working as a contractor for the government on some kind of contract,” Venegas said. “I have a lot of different experience, moved around a little bit, got into management at this last company” that was mostly a virtual company but was headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Venegas said she was on the verge of getting burned out, working some 15- to 20-hour days when she was laid off. She and her husband Felix and their 3-year-old daughter relocated to the Flathead Valley for family reasons, she said.

After she left the Washington, D.C., company she immediately had ideas forming in her mind about the focus of her startup company. Venegas then brought on two partners, both of whom were her co-workers, to help her develop PeekPerks.

Wilson “Andy” Bell is the chief technology officer and co-founder of Peekosa. He has more than 30 years of experience in the information technology industry as a systems and software engineer and architect. Bell was the founding CTO of Snipp Interactive, a global loyalty and promotions company and was the architect of Snipp’s mobile marketing promotions platform. Bell is based in Virginia.

A third partner, Frank Sweeney, is based in Ireland. He has more than two decades of experience in the loyalty and payments industries, leading implementation solutions across a diverse range of clients such as large backs, national utilities and major retailers in Europe and the U.S.

All three founding members have all been involved in successful startup companies as well as working with retailers, brands and loyalty systems. The trio are bootstrapping the company until they can launch PeekPerks.

“We really want and need to get customer traction,” Venegas said.

While there are many augmented reality companies popping up these days, Venegas said she has been an enormous amount of time studying the technology.

“I haven’t so far seen anyone with a product like what we’ve designed,” she said. “We have the prototype built, and we’re looking at getting the demo [video] done this month.”

For more information, go to www.peekosa.com.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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