Tel Aviv-based visual search and product discovery platform Syte, already used by brands like Farfetch and Fashion Nova, plans to expand in the United States and Asia-Pacific region after its latest funding. The startup announced today it has raised a $ 30 million Series C, with an additional $ 10 million in debt.
The round was led by Viola Ventures, with participation from LG Tech Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures, Kreos Capital, and returning investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund. Syte’s last round of funding, a $ 21.5 million Series B, was announced in September 2019. The startup has now raised a total of $ 71 million.
Launched in 2015 to focus on visual search for clothing, Syte’s technology now covers other verticals like jewelry and home decor, and is used by brands including Farfetch, Fashion Nova, Castorama and Signet Jewelers. Syte says that its solutions can increase conversion by 177% on average.
The company’s platform includes three main products: Visual Discovery to let brands add camera search, recommendation engines and discovery buttons; “Searchendising,” which automatically generates tags based on visual AI to improve search and recommendation results; and a Discovery Marketplace used by publishers, smart devices manufacturers and social platforms to increase the reach of product advertisements.
Since the beginning of 2020, Syte says its customer base has grown 38%, partly because of the increase in e-commerce traffic caused by COVID-19 movement restrictions.
In the company’s press announcement, chief executive officer and co-founder Ofer Fryman said Syte will focus on developing or acquiring product discovery technology “spanning the full range of our senses—visual, text, voice, and more” to create types of personalized recommendations.
A lot of Syte’s current customers are in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, so its new funding is also earmarked to increase its presence in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific markets.
More social media platforms and e-commerce platforms, including Amazon, Target, IKEA, Walmart, eBay, Snap, and Pinterest, are using visual search and recognition technology to give users an alternative to keyword searches. By simplifying the search process or automatically generating tags, visual recognition technology can help improve search results and product recommendations, resulting in more conversions.
There is a roster of other companies that are also working on AI-based visual recognition and search technology for e-commerce. Other startups in the same space that have raised venture capital funding include Donde Search, ViSenze and Slyce.
Gal Fontyn, Syte’s vice president of marketing, told TechCrunch that it differentiates with visual AI algorithms developed by co-founder and chief technology officer Helge Voss, who previously worked as a physicist at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research).
Voss’ background in neural networks and machine learning allowed Syte to build a visual search solution that can produce results with over 95% accuracy in object-matching within less than a second, Fontyn said. Its algorithms have also been trained on millions of products from vendors around the world, which Syte claims gives it the “largest vertical-specific lexicon in the industry.” This is what allows it to recognize several objects within an image, and assign them detailed tags.
Brands that use Syte see a 423% increase on average on ROI, Fontyn added.
UK-based Pimloc has closed a £1.4 million (~$ 1.8M) seed funding round led by Amadeus Capital Partners. Existing investor Speedinvest and other unnamed shareholders also participated in the round.
The 2016-founded computer vision startup launched a AI -powered photo classifier service called Pholio in 2017 — pitching the service as a way for smartphone users to reclaim agency over their digital memories without having to hand their data over to cloud giants like Google.
It has since pivoted to position Pholio as a “specialist search and discovery platform” for large image and video collections and live streams (such as those owned by art galleries or broadcasters) — and also launched a second tool powered by its deep learning platform. This product, Secure Redact, offers privacy-focused content moderation tools — enabling its users to find and redact personal data in visual content.
An example use-case it gives is for law enforcement to anonymize bodycam footage so it can be repurposed for training videos or prepared for submitting as evidence.
“Pimloc has been working with diverse image and video content for several years supporting businesses with a host of classification, moderation and data protection challenges (image libraries, art galleries, broadcasters and CCTV providers),” CEO Simon Randall tells TechCrunch.
“Through our work on the visual privacy side we identified a critical gap in the market for services that allow businesses and governments to manage visual data protection at scale on security footage. Pimloc has worked in this area for a couple of years building capability and product, as a result Pimloc has now focussed the business solely around this mission.”
Secure Redact has two components: A first (automated) step that detects personal data (e.g. faces, heads, bodies) within video content. On top of that is what Randall calls a layer of “intelligent tools” — letting users quickly review and edit results.
“All detections and tracks are auditable and editable by users prior to accepting and redacting,” he explains, adding: “Personal data extends wider than just faces into other objects and scene content including ID cards, tattoos, phone screens (body worn cameras have a habit of picking up messages on the wearer’s phone screen as they are typing, or sensitive notes on their laptop or notebook).”
One specific user of redaction the tool he mentions is the University of Bristol. There a research group, led by Dr Dima Damen, an associate professor in computer vision, is participating in an international consortium of 12 universities which is aiming to amass the largest dataset on egocentric vision — and needs to be able to anonymise the video data set before making it available for academic/open source use.
On the legal side, Randall says Pimloc offers a range of data processing models — thereby catering to differences in how/where data can be processed. “Some customers are happy for Pimloc to act as data processor and use the Secure Redact SaaS solution — they manage their account, they upload footage, and can review/edit/update detections prior to redaction and usage. Some customers run the Secure Redact system on their servers where they are both data controller and processor,” he notes.
“We have over 100 users signed up for the SaaS service covering mobility, entertainment, insurance, health and security. We are also in the process of setting up a host of on-premise implementations,” he adds.
Asked which sectors Pimloc sees driving the most growth for its platform in the coming years, he lists the following: smart cities/mobility platforms (with safety/analytics demand coming from the likes of councils, retailers, AVs); the insurance industry, which he notes is “capturing and using an increasing amount of visual data for claims and risk monitoring” and thus “looking at responsible systems for data management and processing”; video/telehealth, with traditional consultations moving into video and driving demand for visual diagnosis; and law enforcement, where security goals need to be supported by “visual privacy designed in by default” (at least where forces are subject to European data protection law).
On the competitive front, he notes that startups are increasingly focusing on specialist application areas for AI — arguing they have an opportunity to build compelling end-to-end propositions which are harder for larger tech companies to focus on.
For Pimlock specifically he argues it has an edge in its particular security-focused niche — given “deep expertise” and specific domain experience.
“There are low barriers to entry to create a low quality product but very high technical barriers to create a service that is good enough to use at scale with real ‘in the wild’ footage,” he argues, adding: “The generalist services of the larger tech players do not match-up with domain specific provisions of Pimloc/Secure Redact. Video security footage is a difficult domain for AI, systems trained on lifestyle/celebrity or other general data sets perform poorly on real security footage.”
Commenting on the seed funding in a statement, Alex van Someren, MD of Amadeus Capital Partners, said: “There is a critical need for privacy by design and large-scale solutions, as video grows as a data source for mobility, insurance, commerce and smart cities, while our reliance on video for remote working increases. We are very excited about the potential of Pimloc’s products to meet this challenge.”
“Consumers around the world are rightfully concerned with how enterprises are handling the growing volume of visual data being captured 24/7. We believe Pimloc has developed an industry leading approach to visual security and privacy that will allow businesses and governments to manage the usage of visual data whilst protecting consumers. We are excited to support their vision as they expand into the wider Enterprise and SaaS markets,” added Rick Hao, principal at Speedinvest, in another supporting statement.
The internet we all know and use today has certainly changed a lot from its humble beginnings, back in the 1960’s. Google is a company that has made great strides in enabling people to sift through a large amount of data on the vast internet. During its recent Search On livestream, the company announced a host of new changes it’s making to Search, along with some new helpful features. Here’s a quick rundown.
Using AI to better Search, correct spelling errors and more
Google listed a whole lot of improvements that it is making to Search but there are some notable ones that stand out. Search is now almost completely using BERT or Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT). BERT was developed by Google as a technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training for bettering search results.
Additionally, the company’s latest research in AI has enabled it to better understand misspelled words. As per Google, one in 10 search queries every day are misspelled and the company is now introducing a new spelling algorithm. This new algorithm makes use of a deep neural net to improve misspellings detection by helping Google understand the context of misspelled words. This way it can help you find the right results in under 3 milliseconds.
Google Search is also getting some upgrades that come into play when one searches for specific topics. In depth scrounging of web pages is now better, which makes it easier for finding the answer to a user’s specific query. Google says that alongside web pages indexing, it is now able to index individual passages from the pages. The tech is claimed to improve 7 percent of search queries across all languages as it is rolled out globally. Google is also using neural nets to display subtopics better around a search query. This is expected to deliver better diversity for content when users search for something broad.
Helping people be safe during the pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic is something that has changed our lives forever. With contact tracing capabilities being built into the Android and iOS operating systems, it is clear that we need measures in place to help contain the pandemic’s spread. To further help people make smart decisions, Google will now show how busy a place is right now with the new live busyness update.
This is expected to help people decide when to visit an establishment so that social distancing is possible. There’s also a new feature to Live View, which will help people get essential information about a business before visiting. New COVID-19 safety information is being added to Business Profiles across Google Search and Maps. It will help you learn whether a business needs its patrons to wear a mask, make advance reservations and more.
Lens will now help with homework, and humm to find that song
Sometimes, simply searching via text is not enough. This is when other techniques to search come into play. Google offers voice and even the ability to search through a phone’s camera. During its Search On event, the company announced that the Lens service will now enable users to get step by step help while doing their homework. One simply needs to use the Lens from the search bar of the Google app on Android or iOS.
Google Lens can now also help users search for apparels or something else in a photo, to shop for it online. Additionally, if you want to buy a car, going to the showroom might not be the best option right now. Considering this, Google is enabling new Augmented Reality features that will let users check out some car models right from home. This feature is currently being experimented in the US with auto brands, such as Volvo and Porsche.
Ever had a song or tune stuck in your head but you can’t remember it? Well, Google is rolling out a new hum to search feature. It works exactly as it sounds. One simply needs to hum the melody to the audio option in the Google Search widget and hum for 10-15 seconds. You can do the same while using Google Assistant by opening the voice assistant and asking “Hey Google, what’s this song?” and then humming the tune. It will then automatically search for the nearest song match. The hum to search option is currently available in English on iOS, and in more than 20 languages on Android.
Image credits: Google
The pandemic has been a particularly challenging time for business development professionals who have had to find new ways of meeting prospects outside of conferences, in-person meetings, and other traditional methods. Grata has built the first search engine of small and mid-sized companies for recruiting, banking, and private equity professionals. Unlike a traditional Google search or legacy databases, instantly reveals companies by strategic fit, whether that be by what they do, how they’re positioned, or the markets they target. CEO and Cofounder Andrew Bocskocsky shares more about how Grata is transforming prospecting, the company’s seed round from investors that include Bling Capital. Accomplice, and Alumni Ventures Group, and much much more…
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