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Viewdle raises $10M for face-recognition tech

The company is backed by Best Buy Capital and BlackBerry Partners Fund

Financial trends and news by Faith Merino
October 5, 2010
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/125a

Face recognition technology is in high demand these days, and Viewdle became the latest face recognition tech company to make headlines, announcing Tuesday that it has raised $10 million in a series B round led by Best Buy Capital, BlackBerry Partners Fund, and Qualcomm, with participation from previous investor Anthem Venture Partners.

Viewdle has joined a long line of face recognition tech companies that have either been bought up or funded in recent weeks.  Notably, last week Apple bought Swedish startup Polar Rose, while Tel Aviv-based Face.com received $4.3 million in funding from Russian search giant, Yandex.  Viewdle differentiates itself based on its claim that its technology is capable of “real-time, cross-platform visual analysis at the point of capture,” according to the company’s press release.  In other words, the technology is capable of identifying faces at the moment the image is captured, and the technology can automatically recognize faces in photos and videos across different platforms, including computers, mobile phones, and the cloud.

Founded in 2006, Viewdle’s technology has been 10 years in the making, first developed at the Cybernetics Institute in Kiev, Ukraine as an ex-military university laboratory project.  Recently, the technology became commercially available, and in 2008 Viewdle won the Le Web pitch competition.

Following Viewdle’s success at Le Web, Bambi Francisco Roizen, investment banker Ezra Roizen, and Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of search experience analyzed Viewdle and its commercial potential.  

The Vator Box team identified the company’s strengths and weaknesses—noting in particular that the challenge of identifying faces on the Web was changing as face recognition technology was attempting to deliver a solution.  With the rise of YouTube and Flickr, there are more faces online and thus more chances to mix up look-alikes, which proved to be problematic for Viewdle when the Vator Box team tried it out (a search for Angelina Jolie came back with photos of Marilyn Monroe). 

But the Vator Box team also noted back in 2008 that Viewdle had big monetization potential in licensing to media companies that need an automated way to identify and tag content.  In a way, that appears to be the route Viewdle took, but with a more business-to-consumer model in mind by working with Facebook to allow users to automatically tag and manage Facebook photos from their desktops.  Once the user downloads Viewdle, he or she simply logs into Facebook and allows Viewdle access to his or her friends list, and then the technology assigns and suggests tags for untagged photos.

With Best Buy and BlackBerry Partners behind the funding, it comes as little surprise that Viewdle plans to use its new funds to support the launch of new consumer products.

“This new investment allows us to roll out exciting new consumer applications on our platform. With the world's largest independent visual analysis research team, we will also continue to invest in technology innovation," said Viewdle co-Founder and CEO Laurent Gil in the company’s press release.

Best Buy Capital’s Kuk Yi and BlackBerry Partners Fund’s John Albright will join the Viewdle board.

Image source: viewdle.com


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