Borui Wang and Derek Yan, co-founders of Polarr, on the VatorNews innovation podcast

Bambi Francisco Roizen · January 17, 2024 · Short URL:

Polarr is an AI-based photo-editing company with significant traction amongst wedding photographers

On the VatorNews innovation podcast, Bambi Francisco Roizen speaks with Borui Wang and Derek Yan, co-founders of Polarr, an AI-based photo-editing company, backed by Menlo Park, Ca-based venture firm, Threshold.  The discussion is on how Polarr is innovating in the photo-editing space, especially how they’re helping wedding photographers cut down their post-production time by more than 75%. Check out Polarr's YouTube Channel where you can see how photographers are using Polarr Next.  

These podcasts are sponsored by Advsr; a boutique M&A advisory firm. They wrote the book on startup M&A called "Magic Box Paradigm: A framework for startup acquisitions." Also thanks to Scrubbed, an online bookkeeping firm. We highly recommend them!

Highlights from the interview: 

  • Borui and Derek met at Stanford about 10 years ago when deep learning was taking off. When they saw the proliferation of digital photos, social media and ever-improving photo quality, they saw the opportunity in managing images at scale. 
  • The evolution/revolution of digital photography can be broken down into three phases. First phase is the adoption of digital cameras during the early aughts. Second phase is the smartphone era when the iPhone was introduced in 2007. The third phase is the advent of social media where it became the defacto medium to share video and photo content. This gave the rise in demand for photo-editing tools.
  • From a cultural standpoint, photography has not only become a way to document our lives, but it’s become a form of self-expression. 
  • AI means many things to many people. For Polarr, the importance of AI or how to integrate AI, starts with the notion of improving productivity. AI helps augment and speed up tasks. 
  • There are a number of different AI tools. ChatGPT would be called generative AI; But there are also other types of AI, such as reinforcement learning and supervised learning. The majority of AI use cases for Polarr is supervised learning AI. 
  • Polarr is laser focused on working with wedding photographers because the bar for quality is extremely high. Such photographers also face the pain point of spending 20 hours to process a single wedding. Part of the post-production process time is spent doing repetitive tasks. People are willing to pay a lot for wedding photographers, and hence photographers are willing to pay for tools that can help their productivity. By using Polarr, wedding photographers become 10% more productive.  
  • Polarr has been able to save wedding photographers time by allowing them to make renderings on one photo that can be applied to the entire batch. In other words, the AI is learning a photographer’s style and going through thousands of photos to apply that same style.
  • The tailwinds that played in Polarr's favor are the rise of neural networks that run directly on the edge, and also maturity of low-level web APIs such as WebGL, WebGPU and WebAssembly. Together they allowed us to create workflows that are highly performant, low cost and offline for professional photographers. 

Listen in to the podcast for more from Polarr.


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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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