Last week, Bangalore-based image recognition and visual listening platform, gazeMetrix, was acquired by Toronto-based social intelligence company Sysomos. Co-founded by Deobrat Singh, Saurabh Paruthi and Debayan Banerjee in 2012, gazeMetrix, is a platform which enables brands to know when and where their brand was photographed across social media. The idea to launch gazeMetrix was triggered while watching an IPL match, and at that time, the team had no idea that it would develop into such an exciting product which will get finally get acquired by Sysomos.
It all started with a weekend in Delhi….
Deobrat recalls fondly the weekend they built this app which enables a user to download other apps. All one had to do was take a picture of all the apps one wanted to download, say by clicking a picture of all the apps on the phone of a friend, and the app would recognize all the apps in that picture and download them. Though the team polished the product quite a bit, but it could not garner much traction. Inspite of low downloads of the app, the team still managed to raise seed funding to the tune of $40k from angel investors. These angel investors were no one else but bosses in their respective companies who merely invested in the idea. The team so as to say had no model in place, but it was one investment they garnered even without having to make a formal presentation. Such was the power of the underlying idea! It would be the technology they would later apply to build gazeMetrix, triggered by an IPL match!
The IPL Match
It was the IPL season of March-April 2012 which triggered the real push for gazeMetrix. While watching one of those matches, Deobrat realised that brands pumped in a lot of money by putting their logos on the players’ helmets, uniforms and so many other goodies. He wondered if they have a way to figure out the ROI from these. His search led him to a company called TAM Media Research, which detailed these metrics on their website as to which brand had how much visibility in a particular match. Deobrat decided to pitch his technology to TAM. One call at the reception, and a meeting was fixed with the head of analytics. He told her that they had a software product which did the same-measuring visibility. She asked the team to give a demo! Of course given the fact that they only had the technology with them at that moment and not the actual product, the team set out to develop the product in a week’s time. The company loved the product and started a pilot with it, this was a beginning of gazeMetrix’s journey.
During this time, the team also participated in the startup event Unpluggd held at Bangalore, where the product received a favourable reception. It also managed to garner the attention of some VCs. By that time, the team had exhausted much of their seed funding, with only about $1,200 (INR80k) left in the bank, and the flight tickets to Bangalore costing them another $300 (INR20k). However as luck would have it, they evoked the interest of the accelerator 500 Startups. The team though had been approached by other investors as well, but they decided to sign a term sheet with 500 Startups as it offered them a chance of gathering global exposure. The team got to spend 6-7 months in the Silicon Valley and honed their product over a period of one year.
While the team fine-tuned the product, they realized that TV analytics was a tough space to break into. Brands were not ready to buy data from anyone except Nielsen. That was also the time when Instagram was getting popular. While analytics firms were focusing more on the text in the photos, but they were not paying attention to the photos itself. The team decided to run a pilot on this. Using gazeMetrix, they searched for Starbucks photos in Twitter images. The search resulted in about 9,000 photos. Similarly, they ran pilots for other consumer brands such as Coke and Nike, and came up with results running in thousands. This clearly showed that people were taking a lot of pictures of brands which the brands would want to know about. There in the lay the validation and a huge opportunity for gazeMetrix.