You want a cat and know exactly what kind. How, how to find the yearned-for feline? Or the dog of your dreams, the iguana you envisage, the ultimate long-haired guinea pig with pink eyes? PetMatch is an app to find your ideal pet using cutting-edge image search technology made by an Israeli startup called Superfish.
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Superfish aims to do for searching by image what Google does for searching by text.
“Our algorithm compares two pictures and determines if they’re similar or identical,” says Adi Pinchas, the CEO of Superfish.
Helpfully, Superfish is not only developing the technology but mobile apps to use it as well. PetMatch is but one of its image-driven offerings.
“Say you’re in the park and see a cute dog,” Pinchas says, explaining the concept. “You can take its picture using the PetMatch app on your phone.”
The app then compares the picture of your new love interest with pictures in the company’s database suggests visually similar dogs. In the United States, Superfish works with PetFinder; in Israel it’s starting work with the nonprofit association Yad4.
The startup doesn’t make money from all this pet-matching. It’s a good deed, says Pinchas, who notes that two or three dogs routinely come to work at Superfish with their human companions.
Another Superfish app is WindowShopper, which is where the company makes most of its income. This is a program for computer or iOS; the mobile version is called ShopScout. When you’re shopping online, this software generates recommendations for similar products on other sites, based on the image of the original product. The company’s income is based on directing surfers to these e-commerce sites.
Some 120,000 stores with more than half a billion products – from shoes to watches to lawn mowers – have joined and been indexed in WindowShopper.
“What’s nice about WindowShopper is that it enables us to make money, but not in a way that bothers the user,” says Pinchas. “We show him similar products made by our affiliates in a way that helps him choose. If he goes into an affiliate store, or makes a purchase, we get money – it can reach 5% to 20% of the deal.” The app works in North America, Europe, Russia, Japan and India, he says.
The company plans to launch a similar app for furniture shopping soon: it has a database of 30 million items of furniture at 6,000 affiliated stores. Same principle: see a couch you like, take a picture using the app and find similar items.
Growth rate: 26,000%
It’s unusual for a company to handle both the underlying technology and the app. Why not outsource the app? Well, it started that way in 2006, developing just the technology, and basically had no real income through 2010.
Also, they felt they needed to prove the concept, explains Pinchas. “People didn’t grasp the need for visual searches, so we undertook to develop the apps, too. Now we believe visual search is going to become a structured feature in all smartphone cameras.” They’re already in talks with the big phone manufacturers, he says.
These days, Superfish is growing like an über-weed, even making fourth place in Inc. magazine’s list of the 500 fastest-growing startups (based on revenues over three years). In 2013, Superfish achieved revenues of $35.3 million, compared with $135,000 in 2010 – an increase of 26,000% in three years.
“The fact that we’re the fastest-growing software company in the Inc. 500 reflects the tremendous market traction we’re already seeing, and we’ve just scratched the surface of what is possible with visual search,” Pinchas told the magazine.
The company has 65 employees in Israel and 25 more in Palo Alto.