Founded by Donegal-raised Dan Purcell, Ceartas is on a mission to make anti-piracy a ‘hands-off and frictionless’ experience using AI.
A few weeks ago, I attended the NDRC Demo Day at Dogpatch Labs in Dublin, where seven highly promising start-ups from across the island of Ireland pitched their business ideas to an audience of investors, founders and other players in the region’s booming entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Each as good as the next, the founders described innovations ranging from an app that uses machine learning to make language learning easier to one that promises to deliver groceries to customers within 15 minutes.
But the idea behind one of the start-ups was particularly moving.
Ceartas was founded by Dublin-born Dan Purcell in 2020, after some of his personal content was leaked online. The start-up uses artificial intelligence to provide copyright and brand protection services for content creators and enterprises to “take back what’s rightfully theirs”.
Legal protections for adult content creators around the world can be scarce and confusing to navigate. The content-creation economy is booming. Purcell estimates the market to be worth around $46bn and with 2.1m creators on OnlyFans alone, he wants to help put things in order with tech.
Then there’s the traditional media ecosystem, another target market for Ceartas, which experiences piracy across TV shows, movies, music and even software.
“We essentially use AI to automatically detect, validate and remove infringing or problematic content,” Purcell told SiliconRepublic.com.
Big Tech background
Traditional methods require users to upload the original content to fingerprint and reverse search, which can be a tedious process. Instead, Purcell wants the experience to be hands-off and frictionless.
“Using our proprietary tech, we actually use the pirated, stolen content we find to build out the identity model,” he explained.
Raised in Donegal, Purcell is an engineer by background with more than 15 years of experience. Before founding Ceartas, he spent eight years working across Big Tech such as Apple and Google in California “cutting his teeth”, learning about the many processes involved in the business of tech.
“I learned not just about product development, management, scale (internally and externally), and success but also product death – some things just don’t work,” he said.
Knowledge of what doesn’t work out surely helped him make Ceartas work, however. With more than 600 customers across the world, including some big agencies in the US, the start-up is well on its way to becoming a big player in the copyright and brand protection space.
Recently named the official safety partner of OnlyFans, Ceartas has formed partnerships with major movie and TV show distributors across the Middle East and Asia. Purcell said it also has the highest success rate for removals as scored publicly by the Google transparency report.
Gearing up to scale
But unsurprisingly, like in the case of many other early-stage companies, hiring has been a challenge.
“There’s a lot of fear and anxiety right now within the tech sector around job security and, with the high cost of living, prospective employees are no longer prioritising equity. Instead, they are prioritising high salaries – which can be difficult for a start-up.”
Investors, however, are picking up on Ceartas’ promising proposition. Purcell says the start-up is in talks with venture capitalists who have shown interest and there are plans to start raising funding in the next few weeks.
The ultimate goal is to “turn anti-piracy from a reactive process to a proactive one” by slowing it down and stopping revenue-bleed and brand dilution.
“[We want] to protect all users who have a digital presence from manipulation, be it via stolen content or artificially generated content such as deepfakes,” Purcell said.
“We’re also profitable and growing month over moment so overall there’s no complaints from us. We’re just getting started.”
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