LogoGrab’s founders discuss the importance of scalability in AI

5 Feb 2020

From left: Alessandro Prest and Luca Boschin. Image: LogoGrab

LogoGrab founders Luca Boschin and Alessandro Prest discuss why they decided to launch a business in Ireland, why scalability in AI is crucial, and how they are just scratching the surface when it comes to use cases.

LogoGrab has developed AI technology that can detect logos in very large volumes of images and video. A former Siliconrepublic.com Start-up of the Week, LogoGrab was founded by Luca Boschin and Alessandro Prest, and has been based in Dublin since 2014.

The company’s chief technology officer Prest, who is a former Google researcher in AI, worked with CEO Boschin for a number of years before they launched LogoGrab.

We recently caught up with the pair to discuss the different use cases they have discovered for LogoGrab in recent years and where the company hopes to head in the decade to come.

‘Those would be our three reasons for moving to Ireland – language, talent and culture’

Running a business in Dublin

Explaining how they ended up in Dublin after meeting in Switzerland, Prest said: “We were both studying in Switzerland and we had LogoGrab in our pocket as a project we were working on. The time came where we raised sufficient funds to leave everything else aside and focus 100pc on LogoGrab.

“We decided to move to Dublin for three main reasons. The first was the language – English-speaking countries are easier places to be based for certain technologies. Secondly, we were drawn here by the talent – there’s lots of investment in talent here. Finally, there was also the important element of culture.

“We find Dublin to have a significant lack of discrimination, compared to parts of continental Europe. We’ve always admired that mindset. Those would be our three reasons for moving to Ireland – language, talent and culture.”

When asked about the company’s future in Ireland, Boschin said: “Dublin is a central hub for us. Everything crucial happens in Dublin. We believe in remote working, because our team is always on the go and travelling, so we allow everyone in the business to have the freedom to work wherever they feel most comfortable and most efficient.

“Dublin will always have a central role for LogoGrab. We are moving to a new headquarters in a few weeks, so there is definitely a long-term investment in Dublin for us, but we also have a presence in New York, where we’re based in the Bank of Ireland offices in New York City.”

Right now, there are currently 13 on the team, which Boschin said is “very small for the growth and revenue that the company is seeing”.

Scalability is key

However, Prest noted that LogoGrab can manage well with a relatively small team. “We are very lucky because the product and the company was always built on being scalable and very efficient so that we could solve a company’s problems with limited resources. That’s something that allowed us to build a unique product.

“We’re reaping the benefits of going into an area where few people wanted to go. It’s particularly challenging from a technical perspective, but what we did with the original offering of LogoGrab was help companies to recognise brands and logos in pictures at scale,” Prest added.

“That problem was challenging enough that it required a significant technical investment at the beginning to get it right, but today it’s acting as a very high barrier to entry, so we have a good head start in this space.

“This has allowed us to expand the offering into other areas, because we started with the hardest thing first, became a leader in that vertical, and now we can expand the offering to other sectors and verticals. It allows us to complement the offering more and more.”

The CTO added that the company benefitted from an obsession he and Boschin had early on with quality and scalability, allowing LogoGrab to develop a strong, scalable API, while its team gained new skills.

“We started in the so-called ‘AI winter’, where you had to build everything yourself,” Prest said. “There weren’t many tools available. Everything had to be homebrew. That really helped us to build something extremely robust and solid that is hard to beat these days.”

Social media monitoring

LogoGrab marketing director Franco De Bonis explained to Siliconrepublic.com that when he joined the company he assumed that logo detection would be a pretty simple task.

“The guys explained to me that a logo is basically a squiggle,” he said. “It’s much harder to detect and compare logos because you have very little data to work with versus facial recognition, which sounds very complex but is easier because there are far more data points to work with.

“If you have a Nike swoosh, how do you know that’s a Nike swoosh, versus virtually anything else? How can you detect the swoosh from a high perspective, or when it’s on the floor of a basketball court, or if it’s blurry or very, very small in the frame? That’s where the complexities come in.”

‘Our clients build this technology out into extremely diverse applications – this makes our job really exciting’

The company began by working in industries where there was an obvious need for this technology, such as social media monitoring. Prest said: “In this space, you have quite a few businesses whose job it is to help brands understand who is speaking about brands, along with when and where.

“Traditionally, companies would perform their job by scraping text that was shared on social media, and when they identified the name of the brand in the text, they would capture the content and then extract all of the different content around the brand to deliver insights.”

Now that social media has become increasingly visual, with images and videos being shared across different platforms, this has become more difficult. “Social media monitoring companies can’t see the images and videos that people share, but with our technology, brands leading that space such as Brandwatch and Sprinklr have solved that problem,” Prest added.

Other use cases

Prest said that this issue was “low-hanging fruit” for LogoGrab to solve. The company then realised that its technology could be used to protect brands from counterfeiting or copyright issues.

LogoGrab is now used by eBay to help identify fake products and the founders have begun to look at holographic detection services for the sale of luxury goods and high-value electronics.

Boschin added: “We also plan to go into ad detection, to give customers the ability to differentiate ads from normal content, which is really good for providing intelligence to companies and allowing them to see competitors ads.

“We can detect and classify advertisements and things within advertisements. We’re specialising in quite a few verticals with this technology. What’s even better is that our clients build this technology out into extremely diverse applications. This makes our job really exciting because we get to see loads of different, incredible ways that our technology is being used.”

The founders believe that they are just scratching the surface when it comes to discovering use cases. They told Siliconrepublic.com that LogoGrab plans to launch a whole new brand and offering for clients in 2020, with a broader offering in computer vision and visual identification.

The plan going forward is similar to the one the company began with – build a solid tech foundation that can be later applied to more verticals.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic