Sotheby's has bought technology startup Thread Genius. The company has built an algorithm that can recognise images and then recommend similar images. This is a bold move for Sotheby's who are no strangers to the tech world, having previously worked with eBay and being an early adopter of live streamed auctions. This is one of several recent tech acquisitions by Sotheby's in the past couple of years.
Andrew Shum, Richard Vibert and Ahmad Qamar of Thread Genius.
Thread Genius is a relatively new company, founded in 2015, it debuted as part of TechStars New York’s Winter 2017 startups. Co-founders Andrew Shum and Ahmad Qamar, the company's only employees, have both previously worked for Spotify. They have since been hired by Sotheby's.
It seems that the aim for Sotheby's is to further build an AI based art recommendation engine in conjunction with the Mei Moses Art Indices, an art database of 50,000 images that Sotheby's acquired in 2016. Jennifer Deason, Sotheby’s Head of Strategy & Corporate Development, said: "The acquisition of Thread Genius and the addition of Richard, Ahmad and Andrew to the Sotheby’s team advance a number of initiatives related to the strategic capture and use of data to improve internal processes and provide a wider range of services to clients. Whie have united all of our data-related activities under one umbrella, which will accelerate innovation and provide benefits to both our internal team and our clients.”
Tad Smith, Sotheby's CEO said: “Historically, transactions would come together by matching an object with an individual’s preference at a certain price point, and Sotheby’s retains data in those three areas. By using advanced technology, we can deliver better insights and match those three elements faster, providing our staff with better tools, our clients with a better experience, and our consignors with even better results. We are committed to attracting and retaining talent in all aspects of what we do and are thrilled to welcome Richard, Ahmad and Andrew to Sotheby’s.”
A video presentation of how Thread Genius works can be found here.