This guest column is by Movin Jain, Co-founder of galleri5
Technologically disruptive startups
Every day, we hear about how startups are using technology to disrupt traditional business models and lifestyle habits. There are several startups that actually live up to this claim. And there are several that don’t.
Consider WhatsApp, they disrupted people’s texting habits, and made a cheaper and better alternative to SMS using technology. There are several messaging apps, and many of them have been around even before WhatsApp became mainstream. Yet WhatsApp achieved what none other could, and their biggest weapon for disruption was their superior technology. As a business, the difference this makes is that they could achieve a lot with a very few people. They were a 55-member team when they got acquired by Facebook for USD 19 billion.
Now take the example of Oyo Rooms , I wouldn’t call it a technologically disruptive startup. Yes you book your hotel room through a mobile app, but MakeMyTrip and Cleartrip were doing that long before Oyo came in. The actual disruption Oyo brought in was the idea that hotels owned and operated by thousands of diverse outfits could be branded as ‘Oyo rooms’ , which would create a unified and reliable experience for the customer across thousands of properties in the country. It’s a disruption no less, but not a technological one. I think there’s nothing bad about not being a technologically disruptive startup; in fact I’m a big fan of Oyo’s business model. In a recent tech conference, I heard Ritesh, founder and CEO of Oyo rooms, mentioning that they are a hotel brand more than a tech company, and it was pleasing to hear that Oyo recognizes this distinction well.
I wouldn’t attempt to define what a ‘technologically disruptive startup’ means because it can be very subjective, but I think you get my broader point.
What is galleri5?
galleri5 is a UGC (User Generated Content) based visual discovery platform, that helps people find things of interest, such as places to visit, food to try out, fashion and home decor ideas, etc.
Imagine being able to follow the things that interest you (say travel, adventure, street food, classical music, cricket etc) and seeing a feed full of the best photos posted by others on these topics. You do not need to know the people who post these photos, unlike on typical social networks where you ‘follow’ or ‘friend’ people. On galleri5 you just follow topics, or what we call ‘galleries’.
Why is Visual Discovery so important?
In our view the world is moving from actively looking for stuff, to coming across stuff they like or need, with the help of technology and content. Google disrupted search, and helped us look up anything online. Today and over the next few years, with the help of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, this will evolve into ‘Discovery’. People will trust a few large platforms with their data; these platforms will predict what people want, and try to show it to them when they want it. In some ways similar to Amazon’s crazy sounding predictive shipping idea.
Imagine you’re interested in holidaying on beaches. From your previous trips, we know you usually like to go on a holiday once in three months. So you could get a push notification or email asking you if it’s time for your next holiday, along with a few suggestions of amazing beach destinations you’ve not visited so far. You browse through the suggestions, and find one of the photos so beautiful that you immediately want to go there. So you click on it and find out more about the place, with an option to book the trip through one of the booking websites. That’s how we think of visual discovery of travel, and that’s one of the things galleri5 will do for you.
There are many other verticals where we can offer similar experiences through visual discovery , food, fashion, home decoration to name a few.
We believe that people are taking lot of high quality photos of things they do (places they visit, food they discover etc.) and nobody so far has truly leveraged the power of these photos taken by regular users.
We wrote a detailed article some time back on why we think UGC is the way to go, and what events and data led us to this hypothesis. Read ‘The Rise of User-Generated Content’ to know more.
What are some key technological challenges faced by galleri5?
Google, Facebook, Amazon and many other tech giants are trying to build AI, or Artificial Intelligence, which is a broad term encompassing many concepts. It would be prudent to say that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg yet , much more is still to come over the next few years. Being able to show users what they want before they ask for it, is one of the main asks for AI, and also one of the primary things galleri5 will do. We are excited to be working on AI at a time when the smartest people in the world are also doing the same. It won’t be easy, and that’s what keeps us on our toes.
I am personally very excited by the potential of two things: First, Crowdsourcing and second, AI/Machine Learning. Very few explorations have been done so far in the intersection of these two, and galleri5 is betting big on the outcome of this exploration that we have taken up. AI can not solve the Discovery problem fully, especially at present. Hence mixing it with crowdsourcing and letting the two augment each other, is a very interesting and nascent space that we are really bullish about.
We have developed a proprietary crowdsourcing algorithm to help people in contributing to the galleri5 platform and community while also discovering the stuff that interests them. We have gamified this experience, and the user earns ‘Karma’ for every valuable contribution towards the galleri5 community. It is still early days, but so far we have been pleasantly surprised by the power and success of this algorithm. Maintaining this power as galleri5 scales and as our community grows, is another technological challenge that we are looking forward to.
We deal with photos, and in the future, we will be adding more forms of visual content like videos etc. Image and video recognition is a problem that computer scientists globally have been working on for the past many years, and have had significant success. However a lot more still needs to be done in this field. For galleri5, this matters because we aim to organize visual content by topics, so that you see only the stuff that you’re most interested in. We have been working on our own image recognition algorithm while also exploring several existing APIs like Google Cloud Vision API. We have found that the image recognition technology that exists today is not sufficient for our use case, and we are pumped up about the prospect of making a contribution to this field of technology in the next couple of years.
Why do we love Technology? What does it mean in terms of hiring, culture, business model etc?
I studied Computer Science and then after doing an MBA, joined an investment bank. This made me lose touch with technology, but in a couple of years I realized I wanted to be back, so I shifted back into Tech. After this experience, I decided that Technology is truly what I want to do, and when I was thinking of starting my own venture, I was sure that my startup had to be technologically disruptive. I’ve written more about my personal journey in this article. Long story short, I had no doubt that technology has to be the single biggest needle – mover and our biggest differentiator at galleri5. I was fortunate to have found Rahul as my co-founder, who is also aligned to this thought and has a great understanding of and respect for technology.
We wanted to be a ‘tech startup’, so we gravitated towards business models that are technology intensive. During ideation, we were clear that everything we do must revolve around our core competency – technology. Every problem we face, we always attempt to solve it through tech. Now we are a team of about ten people, and not all of them are techies. Yet we have inculcated this tech-first thinking in the whole team, and will continue to do so when our team grows to a larger number. This also means that while hiring people, we look for a certain ‘love of tech’, even if the person will not be writing code. Our team is excited about everything tech, and even non-work conversations in office often revolve around the latest gadgets and many other tech-related topics.
To sum up, what keeps me excited about my work is the fact that galleri5 is at the cutting edge of technology and we have a real opportunity to contribute to the world through technology.
Disclaimer: This is a guest post. The statements, opinions and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of iamwire and the editor(s).