Today we're announcing that last December we quietly closed our $11.5m series A. Since then, we grabbed and exhausted all of the pre-A perks and credits a startup like us could possibly apply for. (Even lucked out and snagged our .com domain before today's announcement 😉). Our new funding is backed by Threshold (previously DFJ Venture), Cota Capital and Pear Ventures. This is the second round of VC funding we received since Pear's seed investment in 2015. It represents an important milestone for the company not because of the funding itself but rather that we have a more clear and much bigger vision to chase after - to enable and inspire everyone to make beautiful creations.

When we started Polarr in 2015, our idea was to enable photographers to be more productive with more intelligent tools. With $1m of seed funding, we were able to reach profitability in mid-2016 and stayed cashflow positive until the team grew to 20 people in 2018.

We had a very clear idea when we started the company that the future of content is code, and the future in computation lies in smaller, more efficient mobile GPUs. In 2016 and 2017, we saw the research and publication community in computational content generation and editing start to grow exponentially. New research papers were repurposing conventional algorithms for creative work in music, writings, and imageries on weekly basis.

We believe this is largely due to the increased computing power and quality in cameras sensors in consumer devices. In 2019, most cellphones will be equipped with AI compute cores, 4K cameras, and we're seeing a new generation of users looking to creatively capture and express their lives with the new-found power in their hands. While the AI compute capabilities in mobile hardware are truly promising, today only a very small fraction of applications and software leverage the hardware. This is because:

  • The interfaces for apps to talk to AI hardware are still convoluted and fragmented.
  • Developers don't have easy access to high-quality AI modules for creative use-cases.

The problems above represent a much deeper and broader problem in the developer community and its perception of AI, and it's the exact problem our team has been struggling with for many years.

Since 2015, we have been building cross-platform, AI enabled, award-winning apps used by millions of photographers. Such process required us to continuously tackle A.I. interfaces with different device platforms and chipset vendors. Our apps also became an amazing platform for us to experiment with new creative A.I. use-cases to engage with our users. We pushed the limits of computer vision and neural network efficiency and trained a large set of modules that best represent our vision in content evaluation, manipulation, and curation. These modules help our users to tell stories in albums, guide photo composition in real-time, understand photo aesthetics, and navigate cluttered media libraries. The modules are not nearly perfect but provided us early evidence and confidence on how A.I. could be used to guide users to capture, modify and curate content more creatively.

While our own apps are direct beneficiaries of these modules, we also realized that other developers can use our modules to deliver the same AI enhanced experiences to their own users. That's why we chose to work together with Samsung, OPPO and many other companies who could benefit from computational photography and edge computing in AI. From here, we could see our technology touching hundreds of millions of users' lives and being loaded into billions of devices. We believe we have the right team, the right technology mix and ingredients to build the new generation of creative AI use cases, as well as the channels and experiences to market our use cases.  

In order to scale up our AI research and AI deployment capabilities, we need to have a bigger team to work on all the moving parts in the correct order. We want to surround ourselves with the smartest people as we scale up Polarr. We want to take what we've been working on and share it with a more diverse group of advisors and mentors. After debating between slower, more organic growth of the company from existing revenue v.s. faster growth through capturing the market opportunity of edge-computing, we decided to seek a great partner to join forces with and raise our Series A.

We started to pitch our company in October 2018. We were impressed by and found great chemistry with partners at DFJ (just renamed to Threshold Ventures) and Cota Capital, who were speaking our own language and culture, and most importantly believed our vision and our team's capabilities. After closing the round in December, we've been heads down coordinating our effort in hiring, planning and executing new initiatives in the company. It took us more than three months after closing to catch our breath to announce our Series A. We're gearing up right now to build a scalable infrastructure to help serve the power of Polarr's creative AI to many more large and small developers to enable and inspire their users to make beautiful creations.

We are only at the starting point of creative AI, and only scratching the surface of the possibilities of AI in content generation and delivery. If you feel excited about what Polarr is working on, shoot us an email to career@polarr.co or check out https://www.polarr.co/career.

Lastly, we'd like to thank all our team members, our advisors, mentors as well as our earliest believer Pear Ventures and Stanford StartX who helped us get to where we are today.

Borui
March 14th, 2019