Sothebys buys AI startup to sell art using image recognition

Thread GeniusSotheby’s is looking toward AI to innovate the way that people purchase art. The New York-headquartered auctioneer has acquired Thread Genius, a startup which uses algorithms to identify objects and suggest images of similar objects. The financial details were not disclosed.

The auction firm, which was founded in London in 1744, intends to use Thread Genius’ technology in combination with the data it already has to help match its clients to pieces they would be interested in, based on their tastes and budget.

“Historically, transactions would come together by matching an object with an individuals preference at a certain price point, and Sothebys retains data in those three areas,” said Tad Smith, Sothebys CEO.  “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.”

Thread Genius was founded in 2015 by CEO Andrew Shum and CTO Ahmad Qamar – both of whom previously worked and Spotify, and both of whom will be joining the Sotheby’s team along with former Arbor Ventures associate Richard Vibert.

“The acquisition of Thread Genius and the addition of Richard, Ahmad and Andrew to the Sothebys 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,” said Jennifer Deason, head of strategy & corporate development at Sotheby’s. “We 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.”