Make. Creation. Work. –  “Focus on being creative, and let us do the rest”

Founded: 2016, Paris, France

Category: Artificial Intelligence, Computer Vision, Machine Learning, Photography, Video

Primary office: Paris, France

Core technical team:

Paris, France

Status: Private

Employees:600-800

Amount raised: USD$293.4M (4 rounds – Sept 2020)

OVERVIEW

  • Meero is primarily a photography production company that connects enterprise businesses that have large geographical influences with photographers who operate in those regions for gig contracts.
  • The company offers their enterprise clients standardization of quality, a simplified buying process, faster turnaround times, and lower prices. The photographers are offered freedom of administrative tasks (such as business development, photo editing, invoicing) so they can focus on doing the fun part of being a photographer, taking the photos.
  • Meero invests in 1) computer vision AI applied to drastically reduce time required to select, edit and organize raw photographs captured by photographers in the field, and 2) tools that improve their community of photographers’ business activities and workflow (increases user stickiness to the company).
  • The company rides the growing wave of business moving online and large multinational enterprises requiring consistent and high-quality imagery to compel consumers to buy in multiple geographical markets. Marketplaces that attempt to connect businesses with photographers have existed, but Meero was able to streamline the process, making it more efficient, standardized, and scalable.
  • Early on the company invested in a sales force that could deliver rapid growth in the customer base, centralized processes to deliver on promise of in-house editing, and raising funds. An official head of AI was in place a year after founding and was tasked with building the AI team.
  • The company is mostly known for its AI-powered editing software that enables consistent quality of edited photos, in large volumes at a lower cost

PERFORMANCE METRICS

  • Company valuation: USD$1+ billion (2019)
  • Estimated Revenue: N/A
  • Other metrics:
    • >60,000 vetted photographer partners
    • >31,000 clients
    • 1 photoshoot delivered every 25 seconds
    • Seven offices in Paris, New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Bangalore, Los Angeles, and Barcelona

ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Largest Series C round in France
  • Nominated for VivaTech Unicorn Awards and The Europas Awards Hottest European Unicorn 2020
  • Unicorn status in ~3.5 years
  • Fundraising: $400K pre-seed (2016), Series A = $18M (Sep 2017), Series B = $45M (Jul 2018), Series C = $230M (Jun 2019)

Sells

  • On-demand photo production services for major brands (enterprise level companies) – high-volume, multi-regional, and standardized with price, coordination cost, and turn-around time lower than alternatives
  • Customer acquisition service for photographers – provides gig work to photographers for a commission (estimated at 25%) of what the customer (i.e., brand) pays
  • Photo editing/collaboration services – photographers can outsource their editing to Meero. The claim is that 60 minutes of taking photos requires 4 hours of editing, so with less time spent editing the photographers can spend more time in the field with clients taking photos
  • MyMeero – tools for photographers to launch and improve their business
  • Meero Discovery – learn from professionals and improve photography skills
  • MeeroDrop – simple, free and collaborative visuals sharing tool
  • Meero Foundation – Supports documentary photography
  • Blind magazine – News in the world of photography

Channels

  • Partnerships – 1) complementor 3D imaging service company named Matterport, 2) vacation rental platform named RedAwning
  • Free product or product sold at a discount to attract customers:
  • Communities
    • Connect with photographers through existing online photography forums/communities
  • Social media
    • Geared towards photographers – Instagram, Facebook, YouTube
    • Geared towards mix of prospective employees and customers – LinkedIn
  • Ambassador Program – community building initiative, ambassadors organize meetings for photographers in cities around the world

Competencies

  • Big data, cloud, AI/ML
    • Uses deep neural network AI to combine and enhance images (edit – color, white balance, geometry, object removal, object addition)
    • Streamlines process to have trained editors (“retouchers”) to assist machine learning and handle quality assurance
    • Grows database of images that can be used to improve machine learning
    • Uses cloud storage to simplify file transfer between photographers and company
    • Tracks data on photographer behavior and pricing information through free service offers (author’s supposition)
  • Technology
    • Tracks and adapts leading research in computer vision and machine learning technologies to create solutions to company’s process challenges
  • Global
    • Coordinates completion of gig contracts across multiple time zones for 24-hour turnaround on edited photos
    • Identifies and attract photographers in multiple geographic regions with multiple languages and cultures
  • Brand
    • Unique positioning as global leader in important niche (disruptive to photography industry)
    • Provides free tools, free professional development advice, and a sense of community to gig workers to increase brand loyalty (user stickiness)
  • Business model
    • Uses technology to create niche that addresses a large and growing problem experienced by highly capitalized global companies

Distinct AI Features

Type

  • Convolutional neural network (for image processing)
  • “Meero uses a dual-deep convolutional neural network involving global and local feature extraction on a multi-scale basis, in order to make the algorithm thoroughly learn from the manually enhanced photographs, and to make it robust to changes in lighting (including white balance and color grading), scene semantics, and capture defects (such as noise or motion blur)”

  AI use

  • Advance the field
    • Recently started trying to advance applied research in the fields of computer vision and deep learning through contributions to academic literature
    • Mostly relied on applying advances made by others
  • Enable resource integration between service providers and beneficiaries
    • Used to drastically reduce time to deliver edited images to brands
    • Used to streamline gig contracting between photographers and brands

AI useRate of return on customer’s investment to make AI work

Immediate:

  • Brands (customers) wait less time and pay less money to acquire high volumes of images with greater standardization
  • Photographers can increase income by accepting gigs from Meero (effectively outsourcing customer acquisition, editing and billing)
  • Photographers can increase capacity to take more photos on site by using Meero service to outsource editing tasks

Long term:

  • Brands – greater annual sales from having recent, relevant, high-quality and consistent imagery on their websites or the 3rd party e-commerce platforms they use to sell
  • Photographers increase their personal income

Databases

  • Unique 25-million photograph database that is used for machine learning
  • Thousands of finished photographs (edited)

Quantum Computing

  • N/A

Resources

Assets

  • Computer vision deep learning AI
  • Marketplace user interface that connects customers (brands) and service providers (photographers)
  • Cloud-based performance improvement tools specialized for their users
  • High-quality, specialized tech team (80 growing to 300)
  • Large and growing database of photographs for ML training
  • Brand identity of being industry disruptor
  • Offices in 7 major cities
  • ~800 employees with ~50 different nationalities

Processes

  • Marketplace functions such as pricing, contracting and industry-specific photography instructions are all standardized
  • Image enhancement process (editing)
  • AI-Human quality assurance process
  • Types and number of photographs to be taken per photoshoot standardized to be used for machine learning
  • Narrative of benefits company produces is consistent across multiple years
  • Sales system – process involves using different but standardized incentivization schemes for Business Development Representatives (BDRs), Key Account Managers (KAMs) to close deals, and Customer Success Managers (CSMs) to ensure customers don’t churn (incentives changed 12 times in 18 months)
  • Photographer recruitment
  • Cybersecurity procedures (had a major breach early that changed the way the company operates)
  • Photographer workflow tools
  • Brand ambassador meetups and other information gathering initiatives

Priorities

  • Attain 5% market share of a $100B global market
  • Expand its customer base in new geographies
  • Build and improve proprietary photo editing and content enrichment technology
  • Increase revenue from major brands
  • Enter market for individual consumers
  • Accelerate the development of dedicated services for photographers that increases their interaction with and reliance on the company
  • Increase tech team from 80 to 300 members
  • Focus all external messaging around company’s key talking points and their CEO Thomas Rebaud

References

  1. Meero. 2020. https://www.meero.com/
  2. Crunchbase. 2020. https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/meero
  3. Craft. 2020. https://craft.co/meero
  4. Techcrunch. 2019. https://techcrunch.com/2019/06/18/meero-raises-230-million-for-its-on-demand-photo-platform/
  5. Techcrunch.2020. https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/26/here-are-the-winners-of-the-europas-awards-2020-even-a-pandemic-cant-stop-these-startups/
  6. https://sifted.eu/articles/meero-ceo-rebaud/
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgFui5Q57KY&feature=youtu.be
  8. https://www.penews.com/articles/eurazeo-joins-idinvest-taking-stake-in-photography-start-up-20190620
  9. https://www.eurazeo.com/assets-eurazeo/uploads/2019/06/20190619-Ez-Growth-meero-Final-EN.pdf
  10. https://medium.com/meeros-news/so-anyways-i-interviewed-the-ceo-of-meero-22c6fe46f148
  11. http://www.finsmes.com/2017/09/meero-raises-e15m-in-series-a-funding.html
  12. https://medium.com/venture-beyond/backing-meero-because-all-marketplaces-need-beautiful-imagery-f64e6241044a
  13. https://angel.co/company/meero/funding
  14. https://forum.we-get-around.com/topic/7786/meero—air-bnb-photographer-sub-work/
  15. https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/137-photographic-industry-professionals/382765-meero-legit.html
  16. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/meero-announces-partnership-with-matterport-300723762.html
  17. https://www.facebook.com/meerophoto/videos/328875285168073/
  18. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeanbaptiste/2019/06/26/ceo-tech-talk-how-meero-reached-unicorn-status-in-3-years-for-its-online-platform-for-photographers/#37d6054f4dd1
  19. https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/07/21/2065178/0/en/RedAwning-and-Meero-Announce-New-Partnership-for-High-Definition-Vacation-Property-Photography.html
  20. https://thefoxmagazine.com/photography/meero-launches-new-tool-to-facilitate-client-management-and-delivery-for-professional-photographers/
  21. https://thedeadpixelssociety.com/?s=meero
  22. https://www.ladigital.tech/en/is-artificial-intelligence-as-creative-as-man-is/
  23. https://direporter.com/industry-news/market-research-industry-news/state-photography-industry-meero
  24. https://europe.naverlabs.com/research/seminars/towards-ai-augmented-photography/
  25. https://medium.com/@alexandre_dewez/june-2019-french-startups-funding-rounds-fb26e8d12dd7
  26. https://www.blogdumoderateur.com/mythes-legendes-intelligence-artificielle/
  27. https://www.forbes.com/sites/meero/2019/04/03/from-startup-to-unicorn-how-meero-is-on-its-way-to-achieving-this-coveted-rank/#2f36b5a51f0e
  28. https://www.welcometothejungle.com/fr/articles/metier-intelligence-artificielle-meero
  29. http://iccv2019.thecvf.com/jobs
  30. https://www.linkedin.com/in/leo-mrl/?originalSubdomain=fr

Contributors

Eduardo Bailetti