Monday, April 12, 2010

Google has made its first ever UK acquisition buying the startup, Plink

The acquisition follows chief executive Eric Schmidt's statement that Google is aiming to acquire at least one company each month – as well as recruit more staff – as it expands the company post-recession.

Founded by PhD students Mark Cummins and James Philbin, Plink's first product was PlinkArt, a visual recognition app for mobile that analyses pictures of well-known artworks and paintings and identifies them. Users can then share the photo with friends and also click through to buy a poster version.

The developers claim the app was downloaded more than 50,000 times in the six weeks following launch, and Plink have also held discussions with galleries including the Tate over potential partnerships.

The two founders will work on Google Goggles, the search giant's visual search project.

Cummins and Philbin founded Plink nearly two year ago while PhD students at the University of Oxford's mobile robotics and visual geometry groups in the department of engineering.

The app was brought to Google's attention during the Android Develop Challenge in December last year, an initiative to promote innovative new applications for Google's mobile platform, when the pair won $100,000 – Plink's sole funding to date.
James Philbin explained how Plink's technology works: "It picks out repeatable elements from the image you take and comes out with a statistical representation of them." That process works even at different angles and different lighting conditions.

"We found our way into art almost by accident, because we were really interested in visual search. But art is compelling space because it is so empty. There isn't even a definitive site for art," said Philbin.

Cummins said the two had the classic startup dilemma of deciding whether to accept Google's offer – or to acknowledge that endorsement of the product and keep developing independently. But they opted instead to accept Google's offer and become the first UK startup to be bought by the technology giant.

"It feels good, yeah," said Philbin. "I'm not complaining."

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