For those who have always dreamed of higher privacy protection in online media, the Austrian startup PiktID might offer just the right solution. The AI face anonymizer uses AI for high-quality image anonymization, says Jennifer Simonjan, Co-founder of PIktID, who holds a PhD in camera network synchronization. Typical customers include marketing companies seeking to adhere to data protection regulations without compromising visual aesthetics. The company’s vision is to become a leader in AI solutions for the image industry while simultaneously expanding from images to video editing. In the interview, Jennifer tells us how it is going so far and that PiktID is now beginning to engage with potential investors.
Could you start by telling me a bit about yourself and your background?
Jennifer Simonjan: Together with my three colleagues, we created an innovative startup for AI-based face anonymization and editing in images. We are a mixed team coming from Austria, Italy and Slovenia with different backgrounds in AI, machine learning, software development, marketing and sales. I have a technical background as I did my PhD studies in the field of localization and synchronization of camera networks at the University of Klagenfurt, Austria. Besides that, I always worked in PR and communications at events, fairs and for different projects.
Could you tell me more about your startup? Specifically, what is the core product or service you offer, and what problem does it aim to solve?
The idea of our startup is to provide an innovative way of privacy protection in online media. Back in the day, my colleagues and I were still in our PhD studies, where we worked in the fields of cameras, computer vision and machine learning. Talking about all the privacy implications, we figured that there is no possibility of high-quality image anonymization, which does not destroy the aesthetics of the image. Thus, we decided to create a completely new way of face anonymization in images, that is easily accessible to everyone. Doing so, we constantly raise awareness about privacy protection, while also helping businesses and individuals to comply with data protection regulations without any bureaucratic burdens.
Can you describe your typical customer? Who do you see as benefiting most from your product or service, and why?
Our typical customers are marketing companies or departments, as they use digital media to advertise products or services. As soon as an image includes a person, this person has personal rights on the image, which means that either a model release is required, or the person should be anonymized properly to legally use the image. Furthermore, marketing images typically need some advanced editing to fit them well to the target group. EraseID enables users to anonymize their images with high-quality AI-generated faces, and additionally, to edit facial features such as age, ethnicity and emotions, in only a few clicks. Our app makes professional face editing accessible to everyone, which saves a lot of time and money.
Moving on, could you share more about your company’s journey so far? What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced and how have you overcome them?
We started developing our AI-based face anonymization and editing tool by ourselves. Step by step, we created the AI core of the system and the web application around it to make it easily accessible to everyone from the browser. As we are working ahead of the state-of-the-art in generative AI, a lot of research and testing was required alongside the software development. One of the big challenges is the computational power that a large AI-based tool like ours requires. There is no way around cloud-based solutions, which are costly. With dedication of our team towards the development, help of pilot customers to fine tune the product, and start-up funds and support to cover some of the costs, we were able to overcome the challenges. Today we offer an advanced online tool for high-quality image anonymization and editing, which comes with many innovative and unique features.
Can you share your vision for the future of your startup? Where do you see your company in the next 5 years?
In the next five years, our vision is to position ourselves as one of the leading innovators in AI solutions within the image industry. We aim to achieve this by expanding our portfolio of solutions, extending our anonymization and editing features from images to videos. By leveraging our expertise in AI and image processing, we plan to revolutionize how videos are edited and produced, ensuring privacy and enhancing creative possibilities. Ultimately, our goal is to become a key player in transforming the landscape of video editing through AI-driven innovation.
Shifting focus a bit, can you tell us about the team behind your startup? How do their diverse backgrounds and skills contribute to the success of your business?
We are a team of four people with diverse backgrounds and education from Austria, Italy and Slovenia, and we speak 6 different languages. Davide Righini is our allrounder with experience in electronics and engineering, as well as finance, and business planning. As our CEO he ensures smooth operations and a clear financial and management strategy. Jennifer Simonjan has significant experience in marketing and public relations besides her technical background in camera networks and computer vision. She is responsible for the online presence of PiktID and creates engaging and informative content that highlights the team’s work. Nunzio Letizia is specialized in deep learning, communications systems, and signal processing. As our lead developer and CTO, he ensures that our web app generates high-quality diverse, real-looking identities. Additionally, Nunzio is developing and fine-tuning PiktIDs tech strategy as well as following the tech trends in the field. Jernej Dvoršak excels in sales and business development, complemented by strong communication skills and a very open mindset. He stays up to date on current trends and the market, providing customer relations and innovative ideas along the way.
Now, let’s talk about financing: What about your startup’s funding so far? Do you have any investors?
PiktID has been incubated at Build! Gründerzentrum in Klagenfurt, Austria, which was a great help in terms of consulting and financial support. Furthermore, we are getting funding to cover the costs for the computational power required by our AI-based system. Rolling out our product last year verified that there is a pain that we are solving for our customers, and thus we now started talking to potential investors.
Could you explain your business model? How does your startup generate revenue?
Our business model is to provide SaaS for face anonymization and editing to our customers. The tool is easily accessible as web application, where users can purchase credits via a subscription or pay as you go scheme. Each credit allows a face generation or editing action.
Moving forward, can you discuss any significant achievements or milestones your startup has reached since its inception?
One of the biggest milestones that we achieved last year was the first registered customer, and from that point onwards, a constant growth in customers and interest. Personally, I felt achieving the most important milestone when our customers started reporting to us about how well the generated faces work for them and their privacy protection needs and marketing campaigns.
Could you share any advice or lessons learned that might be helpful for other aspiring entrepreneurs or startup founders?
Personally, I think that the founder team is the key to success. It is very important to get along well, to share the same vision and to support each other in the different phases of evolvement. Having different characters in the team might seem difficult at first, but is actually very enriching. We constantly learn from each other and support each other. Besides the team, building a good network is very important. That is needed to spread the word about the startup, to connect with potential investors and business angels and to get connected with the target group.