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The LDV Vision Summit is returning. Here is why

We sat down with investor and creator of the LDV Vision Summit Evan Nisselson, so he could tell us more about the upcoming 2015 edition of the Summit, as well as his thoughts about the visual web.

What worked well last year ?

Last year, we organized the first LDV Vision Summit. It was the first time that an event combined all the important aspects of technology and business across the visual technology ecosystem.  This visual ecosystem includes any individual or business that works with images or videos. We believe that the key people in this ecosystem are entrepreneurs building new businesses, investors, visual creators, computer vision experts, technology executives, and brand/media executives. We had about 40 renowned speakers and a sold-out audience with over 300 people from around the world, including Sweden, Germany, Bulgaria, Italy, England, France, Spain, the U.S., and more.

Brad Svrluga of High Peaks Venture Partners said, “Like any VC, I go to a lot of tech industry events, and I’ve gotta say… I have rarely if ever been to a first-time event that came out of the gates as strong as this one. Hats off, and I look forward to next year!”

Typically, the different sectors of our ecosystem have their own disparate events, such as startup competitions with entrepreneurs/investors, technical computer vision seminars, branding events, and media events. We successfully gathered them all at one event. Sophie Lebrecht is the CEO of Neon Labs, and she said, “It’s bold to bring everyone together from deep machine learning to publishers and brands – but it worked so well! I learnt a lot and met some great people, so thank you so much for including me!”

 One of the main reasons that we created this type of event was to increase the opportunities for all attendees across each business priority: recruiting, funding, business deals, networking, strategy, and inspiration.

 Startup founders are frequently looking to meet investors, recruit key employees, and sell their services to executives at established companies. At least nine companies that were showcased at our last summit have since raised funding or been acquired, including Magic Leap, $542M, led by Google Ventures; Taboola, $117M, led by Fidelity; Narrative, $8M Series B, led by Khosla Ventures, including True Ventures and LDV Capital; Placemeter, $6M Series A, led by NEA; Neon Labs, $4.1M Series A, led by Mohr Davidow; Mapillary, $1.5M seed, led by Sequoia, including Wellington, Playfair, and LDV Capital;, $1.25M seed round from Horizons and KEC; Clarifai, funded by Google, Qualcomm, Nvidia, and LDV Capital; and Aviary, sold to Adobe.

 Investors are always looking for interesting new startups to fund. Erik Nordlander from Google Ventures said, “It was a pleasure judging at the summit…  really innovative companies.” We were fortunate to have many great investors on stage, in the audience, and judging competitions. Om Malik from True Ventures joined me in a fireside chat, and he recapped our discussion on his blog: “On visual web, a photo is worth more than a 1000 words.”

 Entrepreneurial computer vision experts joined for inspiration, for networking, to meet recruiting companies looking to leverage their expertise, to license their unique intellectual property, or to meet others to start new companies. Genevieve Patterson, a computer vision PhD candidate at Dartmouth, said, “I found a great job at Clarifai from meeting the founder at the last Vision Summit – very happy!”

 Media execs said that they found technical solutions that they were looking for to to better track, distribute, and monetize their content properties. This was music to my ears.

 We had two successful competitions as well: 1) Alexandre Alahi, CEO and Co-Founder at VisioSafe was the winner of the Startup Competition, 2) Serena Yeung, a computer vision PhD candidate at Stanford University, won the Entrepreneurial Computer Vision Challenge with her EgoStitch.

Serena Yeung, a computer vision PhD candidate at Stanford University, won the Entrepreneurial Computer Vision Challenge with her EgoStitch.  ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Jessi Hempel, now a senior writer at Wired Magazine (formerly at Fortune) wrote, “Words are dead. Here’s what will replace them. Fortune explores the visionaries who are making it happen,” which highlighted our LDV Vision Summit.

What did you learn from last year’s edition?

Our summit focused on deep discussions about how visual technology can empower and disrupt businesses while also learning how these new services may affect humans. We learned that recruiting opportunities were successfully delivered to many, and we believe that this will continue to increase as our event continues to bring more people from around the world.

We are expanding our next LDV Vision Summit to make it a two-day event. Day 1 will be a deep dive into the technology of our ecosystem, and Day 2 will be focused on the business and product aspects. This will allow us to add more sessions that dig deeper into the important categories across both days. We believe that everyone will benefit from joining for both days.

What’s new for 2015 ?

We’re expanding our LDV Vision Summit to two days! The first day, we will dive deeply below the surface of technology topics across the ecosystem. The second day will focus on business and product topics. Each day will have sessions from world-class photographers, videographers, and investors.

 Day 1, May 19, 2015, will include discussions on the most important technical trends, computer vision and artificial intelligence advancement, challenges in scaling exponentially, and the impact of these technologies for business. Topics will include computer vision, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, mapping, robotic imaging, medical imaging, and computational imaging.

 Some questions we will discuss include the following: When will camera phones have the technical features and capacity to capture content with the quality of high-end professional DSLRs and HD video cameras? Can computer vision deliver sentiment analysis to help advertisers target valuable services, or will e-commerce companies be able to automagically deliver products that we want before we ask? With thousands of hours of video uploaded every minute, can computer vision tell us the 1% that is personally relevant to me? How will Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat scale their backend when they go from billions of data files uploaded daily to trillions of data files hourly? When will the masses be able to make 3D pictures on their mobile devices with one click, and do they want to? When will we be able to capture images and video around corners? Today, we all have at least one camera on us at all times, but soon we will have many cameras on us every day. How will this help or hurt society?

 Day 1 will include judging of the finalists from our Entrepreneurial Computer Vision Challenges. This is the first competition ever to combine computer vision research challenges along with aspects of a traditional hackathon with APIs and SDKs. We are calling it the #LDVvisionHack, and competitors have two months to create solutions that impress their colleagues, companies that are recruiting, investors, and the judges. We hope that all levels of computer vision experts and enthusiasts will decide to compete. Last year, several competitors were hired or met others with whom they are now building companies.

Judges for the Entrepreneurial Computer Vision Challenges. [L-R] Gary Bradski, Magic Leap; Moshe Bercovich, Shutterfly; Serge Belongie, Cornell Tech; Jan Erik Solem, Mapillary; Sophie Lebrecht, Neon Labs; Navneet Dalal, Google, Research Scientist; Tamara Berg, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media
 Day 2, May 20, 2015, will focus on the business and product aspects of the Visual Web ecosystem, including in-depth discussions on the most important trends, such as the future of cameras, moving advertising dollars from TV to digital, content (engagement, monetization, and publishing), global video distribution, content creation and discovery, future media companies, content augmented reality, analytics, and exciting new opportunities to help brands market their products. Technology is fascinating, but it is only a science project unless it solves a problem in a way that people are willing to pay for.

Some questions we will discuss on Day 2 include the following: Will publishers continue to maintain their own destination sites, or will they only publish within major platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, or the next startup coming out of a garage? Where will the majority of people watch short videos versus long videos? Will there be a new breed of media companies or will established players evolve? What are the opportunities for Investors in the  coming years? Will Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook replace publisher destination sites? What percentage of Ad Dollars will move from TV to Digital in the next twenty four months? Where can we get the highest value advertising across the Visual Web and how to best measure value? What are the video user trends and where will people watch in 5, 10 and 20 years? Does automatic personalization & discovery work better than humans? Is Instagram the new real-time News Channel? Does humanity want to communicate in pictures or video?  2D, 3D or Augmented Reality?

 We believe that attendees will want to join each day for different reasons. Business and product focused attendees will also benefit from the inspiration, insights on trends, and recruiting opportunities of Day 1. Any entrepreneurs looking for co-founders will be able to leverage both days for learning and networking. Technically focused attendees will benefit from the second day similarly through inspiration, insights on trends, and finding potential co-founders for their businesses.

 What are some Interesting trends you notice in the last year ?

There are many interesting trends across our ecosystem these days that we will cover at the next LDV Vision Summit. The technology for capturing 3D images is improving rapidly, but do the masses prefer capturing images in 2D or 3D?

Rob Fergus, Facebook Artificial Intelligence Lab. “Recent Progress in Computer Vision Using Deep Learning”   ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media


There has been tremendous progress in computer vision products, features, and businesses in the last year. We showcased many at our last summit, and we will do so again. This is a sector that I track very closely, and five of the our LDV Capital investments leverage some form of computer vision: Clarifai, Mapillary, APX-Labs, Camiocam, and Narrative. We are looking forward to investing in more in this sector, so you should apply for the LDV Vision Summit Startup Competition if you are working on something unique.

Jan Erik Solem, Mapillary CEO.  ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Some say that, every year, we get closer to computer vision solutions that deliver 100% accuracy, but will this happen in our lifetime? Some of the major sectors will be disrupted or empowered by computer vision, such as medical, logistics, search, publishing, mapping, manufacturing, fashion, and maybe even politics one day. What unique services and businesses will computer vision solutions empower or disrupt in the coming years? Will computer vision become a commodity?

Gary Bradski, Magic Leap, VP Computer Vision & Machine Learning. ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Augmented reality and its variations have been around for years, but recent advancements in technology, and the acquisition of Oculus Rift in July 2014 by Facebook has quickly helped validate this sector as having increased future potential. Last year, we heard from Gary Bradski, the VP of Computer Vision & Machine Learning at Magic Leap, which recently raised $542M, led by Google Ventures.  Companies are starting to create content for augmented reality glasses, and we will definitely see major growth and competition in this new sector as the hardware gets cheaper. Will people want content mostly for games, entertainment, pornography, or virtual world experiences?

The acquisition of YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock in October 2006 was not fully understood by the media and press. That was only nine years ago. However, they have definitely validated their vision, as it’s believed that they will make over $1B in revenue in 2014. Last year, we had YouTube stars The Dave and Ethan Show, and every day, there are new entertainment stars created on YouTube. “As comedians, we weren’t quite sure what to expect at the LDV Summit. But seeing as we do much of our work on YouTube and in the digital space, it was really cool to learn about how future technologies will change the ways in which we develop and create content,” said Ethan Fixell.

judges to for the startup competition: Judges for Startup Competition 2014: [R-L] Rob Go, NextView Ventures; Pankaj Jain, 500 Startups; Kelly Hoey, Cuurio; Murat Aktihanoglu, ER< Accelerator; Erik Nordlander, Google Ventures; Betsy Morgan, The Blaze; Ellie Wheeler, Greycroft Partners; David Pakman, Venrock;Amol Sarva, Knotable, Halo Neuroscience; [back row] David Aronoff, Flybridge Capital Partners. ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media
Video is watched everywhere, and this is another subject that we will dig into. Artificial Intelligence startup DeepMinds was acquired by Google for more than $500M, and one of their first projects inside Google is analyzing YouTube content to find ways to increase activity and revenue.

More professional photographers and videographers are taking pictures and making movies with their mobile devices instead of their high-end professional digital equipment. This trend will continue until mobile devices are responsible for 99% of the content created around the world, including professional content. High-end DSLR and HD video cameras will become art objects to keep doors open, similar to the status of black-and-white darkrooms. However, I do miss the smell of fixer on my fingers from the days when I used to develop my own film many years ago.

[L-R] David Aronoff, Flybridge Ventures; Om Malik, True Ventures; David Pakman, Ventrock; Evan Nisselson, LDV Capital. ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media
 Computational imaging will help mobile devices replace high-end capture devices. We discussed this last year on our investor panel. Software can adjust the depth of field during and after creating visual content, so why do we need this feature on a camera? Of course, many photographers, especially professionals, want this feature. However, a majority of enthusiasts with high-end cameras never set their controls to manual, so this audience would benefit from improved automatic features.

 Additional progress is being made in software for zooming and to replace other traditional manual camera features. From about 2003 until recently, my professional photographer friends and enthusiasts would have disagreed with me that camera phones would revolutionize the photography industry. They said that mobile devices would never have the quality of high-end cameras, especially because the glass would not be as good when miniaturized. Well, I now have high-end Schneider glass for my camera phone for zooming, wide angle, and macro situations. Many companies are shipping attachable lenses for mobile devices. These attachable lenses for mobile devices are a great interim step prior to software delivering the quality necessary to displace all attachable lenses. We will discuss whether these computational imaging advancements will become big business or just valuable features in a suite of products.

[L-R] Rebecca Paoletti, CakeWorks; Betsy Morgan, The Blaze; Megan Cunningham, Magnet Media; Erick Schonfeld, TouchCast; J.R. McCabe, Time Inc. ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media
 Television historically was the place for brands to communicate their messages to the masses with the help of major ad agencies. At first, there were only a couple of channels that charged a premium, and then cable and satellite TV delivered hundreds of channels, which allowed almost anyone to buy an ad for a specific market at different costs.

Brands as Publishers and Content Creators. [L-R] Rich Greenfield, BTIG; Todd Sawicki, Zemanta; Jason Krebs, Maker Studios; Jeffrey Madoff, Madoff Productions. ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media
Now there are many more possibilities to market brands, from Twitter or Facebook to Google, Snapchat, and Bing to YouTube. Pre- and post-roll video, banners, email, overlays, and, yes, still print and TV.

Will publishers continue to maintain their own destination sites, or will they only publish within major platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, or the next startup coming out of a garage?

Betsy Morgan, The Blaze, President. ©Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Who attended and who should attend the Summit ?

Our goal is to gather the brightest people from the sectors of the Visual Web ecosystem. We believe anyone working in and with images or video benefit from the sessions, networking, recruiting, meeting investors, finding services to solve problems and increase revenue. The six key sectors are technology executives, media and brand executives, investors, startups, visual creators (photographers and videographers), and computer vision experts. Early-bird tickets are available for the LDV Vision Summit until April 15, 2015. Hope to see you at the summit on May 19 and 20, 2015.


[ NDLR : Kaptur is a media partner of the LDV Vision Summit and will be bringing you privileged coverage of the event and its guest. Stay tuned……]

Photo by merrittglenn



Author: Paul Melcher

Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.

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