Russian technology surveillance startup NtechLab makes $ 13M from sovereign wealth funds – TechCrunch


NtechLab, a startup that helps analyze movies captured by 100,000 surveillance cameras in Moscow, just closed an investment of more than 1RUB billion ($ 13 million) to promote global expansion.

The five-year-old company sells software that recognizes faces, silhouettes and actions on videos. It is able to do it on a large scale in real time, allowing customers to react quickly to situations It is a key “differentiator” of the company, said TechCrunch co-founder Artem Kukharenko.

“There could be systems that can handle, for example, 100 rooms. When there are so many cameras in a city, [these systems] connect 100 cameras from one part of the city, then disconnect them and connect another hundred cameras in another part of the city, so it’s not that interesting, ”he suggested.

The last round, funded by Russia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, and a Sovereign Wealth Fund that is not disclosed by the Middle East, certainly carries more strategic than financial importance. The company also boiled down last year with revenues reaching $ 8 million, three times the number from the previous year, and expects to end 2020 at a similar growth rate.

However, the new round will allow the startup to develop new capabilities such as automatic detection of aggressive behaviors and vehicle recognition while looking for new customers in its main markets of the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America. The city’s contracts have a major revenue factor for the company, but it plans to treat non-governmental clients, such as those in the entertainment, financial, commercial and retail industries. hospitality.

The company currently boasts customers in 30 cities in 15 countries across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia and Europe.

These customers can purchase from a variety of hardware vendors that present different graphics processing units (GPUs) to perform computer vision activities. As such, NtechLab needs to ensure that it is always in tune with various GPU providers. Ten years ago, Nvidia was the ideal solution, Kukharenko recalled, but rivals like Intel and Huawei have grown in recent times.

The Moscow-based startup began life as a consumer software that allowed users to find someone’s online profile by uploading a photo of the person. He later turned to video and has since attracted government clients eager to implement facial recognition in law enforcement. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian government used the NtechLab system to monitor large meetings and implement access control.

Worldwide, authorities are struggling to implement similar forms of public health surveillance and monitoring for virus control. While these projects are usually well-intentioned, they inspire a much-needed debate around privacy, discrimination, and other consequences brought about by the scramble for large-scale data solutions. NtechLab’s opinion is that when used correctly, video surveillance generally does more good than harm.

“If you can monitor people enough [effectively], you don’t need to shut down all the people in town … The problem is people who don’t obey the laws. When you can monitor these people is [impose] a penalty on them, you can better control the situation, ”said Alexander Kabakov, the company’s other co-founder.

When it expands around the world, NtechLab inevitably comes across customers who abuse or misuse their algorithms. While it claims to keep all customer data private and has no control over how it uses its software, the company is committed to “creating a process that can be in compliance with local laws,” he said. said Kukharenko.

“We use our partners to be able to trust them, and we know they won’t use our technology for bad purposes.”

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