A Wave Of Billion-Dollar Computer Vision Startups Is Coming

Computer vision is the most technologically mature field in modern artificial intelligence. This is about to translate into enormous commercial value creation.

The deep learning revolution has its roots in computer vision. At the now-historic 2012 ImageNet competition, Geoff Hinton and team debuted a neural network—a novel architecture at the time—whose performance eclipsed all previous efforts at computer-based image recognition. The era of deep learning was born, with computer vision as its original use case. In the decade since, computer vision capabilities have raced forward at a breathtaking pace.

To put it simply, computer vision is the automation of human sight. Sight is mankind’s most important sense; it underlies much of human life and economic activity. The ability to automate it therefore opens up massive market opportunities across every sector of the economy.

(To be sure, other areas of AI—natural language processing, for instance—have also become increasingly powerful in recent years. But core technology breakthroughs in NLP have come more recently, and as a result NLP remains more nascent from a product and commercial perspective.)

The first wave of entrepreneurial activity in modern computer vision centered on autonomous vehicles. Several startup success stories in that field, including computer vision pioneer Mobileye’s $15.3 billion sale to Intel in 2018, highlight the technology’s power to transform markets and unlock massive economic value.

Today, computer vision is finding applications across every sector of the economy. From agriculture to retail, from insurance to construction, entrepreneurs are applying computer vision to a wide range of industry-specific use cases with compelling economic upside.

Expect to see many computer vision startups among the next generation of “unicorns.” A crop of high-growth computer vision companies is nearing an inflection point, poised to break out to commercial scale and mainstream prominence. It is an exciting and pivotal time in the technology’s…