Facebook acquires visual search business GrokStyle

Social media titan Facebook has confirmed it has bought US-based online visual search company, GrokStyle.

No official market statement was made and the acquisition fee is undisclosed, but spokesperson Vanessa Chan said Facebook was “excited to welcome GrokStyle to Facebook”, adding “their team and technology will contribute to our AI [artificial intelligence] capabilities”.

GrokStyle’s website contains a statement from the business’s founders, but does not reference Facebook, suggesting the technology is set to be used and marketed to consumers in a refreshed way in due course.

GrokStyle said their technology was founded in 2015 to “reimagine the retail experience”, allowing users of the app to take a photograph and immediately be presented with a list of purchasable products matching the identity of the product in the photo. The start-up’s AI technology is used in Ikea’s Place app.

In a goodbye message to its customers via its site, which has now closed down, the San Francisco-based operation said: “We built state-of-the-art AI and visual search technology to help consumers readily find, explore, and decide on purchases.

“We partnered with major retailers, demonstrated revenue lift with our technology, and improved the lives of consumers across the globe. We are incredibly proud of what we have built – and believe we have only scratched the surface of what is possible with computer vision.”

It added: “Our team and technology will live on, and we will continue using our AI to build great visual search experiences for retail. As part of this next chapter, we are winding down our business.”

The message thanked customers, investors and employees, and said the business was “looking forward to what is ahead”.

“We are thankful that you shared in our vision, and it has truly been a pleasure working with you. Thank you for everything you have done to get us to today. It has been an exciting journey; we could not have accomplished what we have without you.”

GrokStyle’s CEO and co-founder Sean Bell’s LinkedIn page now says he is a “research scientist” at Facebook.