In late 2005 Google was on the verge of acquiring a company called Riya – the first real attempt at image facial recognition and tagging for consumers. Google eventually walked away from Riya, and the company trudged on.
In 2009 the Riya product was shut down, but the company had already refocused its efforts on ecommerce – using the Riya core technology to let people search visually by seeing images that are similar to other images. Like.com was born. And they raised nearly $50 million in venture capital since 2006 and has revenue in the $50 million/year range.
Google is now in the final stages of acquiring Like.com, we’ve heard from multiple sources, for something north of $100 million.
What we can’t quite figure out is why Google is buying Like.com. It doesn’t fit neatly into mobile or their new social strategy like so many of their recent acquisitions. Like.com does have real visual search technology though. Perhaps Google, which has experimented with visual search, likes what it sees.
CEO Munjal Shah, a friend who I’ve known since 2005 (he launched Riya in my back yard) suddenly won’t take my calls or emails. So we’ll wait for confirmation until he’s ready to talk.