Truepic, which just raised $26M in a Microsoft-led round, aims to verify the authenticity of photos and videos

Truepic, a digital image verification software provider, has raised $26 million in a Series B funding round led by M12, Microsoft’s venture fund.

Adobe, Sony Innovation Fund by IGV, Hearst Ventures and individuals from Stone Point Capital also participated in the financing, which brings San Diego-based Truepic’s total raised since its 2015 inception to $36 million.

Rather than trying to detect what is fake, Truepic says its patented “secure” camera technology proves what is real. The startup’s technology acquires “provenance” data (such as origin, contents and metadata) about photos and videos and uses cryptography to protect the images from tampering before they reach the intended recipients. 

As such, the company says its software can authenticate where photos were taken and prove that they were not manipulated since there are an increasing number of deceptive photos and personal information that can be purchased on the Dark Web, social media and via software that can change the metadata of an image’s time or location.

“Our approach is unique in that we are verifying the authenticity of content at the point it is captured, which is also referred to as ‘provenance-based media authentication’ versus detecting anomalies or edits post-capture,” Truepic CEO Jeff McGregor told TechCrunch. “We believe that detection of fake images and videos will not be viable or scalable. Provenance-based media authentication is the most promising approach to universal visual trust online.”

Truepic’s camera technology is software-based, and runs on mobile devices. Photos and videos captured through its camera are cryptographically assured to be unedited, original images, according to McGregor, with “trusted” metadata such as time, date and location.  

In particular, Truepic’s technology — for which it has 13 patents — has been popular among an increasing number of financial services companies, McGregor said. Insurance companies, for example, are using it to verify claims remotely. This has been particularly meaningful during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in its early days when in-person interaction was avoided at all costs. But it also has a number of other use cases, he said.

The company must be doing something right. Its technology is used by over 100 enterprises, such as Equifax, EXL Service Inc, Ford Motor Company, Accion Opportunity Fund and Palomar. 

And last year, Truepic says its revenues grew by over 300% thanks to “dramatic client growth” across the insurance, banking, automotive, peer-to-peer commerce, project management and international development industries. McGregor declined to reveal hard revenue figures, though, so it’s hard to know just how significant 300% revenue growth is. He added that the company is intentionally not yet profitable as it is currently focused on speed of distribution for its core technology. 

The use cases for Truepic’s technology, according to McGregor, are quite broad given how pervasive untrusted photos and videos are. Its customers include any organization that is ingesting digital photo or video content, and requires a high level of trust in that content. For example, it works with insurance companies, banks, peer to peer commerce, online marketplaces, real estate and franchise organizations, warranty providers and automotive companies, among others. Generally, companies with platforms that rely on visual media — such as home rental, news media, online dating, social media, e-commerce, sharing economy, traditional media — can benefit from Truepic’s technology, according to McGregor.

“We imagine a world where the origin and authenticity of all digital content is verifiable, allowing humans to gain higher trust in what they view online,” he said.

M12 Principal James Wu said that the number of deep-fake videos and synthetic media online is growing at an exponential rate. 

“Used nefariously, manipulated media can result in negative political discourse, reputational consequences, and fraudulent claims,” he wrote via email. “The pervasiveness of synthetic media is a growing business risk for corporations — especially established brands — and solutions like Truepic will become an integral part of an enterprise’s end-to-end fraud management strategy.”

He went on to describe Truepic as a “pioneer” in provenance technology, which M12 believes is the most reliable way to establish the integrity of the data contained in photo and video files. 

“There has been a great deal of investment in synthetic media, but very few are thinking about the other side of the coin — when synthetic media is used nefariously,” he said. “Truepic is at the forefront of providing tools to maintain a shared sense of reality online.”

The company plans to use its new capital in part toward speeding up the release of a new product, Truepic Lens, that will power “trusted” image capture in third-party applications, “regardless of industry or use-case,” McGregor said.

“This will create a single integration point for any customer that requires trusted media to run their service,” he said. 

It also plans to use the new capital to increase distribution for its current flagship product, Truepic Vision, a “turnkey” platform for requesting and “instant” reviewing of trusted photos and videos from anywhere in the world.

The company also, naturally, plans to hire. It currently has 50 employees, up from about 25 a year ago. McGregor expects Truepic’s team will double to 100 over the next 18 months.