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Google’s Riya Designs?

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Update: Tentative confirmation of the deal at $40 million.

Exclusive: To paraphrase a popular Bollywood ditty, Is Google singing O Riya! O Riya!

Since this past Thursday, I have heard whispers that Riya, a Redwood City, California-based photo service is being courted by Google. Now this rumor has been repeated by multiple sources, though not one of them is directly involved with the two companies. One of them indicated that this is still at due diligence stage. I am putting this in highly rumored and unconfirmed category. “Your inquiry is about rumor and speculation and we’re not able to respond to questions of this type,” Google spokesperson Barry Schnitt told me. I have left message for Riya founder Munjal Shah and also emailed him, but thus far no response.

Riya, as a company hasn’t even launched, and is supposed to have a coming out event at Tech Crunch’s BBQ this friday! Riya’s technology could be used to extend Google’s reach in the picture domain, where they are completely overshadowed by Yahoo. If this company ends up in the hands of Yahoo, well as far as photos go, its end game! I wonder if Microsoft made a play for the company? Of course, Riya is just the kind of technology that could help tag the photos of the big GigaPixel project.

If and that is a massive if, the deal happens, it could be part of the continuing trend of Google acquiring innovative start-ups and talented teams, in early stages. I have a story in the next issue of Business 2.0 (same as the one which has Erick’s Flickrization of Yahoo story) that analyzes Google’s buyout strategy. This one might diverge from that strategy slightly, because (as per Silicon Beat) Riya’s backers are Leapfrog Ventures and Bluerun Ventures and have invested close to $4 million in the company.

Updated: Niall thinks the price is going to be $40 million. Paul says even he was hearing the same story in corporate boardrooms.

PS: I guess I am officially off the GYM diet.

80 Responses to “Google’s Riya Designs?”

  1. Google doesn’t need to buy Riya… there is plenty of image recognition stuff around, for cheap, works as well or better than Riya, and 5 of Googles programmers can take these engines, and slap much better tagging and annotation features around it.

    Google is not stupid… due diligence in this area will show up much better and mature technology.

  2. Google did not buy Riya, nor do they intend to.
    This is a well-planned publicity stunt by Riya folks, who “leaked” this rumor, and see how much attention this start-up already received…
    Their technology is not innovative at all: computer vision and face recognition have been around for many years.
    Google has tons of clever researchers and developers and does not need to buy technology they can easily develop themselves.

  3. Google is always rumored to be in on the big deals (Skype, AOL) but never “wins”. Isn’t it obvious that Google would never actually go through with such a deal? Google buys tiny companies in hypergrowth stage, not huge companies on the decline.

  4. The rumor is entirely unfounded. There are much much better technologies and research prototypes out there. Unless Google is misinformed or stupid, a simple site with primitive face-recognition technology can be duplicated in a couple of months.

  5. Google to take on Yahoo’s Flickr .. it really does make sense if you think about it. Would probably also include some sort of integration with Picasa. Picasa only has a basic “create HTML” publishing ability, circa 1997.

    It also seems Google is now more open to the content hosting business (i.e. Google Base) so this is not too far out.

  6. om,
    if you get a chance, check out the google service launch/stock table that i posted today. i’m going to amend it tomorrow to include acquisitions and perhaps include how much the stock jumped after each service/deal was announced. crazy times…again!

  7. This sounds like a veyr good idea for Google. I was dissapointed that Yahoo got Flickr, but this looks even better. I hope that IF they do acquire it they keep it in the same way that they have kept Blogger, Picasa and Dodgeball, i.e. not immediately rebranding it into “Google Photos”. The Google services that they have acquired and kept less integrated with the other Google services tend to be better in my opinion.

  8. Having followed Riya’s progress somehwhat, $40 million is chump change. If it’s really $40 million, Google has made a killing. Seems like the guys were keen on GYMing than on rolling in a actual service that works. Just thinking of seeing my smiling face appearing on Google Search along with a link to my personal webpage!

  9. Malik Bhai,
    This is certainly one of the best reports I have ever read. Riya is kewl. This was something I was expecting in Longhorn search as WinFS would be able to do it far more easily. Is Ghemwat spending sleepless nights in GoooglePlex for his next generation File System ? Eric Schmidt doesn’t know. LOL

    I have to agree that you have very good connections. Let me know if their are any stock options available to share. LOL

    By the way don’t expect any reply from GOOG. Their famous phrase is “I don’t know”. Report this to BillG and Baldy will fly down to negotiate tomorrow.

  10. Personally, I think Riya is the real deal. Google would be smart to snap them up, since Yahoo beat them to the punch with Flickr.

    Does anybody remember Picasa? Umm…no. Let the bidding wars begin, and more power to Munjal Shah…

    As JB would say….web 2.0, ho!

  11. 40m for the first commercial face recognition software? unless they don’t have that much confidence in what they’re doing, or unless they see google on their tail… i think that would be selling out a bit soon