Backing Meero: Because all marketplaces need beautiful imagery

By: Eric Martineau-Fortin
Managing Partner, White Star Capital

On demand services and the sharing economy are disrupting how traditional markets operate. From transportation and lodging, to food, delivery, and beauty, startups are putting incumbents on edge across numerous industries and verticals. This mobile first model has given rise to “managed marketplaces”. Led by the likes of Flexport in freight forwarding and Opendoor in real estate, these startups usually play the role of a value-added intermediary that offers a superior experience compared to more traditional peer-to-peer marketplaces or service providers.

Underpinning the performance of an apartment listing on AirBnB, a food dish from UberEats or a hotel suggestion on Hotel Tonight, is beautiful imagery that draws the customer in. Joe Gebbia, co-founder of AirBnB specifically calls out higher quality imagery as one of the growth hacks that led to their success.

But with millions of listings across hundreds of marketplaces, the burden on listers and platforms is now becoming extremely complex.

This is where Paris-based Meero, our most recent investment, comes into play. They are building a global marketplace of trained photographers, combined with machine learning algorithms, that can turn an average-looking picture into a beautiful one — eventually leading to greater conversions.

Tonal distribution: Makes photos brighter/duller to achieve optimal brightness level. Original picture on left, photo after Meero’s algorithms on the right.

The industry, as it exists today, is highly fragmented and inefficient — photographers operate on a freelance basis, acquiring new jobs largely through word of mouth. They spend more time editing than doing what they actually enjoy –shooting- thereby limiting the amount of clients they can have at any given time. As freelancers, they must also handle other administrative tasks such as invoicing, and managing receivables from multiple clients.

For businesses and individuals, the process of finding, hiring, and receiving work from freelance photographers is cumbersome and expensive. Some of the larger companies end up having to find their contractors on freelance job sites and building internal teams to manage these photographers, creating a very real logistical pain point. A pain almost as large as the lack of quality standardization that comes with hiring a diverse set of freelance photographers. Most of them will use a mix of professionals, amateurs, or even take the pictures themselves. This leads to quality control and standardization issues across the organization, impacting marketing, sales, and eventually the bottom line.

Following our first meeting with Thomas Rebaud and his team, we have built a strong conviction that Meero holds the turnkey solution to solve these issues for marketplaces, large corporations and SMEs alike. By launching an end-to-end automated photography platform, the Meero team has succeeded in building a solution that eliminates inefficiencies in the process, while aligning the interests of both the photographers and the clients — thereby creating a beneficial experience for all parties involved. With tens of thousands of photographers on their platform and clients such as Accor, Houzz, and Sotheby’s, the company is poised to disrupt the photography market across multiple geographies and verticals. Our focus has always been on backing companies with global ambitions, and we found that these photography issues are not single-market pain-points, but a common struggle in every country and every region.

Color balancing: Converts yellow colors (from yellow light) to whiter colors.

We chose to invest in Meero for many reasons, but here are the main points:

  • The inefficiencies in the system are large for both the supply and demand side of the market. Meero has built an affordable and efficient solution, saving all parties from the existing logistical troubles
  • Businesses are allocating an increasing share of wallet to producing engaging, high quality content to sell their products. The return on investment is proven, but there hasn’t been a scalable solution for them to produce standardized, high quality content
  • Meero has developed defensibility through its technology. Neural networks are deployed through large data sets of pictures to teach the algorithm how to continuously improve the optimization of new photos in real estate, food, and many other verticals, through transfer learning
  • Through this process, the quality of the content is standardized which is essential when building a library of visual assets. Furthermore, all content will now be edited by a single party, in a fully automated manner
  • Meero’s solution has the potential to scale internationally. We will use our network and resources across the globe to help Meero expand more quickly across international markets

We are pleased to be investing alongside Global Founders Capital, Alven Capital, and Aglaé Ventures, and are looking forward to Meero making the world look more beautiful through photography, while generating value for their clients.