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Adi Pinhas

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Adi Pinhas is the co-founder and CEO of visual search engine pioneer Superfish. After earning his BSc. In Electrical Engineering from Tel Aviv University in 1996, Pinhas took a position working on chip design for National Semiconductor. He left the company in 1997 for a position at Verint, where he worked on signal processing research. He embarked on his first entrepreneurial endeavor in 1999, leaving Verint to co-found Vigilant Technology. The company, where Pinhas served as VP of Research and Development, developed algorithms to better sort through CCTV footage for unusual activity.

In 2003, Pinhas left Vigilant for Intel, serving as Advance CPU Research Team Leader for three years. While at Intel, he returned to school, earning his MSc. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Vision from Tel Aviv University in 2004. In 2006, he joined forces with Michael Chertok to co-found Superfish. The co-founders, who met while Chertok was working in algorithm development at Vigilant, spent several years in stealth development before launching their first product, WindowShopper, in 2011. The browser add-on allows users to hover over images and be directed to Web sites where they can purchase similar products, with Superfish receiving affiliate fees on each sale coming through the application. While WindowShopper originally met widespread resistance from users who didn’t know the software had been installed on their devices, it has since proceeded to flourish. By 2014, it had approximately 100 million monthly users, and had helped grow Superfish’s revenue by more than $33 million in the two years since its launch.

In 2014, Superfish began releasing a series of mobile apps based on their signature image search technology. The “LikeThat” apps include LikeThat Pets (matching pictures of pets with nearby companions for adoption), LikeThat Décor, LikeThat Garden, and LikeThat MEME. The apps connect users with about 100,000 different online retailers, including Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba. The retailers then pay Superfish through an affiliate program for directing consumers to their sites.

Superfish raised a $10 million funding round in 2013, led by Vintage Investment Partners and Draper Fish Jurvetson. The latter also provided the company’s initial funding, also amounting to around $10 million. The second funding round was directed towards developing Venn, a project aimed at tailoring visual search technology to social networking, helping people discover common interests through visual patterns.

Superfish’s trajectory has not been without controversy. Their core technology, Superfish VisualDiscovery, includes a root certificate that could make computers vulnerable to cyber attacks. The software, which has been bundled with various applications since 2010, started to receive widespread attention in 2014, when Lenovo began bundling it into some of its computers. On February 20, 2015, the United States Department of Homeland Security advised users to uninstall the Superfish software.

Superfish is now headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, where Pinhas leads a team of 20 employees in the company’s product, marketing and business-development activities. The company also maintains a center in Tel Aviv, where Chertok continues to run the company’s 65-person technological development team. In 2014, the company’s products had over 80 million users. They were ranked #4 on Inc. Magazine’s list of the 500 fastest growing companies in the United States that year as well as #2 on Deloitte’s list of the fastest-growing companies in Israel. In 2015, Superfish was named one of America’s Most Promising Companies by Forbes.

Pinhas currently resides in Sunnyvale, CA with his wife and two children. He is an avid cook and enjoys reading books on physics and astronomy.

Companies and Investments

Superfish (Co-founder, President, CEO), Intel (Advance CPU Research Team Leader), Vigilant Technology (Co-founder, VP of Research and Development), Verint (Signal Processing Research), National Semiconductor (Chip Design)

Lessons Learned

We wanted to show the power of visual search. Say you stand in front of a cute dog, but you have no idea what the name of that breed is. And probably there is no name, because it's a mutt. But still, you want to do a search for it.

These are the types of searches we want to do today, but haven't been able to, because Google doesn't support this. But with Superfish, you take a picture and you get to see immediately the adoptable pets similar to the dog you like.

We have tens of thousands of users that are using this application. This is what we wanted to demo. You can do a search without typing any keywords and you don't even need to know any keywords to find what you're looking for. (Adi Pinhas on creating a product to solve an existing problem, in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News)

The way we work, for example, is very different. We work a lot faster. We have fewer meetings, less formality. We are not saying "Sorry;" we are saying straight to your face, "This is a stupid idea."

So we don't need two months to cancel a project. We don't even need two weeks. We cancel it immediately and move on to another idea.

The entire culture is like that in Israel. It's very direct. And in the early days at a startup, it's great fun to work like that. (Adi Pinhas on how much he values straightforwardness when growing a start-up, in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News)

We are focusing on creating products and on getting the next email from a happy user that 'this is the best app you ever saw. We are not thinking about an exit strategy or about sports cars. (Adi Pinhas on placing priority on creating an amazing product, not on a financial endgame, in the Silicon Valley Business Journal)

Inspiring Quotes

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Nelson Mandela

Adi Pinhas's Quotes

As a startup CEO you need always to create new opportunities and situation. Constantly move on the field.

Adi Pinhas

We are focusing on creating products and on getting the next email from a happy user that this is the best app you ever saw. We are not thinking about an exit strategy or about sports cars.

Adi Pinhas

Visual search is not here to replace the keyboard ... Visual search is for the cases in which I have no words to describe what I see.

Adi Pinhas

Influential Books