Adam Shum and Ahmad Qamar of Thread Genius
Adam Shum, left, and Ahmad Qamar, right, the founders of Thread Genius who have sold their artificial intelligence business Sotheby’s where they are joining Richard Vibert, centre, who was recently appointed head of data and analytics strategy.

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Thread Genius was founded by two ex-Spotify software engineers – Andrew Shum and Ahmad Qamar – both of whom have now joined Sotheby’s. The AI process they have developed involves algorithms that analyse images and then recommends pictures of similar works to the user.

In effect Sotheby’s are aiming to match three elements more intelligently and efficiently: images and objects, individual’s preferences and price points.

Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith said:  “By using advanced technology, we can deliver better insights and match those three elements faster, providing our staff with better tools, our clients with a better experience, and our consignors with even better results.”

The value of the Thread Genius acquisition has not been disclosed but the deal follows Sotheby’s purchase of the Mei Moses Art Indices in 2016 – a database of nearly 50,000 repeat auction sales in eight collecting categories.

As well as the company’s acquisition of Orion Analytical in December 2016, which has been incorporated into its newly launched scientific research department, this latest move represents another venture by Sotheby’s to expand into areas somewhat removed from the traditional art market sphere and into new related technologies.

E-commerce connection

Andrew Shum and Ahmad Qamar founded Thread Genius in 2015 with the aim of providing e-commerce businesses with artificial intelligence that understands taste based on visual recognition.

They are joining Richard Vibert, who recently joined Sotheby’s from the Hong Kong venture capital firm Arbor Ventures, where he was an associate specialising in investments in big data, machine learning, and blockchain. His new title at Sotheby’s is head of data and analytics strategy.

The three new starters will report to Jennifer Deason, who herself was appointed Sotheby’s executive vice president, head of strategy and corporate development in August 2016.

Deason said: “We have united all of our data-related activities under one umbrella, which will accelerate innovation and provide benefits to both our internal team and our clients.”