Our Journey with the Global Pioneer in AI-based Video Analysis

From an Idea to an Entirely New Product Category

Drishti was the global pioneer in AI-based video analysis. The technology remains revolutionary to this day: Unlike other solutions, Drishti's AI can not only recognize objects and people in an image but also understand their actions. Georg Stieler was actively engaged with the company from its inception in 2016 until its acquisition in 2023, contributing expertise and guidance throughout its journey.

I met Prasad Akella, the founder and longtime CEO of the company, in 2016 during a trip to California at the Stanford Research Institute. At that time, he presented several ideas to me, one of which was the application of AI for analyzing manual assembly processes. What was abstract back then quickly took shape. On my next visit, the company had moved into its first office right at the entrance of Palo Alto.

For a hundred years, there had been no progress in the analysis of manual assembly processes. At best, these processes were manually documented with a stopwatch by people for a few hours every few months. These were very granular insights, often distorted and lacking systemic overview. Drishti's AI could now handle this 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Manufacturing companies could suddenly observe tens of thousands of cycles and thus gain previously unheard-of insights into their production lines and identify improvement potentials. With the evolution of the software, real-time quality control followed: Workers received feedback when steps were performed out of order or incompletely.

This vision and the strong founder team convinced some of the finest names in venture capital. A16Z, the firm of Netscape founder Marc Andreessen were among the seed investors. In addition to winning renowned manufacturers such as Flex, Denso, Hella, Toyota, Apple, or Bosch as customers, Drishti received numerous awards (WEF Technology Pioneer 2019, NVIDIA Top AI Startup 2020, Manufacturing Leadership Council Award 2021, IERA Awards 2021).

The insights gained from working with Prasad and his team were priceless. Introducing an entirely new product category to the market presents its own set of challenges and rewards. It was a captivating journey, and I'm excited for the possibilities ahead.

Georg Stieler

Our Contribution

In 2017, we organized joint visits at leading electronic contract manufacturers and automotive suppliers in China.

From late 2020 until Summer 2023, I took a more active role as an advisor in Drishti's push to enter the European market. This included:

  1. Adaption of the messaging to a Central European audience, identification and active approach of potential customers. This led to a robust pipeline across Europe: When the acquisition process started, we were on the verge of pilot projects with several manufacturers of home applicances, tier 1 automotive suppliers, an electronic contract manufacturer and a premium car brand.

  2. Constant and close collaboration with the organization in the US to optimize product-market-fit.

  3. Managing a strategic partnership with a multinational software company from Germany.

  4. Strategic positioning the company in leading publications (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Automationspraxis, Computer + Automation, SPS Magazin, inVision)

  5. Facilitating discussions with potential strategic investors at the board level in several leading industrial automation companies.

Outcome

In Summer 2023, Drishti was acquired by a Fortune 100 manufacturer, with all terms confidential. It inspired quite a number of "AI video" startups in manufacturing excellence, hospital operating theaters or airport flight operation.

Drishti's raw video analysis for action recognition (aka spatio-temporal analysis of video streams). Different than today, where readily available transformers facilitate the development of new AI solutions, Drishti built the necessary architecture largely by themselves. | © Drishti
Representing Drishti at the Robotics Festival in Leipzig 2022 | © Robot Valley
Close to Drishti's office in 2017. Since I got my first Macintosh as a kid, I always wanted to work with a Silicon Valley startup one day. | © Georg Stieler