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Prism Moiseenkova: How does the Prisma project work and whether it can repeat the success of MSQRD

In the middle of June 2016, the Prisma application began to gain viral popularity in social networks, making it possible to draw a “picture” in the style of famous artists from any photograph. Opinions of users are divided – someone thinks that this is another analogue of earlier projects that allow you to apply filters to applications, and someone already wonders how much Mark Zuckerberg can pay for such a service.

The Prisma app was published on the App Store on June 11, 2016. There are no Android versions yet, but the creators promise that it will appear in early July.

The service is based on the use of neural networks: the image is not superimposed on the image filter, and the photo is newly drawn in the style specified by the user. It can be as well-known artists – Raul, Chagall, Kandinsky, – and other recognizable images like DC comics.

About the monetization of the service it is not yet, the product will be free for users. Moiseenkov admits that the application was prepared for launch for a month and a half.

Media consultant Alexander Amzin, in comments to Facebook’s post on Look At Media publisher Alexey Ametov, explained how this technology differs from a regular filter in Photoshop.

No one really understands why it draws that way. It makes decisions on the basis of samples given to it. ” He recalled that the neural network that beat the world champion in the game of go — no one taught her the rules — works the same way – and the neural networks of Google unmanned cars also learn the same.

This is the next phase of technology implementation – first a prototype, then single projects, now mass services, and with object processing, and not just recognition (Microsoft has been using neuro-cloud for some time to understand what your pics are and tag photos).

Who is behind the project

Moiseenkov started the Prisma project while working at My.com, the international division of Mail.Ru Group. The rest of the staff had previously worked at Yandex, and one of them still works there. In total, the project has four participants – two developers, designer and general director Moiseenkov. June 20 it became known that Moiseenkov leaves Mail.Ru Group. In a comment to Vedomosti, he expressed gratitude to the former team – “They are cool and thanks to them, in part, everything turned out like this.

On June 19, an post on Prisma appeared on Facebook’s official Mail.Ru Group page : “For a week now, the Prisma app, created by our employee Alexey Moiseenkov, has been blowing social networks and stores. We believe in the tremendous opportunities of neural networks, the success of Prisma opens up new horizons for Mail.Ru Group. We congratulate Alexey and our other colleagues who helped him with ideas. ”

According to the journalists of “Vedomosti”, this publication may contain a hint that the holding can “lay claim” to the service. The interlocutors of the publication say that such a situation is possible, but there are no concrete plans yet. The press service of the holding declined to comment for the  project Prisma, the details of its creation and plans for cooperation.

Meanwhile, the situation when a large company acquires a project of a former employee is known to the Russian market – in 2015, Yandex acquired 10% in the Foodadil project, created by Natalia Shagarina, product manager of a Russian search engine.

Project mentor Nikolay Davydov told  that Prisma plans to build partnerships with the Mail.Ru Group – according to him, the holding’s employees “helped a lot” in creating the service, and “in Russia there are few companies that can boast of an atmosphere in which develop such talents. “

Mail.Ru Group and Yandex are two alma maters of the project, in which Prisma team members have learned all the cool skills that allow them to launch world-class products with explosive growth.

The posts about Prisma on their Facebook pages were also posted by Vice-President Anna Artamonova – “Alexey is still an employee of my cozy business unit, so I definitely have something to be proud of” – and the head of the holding Dmitry Grishin . Earlier on his page appeared an entry c image created using a competing service – Mlvch.

The founder of Pruffi and the project “Anti-Rabies”, Alyona Vladimirskaya, on her Facebook page also commented on the attitude of the holding to the creators of the project.

The coolest thing for me in Prisma’s story is that Yandex, at the level of several sounding people, now says: “This person worked for us.” Yes, he worked, but he left.

And Mail.Ru Group, in which the creator of Prisma works, at the level of the first leaders (Grishin, Artamonova) writes – how cool that people working with us create such products. Without preying on one – like, he created with us, but honestly telling – he created in his free time, and Prisma is not a product of Mail.Ru.

But we are not going to court about product product co-authorship (as, by the way, Google did more than once – remember their famous lawsuit about everything that was done on Google equipment and during working hours from which the “20 percent rule” was born), but we are proud such clever and talented people work with us.

Very nice and correct it, in my opinion.

During the preparation of this material, Moiseenkov answered occasionally and with long breaks – acquaintances of the company’s founder explain this by saying that the project participants devote almost all the time to work and sleep “by the hour.

According to Vedomosti, Yury Gursky, Vice-President of the Mail.Ru Group and mentor MSQRD, also participates in the Prisma project as a consultant. 

Project success

According to the publisher Meduza Ilya Krasilshchik, the Prisma application receives 300,000 installations per day in Russia. Service users publish several million photos per day – five thousand images per second at the peak of activity. Moiseenkov told Vedomosti that on June 20, Prisma had already received 650,000 downloads only among Russian users. 

Popular users of social networks have already been noted among Prisma users, among them Natalya Vodyanova and performer Sergey Shnurov. The love of the “stars” to the application at one time was one of the factors for the rapid take-off of MSQRD, which received a million users in a month of work. Companies began to use Prisma in their projects – for example, the Kanobu edition about games used images created using the service as illustrations to their articles on the main page.

Prisma for nine days has conquered the App Store ratings in many countries – in Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Armenia, Ukraine. The application receives high marks from users – by 4.5 stars in Russia, the USA and Germany.

The success of Prisma provoked an increase in downloads for applications with similar names – for example, “coloring for adults” PrismaJoy reached the second line in the ranking of the most downloaded free applications – immediately after Prisma itself.

In a conversation with “Vedomosti” Moiseenkov said that the team “has an agreement” to increase server capacity, but “Prisma is trying to restrain growth around the world.” Partner Prisma is a hosting company Servers.com. The general director of the company, Alexei Gubarev, told Vedomosti that every day the hosting provider has to increase its capacity by 100% of the initial figures. Guberov refused to disclose the commercial details of the relationship between Servers.com and Prisma.

One of the unnamed interlocutors of the publication notes that the team’s success is not in using the principle of neural networks, but in “what it found, how to do it inexpensively and where to find sufficient capacity”. On June 20, Nikolay Davydov and MSQRD co-founder Evgeny Nevgeni published on their

Facebook pages the information that Prisma is looking for new DevOps engineers to work with high-load services. Probably new employees are needed to optimize server capacity. For what funds will be paid for new jobs, the company does not report.


Prisma, according to Moiseenkov, has its own algorithm, which does not create a queue on the server – unlike Mlvch. Pronin considers the result of Mlvch’s work “more artistic” – the image is less similar to the original photo, and more resembles a real picture based on it.

 that perform similar functions: Dreamscope and deepart.io . The latter lacks a mobile application, and Pronin considers the quality of work unsatisfactory.

Is Prisma waiting for the success of MSQRD

Judging by the publications on the page of Nikolay Davydov (apparently having access to the test version of the application), the next major function is animated images.

The editors of learned from Russian investors how they evaluate the prospects for the Prisma service.

It is curious that when discussing Prisma, everyone concentrates on issues where the creators work and who owns the rights in reality or hypothetically.

Meanwhile, no particular details are heard about technological advances, and my friends from the Valley and Israel say with one voice that, apparently, this is a banal use of open “google” deep dream machine codes. And the whole cymes in marketing and interface.

With the latter it is difficult to argue on the example of dreamify.io. Well, with desktop options like dreamscopeapp.com or ostagram.ru, it’s ridiculous to compare at all. So Prisma great, hope that they will figure out how to develop this cool start. Marketing and UX on a global level.

Prisma is an interesting application, and it is attractive to users. Like many toys, it risks becoming a trend for a short time, and then forgotten.

Artistic filters have long been available as part of photo editors and individual applications, the mobile application makes them easy to use and allows you to instantly publish the results.

I think with the right promotion policy, the application has very good chances. Monetization of such applications is very difficult, even with the freemium model, the project will be able to recruit only a very limited number of users.

MSQRD quickly gained millions of users and was bought, I think Prisma has about the same vector of development. 

Prisma is an example of how people see the world differently. After all, filters rely on the work of artists whose perceptions are better developed than others.

From a business point of view, everything is clear – additional filters, better quality of rendering, video. But, I am sure, it will not even come to this before, and Apple will buy the application to embed it in standard Photos.

The future of the application is difficult to predict: a user hyip can end at any time, and the application will become just another set of filter for photos. Rather, we have a demonstration of the development of technologies and capabilities that neural networks can offer. It is the uniqueness of the technology and the expertise of the teams that will play a major role in discussing the conditions for a potential purchase by strategists (the same Facebook, Snapchat, etc.)

As for the monetization methods, there are several options. In the B2C segment – the introduction of new filters and the acceleration of photo processing for additional money. But in this case, the speed of propagation of the application will slow down greatly, so it is unlikely. In the B2B segment, creators can provide companies with access to their technology via API for money.

Prisma is not the first project of this kind, but it clearly hit the air, plus its authors clearly know something about mobile marketing.

A year ago, Google in the person of three authors, including our compatriot Alexander Mordvintsev, published the processing of images by neural networks and generated by neural networks. Six months ago such an AP from, in my opinion, a Swiss comrade appeared. A few days ago a completely similar project Mlvch (or Malevich) from Zhanna Sharapova and Anton Pronin appeared.

In my opinion, as an investor in a large fund, this is a good investment opportunity. But we must carefully understand what kind of risk the investor takes on himself and what kind of goods will be sold (to the buyer of the company). This is still not a proprietary and unique technology, claiming at the time of its creation to take a certain technological barrier such as the Ukrainian Looksery project, sold to Snapchat for a record amount of money in the history of the Ukrainian market (the team has now moved to Los Angeles). This is not something similar to the followers of Looksery from Belarus Msqrd, bought by Facebook and even shown in the TV series Silicon Valley. This is still someone else’s open-sourced solution, which is screwed to the mobile app.

I’m not a developer, but it seems to me that this is just a few weeks of refinement. And Prisma did not make this open-sour solution itself, like, say, a Nizhny Novgorod Itseez company with a hundred people, bought a month ago by Intel – their OpenCV solution was downloaded 7 million times and used by industrial customers around the world.

Prisma, Malevich and others will probably not be monetized, they will remain as Instagram free. This is not on-the-fly processing of live content like Msqrd or Looksery, it’s just certain filters for the instagram and alike.

Prisma has a chance to continue to increase the audience at the expense of the hype effect, in order to sell out (as a mobile audience) to one of the major mobile players.

Instagram content is closest – it means Facebook and will buy them. Especially considering that one of the founders recently started working on Facebook. The output will be, I think, not at the Instagram level or at the Looksery level, but nevertheless closer to MSQRD, since Nikolay Davydov has already been involved in helping to rent devops for Prisma – we will wait for another Nicholas exit. We will believe in the guys and follow the further development of events. Give 100 million units per quarter.

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