500px Makes First Acquisition, Recommendation Software Startup Algo Anywhere

Photo-sharing site 500px today announced the acquisition of fellow Toronto-startup Algo Anywhere, in a stock and cash deal the specific terms of which were not disclosed. This marks the first acquisition for 500px, the company helmed by co-founders Oleg Gutsol and Evgenvy Tchebotarev. 500px is a fast-growing photo community aimed at surfacing high-quality content, with more of a focus on professional and advanced hobbyists. The acquisition signals an effort on the part of 500px to deliver better, more personalized search results and custom photo feeds for users.

The 500px founders met Algo Anywhere at their Pixel Hack Day last year, and were impressed by what the team brought to the table. Algo Anywhere’s tech was originally intended to be sold on an SaaS basis, providing companies with the data crunching power of sophisticated recommendation algorithms, without the need for those to be developed in-house or hosted on a company’s own servers. But Algo Anywhere’s ultimate exit mirrors the exit of a similar tool, Chris Dixon’s Hunch, which was acquired by eBay in November 2011 to help that site power its product recommendations to customers via predictive merchandising.

“The problem with machine learning is that getting computers to understand what a rod is or what the word ‘rod’ can mean is unbelievably difficult,” Algo Anywhere co-founder Zach Aysan said in an earlier interview with BetaKit, explaining the problem his startup solves. “With humans, so much of our formative years were spent understanding how the world works. How humans work and feel. What things mean.” Algo Anywhere is designed to help computers gain a semblance of that understanding of context, in order to deliver more personally relevant content.

For 500px, that could lead to a significant advantage, especially in the startup’s revenue-generating areas. The phot0-sharing service recently introduced a marketplace, where people can buy prints or publication rights to images on its site, and the success of that venture could be greatly helped by putting pictures in front of users that better suit their tastes, professions and purchase intent.

500px co-founder Oleg Gutsol told us in a previous interview that the company would be introducing new ways to encourage social sharing of the site’s content, too. “We are definitely developing ways to encourage mobile sharing in the future, which you’ll see later this year,” he said. “Again, our focus will continue to be on the highest quality of such an experience.” Personalized content streams are definitely a good way to surface things that people are more likely to share.

500px also announced the opening of its API today to anyone. Before, developers had to register to get access to the API in order to build apps on the 500px platform, but now anyone can start building. The startup clearly sees value in opening up its access to as many developers as possible, and for good reason, since that’s in part what led to this talent acquisition. It’ll be interesting to see if the API and its new personalization efforts help 500px gain even more ground on Yahoo-owned Flickr, its primary competitor.

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