Learn how you can navigate through thousands of images in seconds

19 September 2018

Brisbane startup ARTLife Solutions helps you to manage large volumes of images (PSFs, video and audio files) with Sortal. The digital image management solution uses artificial intelligence to enable businesses or individuals to quickly navigate through thousands of images to find the exact image they are looking for.

In late September, ARTLife Solutions will release their new app, Photo Poet. The app uses a small part of Sortal’s technology to generate a poem or caption for your photos based on what it ‘sees’ in the image. Designed to be lighthearted, the app lets people reconnect with their images in a fun new way. Head to Photo Poet’s Instagram page for some playful examples.

With the help of the Lord Mayor’s Global Entrepreneur Program grant, ARTLife Solutions can engage a consultant to provide advice on scaling Sortal to overseas markets.

What is your favourite thing about Brisbane City?

I have travelled a lot since I was 13… and there is nothing like a bit of travel to remind us how amazing our city is! Brisbane is culturally rich, diverse and beautiful. I love the bayside, the river and all the parklands that Brisbane has to offer.

What inspired you to start your business?

I care deeply about photography and I’m fascinated by how people use it in their everyday life. I’ve noticed that people are evolving to using photography in new ways as part of their identity and as a way to record and document their lives. This presents a very modern problem – how do we track and make sense of all the digital imagery we’ve created over the years? How do we sort out the junk from what is important? I’m a Xennial, so I have had an analogue childhood but a digital adulthood, but my children have their entire childhood tied up in hundreds of thousands of digital files. So my startup was created to tackle this. Let’s use technology to build a completely personal and trainable system that gives us enhanced memory – something unique to each person that understands their images the way they do. On my startup journey though, it’s become obvious that it’s not just our personal lives that are affected by massive quantities of visual information, it’s also our work lives. Image management is a massive issue in the business world as well. Current systems and workflows are cobbled together by a mix of different, manual and laborious systems. Our startup will change that.

Can you describe your startup?

Sortal is an image management solution that helps people like a safe and secure personal assistant. It learns about them and their life to remember photos and understand events and images the way they do. Imagine being able to effortlessly find a very specific photo from 8 years ago by searching a few words that only makes sense to you? Imagine being able to find that without manually searching through old hard drives or CDs or through a long scroll in your social media profile. Sortal is a powerful search engine completely in tune with a person’s life and by how they remember and relate to things at work, at home, or on holiday.

How long has your business been operating?

We began the development of our technology in March 2017.

Which type of service are you creating?

We are building software as a service that uses artificial intelligence to manage visual information as a personal assistant. It can be used in both personal and professional environments.

Which fields is your startup involved in?

We are a creative technology startup that spans many different industries.

What does a typical day in your business look like?

I don’t have one! Startup life for me is really variable, some days I’m completely smashed, and others are quiet where I can catch up on admin and housekeeping. As a founder, I have to be across every aspect of the business but also steer the vision and strategic direction. There are a lot of events to attend and heaps of professional development opportunities, but I do find that I have to say ‘no’ to a lot so that I can stay focused.

What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced to date? And how did you solve this?

Generally, I’m not very good at maintaining my work-life balance, which is hard because I have three young children. I work constantly and I’ve only just managed to have my first week off in over a year to have a holiday and unplug with my family.

Funding has also been an issue and requires a lot of time and effort to pursue. We are building a deeply technical solution that will have a global impact, but this takes time to build because it is new to the world. Devoting time to investment and grant writing is a difficult act to balance when you work full time in the business to maintain momentum, direction, design and product development.

I haven’t overcome these problems, but I am chipping away at them the best I can. I am truly thankful for the support network I have as they help me keep going. I’ve learnt to celebrate my wins when they happen because startup wins are far and few between!

How do you plan to scale your business locally, nationally and internationally?

We plan to release our Sortal app on mobile and tablet, but we also have a web portal in development for our business solution. Human centred design is a core principle of what we are creating, so we are very mindful of different cultures and mindsets that will form part of our strategy as we launch into different markets and countries.

How do you plan to “give back” to the Brisbane community?

Currently, my team and I mentor regularly and give talks. Sortal runs an internship program where we provide opportunities for university students to give them real-world experience with machine learning.

What impact will your product have on the Brisbane community?

I think our technology is addressing a very modern problem – I catch the train almost every day and I’m very aware of how digitally connected we are. Brisbane is our home base and I’m looking forward to being able to grow our startup here as we launch globally.

Do you have any advice for a business that is starting out?

You may have heard the adage that “it’s a marathon and not a sprint”, in my experience, this is so true! Building something new from nothing takes guts, effort and discipline. There are a lot of naysayers along the way, and you will need a thick skin to truly believe in what you are doing. In my weakest moments, I turn to a few trusted supports that help me keep going and help me remember why I’m doing this is the first place. I have also had to map out what success might look like, but also what failure looks like. On one hand, it’s all a big experiment so enjoy the ride, but on the other, know where to draw the line – self-care and health is important!

How do you plan to use the funds from the Lord Mayor’s Global Entrepreneur Program?

Our technology is closely linked to personal data and identity. We have strong company values and we plan to roll out our technology in an ethical way. Because of this, we are using the grant to work with our legal team to put together our global policy to protect peoples’ privacy.

What are the future goals for your startup?

We plan to launch our Sortal personal app and our Sortal:Enterprise platform and also release some smaller fun apps along the way to enable people to be creative with their images. People use photography as a modern communication tool, our technology will empower people to do things with photos they’ve not been able to do before.

How does this grant impact your business moving forward?

Our privacy policy was something that we could not do on our own, we needed the right kind of help! We are so thankful for this grant as it has helped us overcome a big hurdle, so now we can keep moving forward!

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