PRussian AI Dream Factory


PicsArt AI Days Hackathon

Yesterday I visited the 2018 PicsArt AI Hackathon. It was quite an experience for me because I’ve heard of such events but never actually visited any. The hackathon took place in Trekhgornaya Manufaktura. The symbolism is there because the latter is the oldest textile plant in Moscow founded at the end of the 18th century. Thus, it can be interpreted as a graphic manifestation of the global shift from the plants of yore and their manufacturing technologies and means of production to the bleeding edge of technological progress, imagery (re)production and marketing of ideas. In other words, the utopia/dystopia of the new media dream factory we’ve been all enjoying/stressed out by lately.

AI will probably rule the world in the future (or not) but in the current year of 2018 A.D., it’s still the meatbag speakers who make the event. I wasn’t that impressed by the technicalities shared by some of them due to the language barrier (my geekish is very poor). I was there for the stories – and I’m not only talking about Instagram.

The following two cases especially stroke a chord with me: the one presented by Yuri Melnichek who sold his maps.me service to Mail.Ru Group and the AIMatter company to Google, and especially the Victor Shaburov’s performance who sold the Handster company to Opera and the Looksery start-up to Snapchat where he currently works as a Director of Engineering. Victor gave his advice regarding a successful B2B sales strategy which was rooted in the appropriate team consisting of

  • analyst,
  • video team,
  • graphic designers,
  • sales managers (attractive women, native speakers).

As simple as it looks, it works, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I liked his Pelevin-style take on how he was trying to sell Looksery before it was even fully ready, i.e. selling the idea of a useful app and then updating it with an eye on the potential buyers and their demands.

I was very glad to hear Victor’s story because it’s a common knowledge that Russians can into technology but we are not PRussians IYKWIM. Unfortunately, I have to agree with it – Russians, in general, know how to walk the walk and talk the talk –  and not how to position their actions properly. You live and learn.

Just to give you an idea what this hackathon was really about: more than 150 teams of Russian hackers registered for the event, 26 made it to the finals, 12 pitched their projects and 5 of them won the PicsArt AI Days hackathon prize ranging from $ 10K up to 30K correspondingly (100K in total).

Teams which drew my attention:

4th place – all-female team – their piece can make a ‘perfect’ photo from several not-so-perfect ones by combining good parts together.

2nd place – these guys created a software which turns videos into comics. The head of the team shocked me (in a good way) when he told me that European AI events were worse than the Russian ones in terms of organization.

1st place – team from Lvov who’ve decided to go to Moscow despite the martial law in Ukraine and who worked on the ageing/rejuvenating/make-up lense. Btw a good PR case in itself!

P.S. This is not a sponsored post but if you want to collaborate with me you can contact me via armeyskov84 at gmail dot com or send me a dm on Twitter @armeyskov.

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