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AiThority Interview Series with Hovhannes Avoyan, CEO and Founder at PicsArt

Hovhannes Avoyan, PicsArt's CEO/founder

We use AI to handle the heavier and more professional editing for our users — whether it’s removing a background or an unwanted object in a photo.

Know My Company

Tell us about your interaction with AI and other intelligent technologies at work and in your daily life.

PicsArt is a photo and video editing app with hundreds of millions of users. We have an entire team dedicated to building AI, Machine Learning and Image Recognition functionality that betters our app. For example, our AI makes complicated image edits quicker, simpler, and more intuitive for users. Without it, we wouldn’t have scaled to where we are today — 100 million+ monthly active users, nearly 1 billion edits every month, and over 100 million assets in our content library.

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What inspired you to start PicsArt?

When my daughter was 10 years old, she came to me in tears. She had shared her art online, and bullies were critical of her work. It appalled me that people were so critical, and it inspired me to start exploring photo editing tools and platforms with a community element. When I couldn’t find anything that had both tools and a community, I built PicsArt — a place where creators can come together and become visual storytellers.

How is PicsArt different from any other online image gallery and aggregator platform?

PicsArt has a unique combination of creative tools, content, and a community of 130 million active monthly creators. With a massive content library of #FreeToEdit images, stickers, stock photos and image editing tools, we make photo editing social and collaborative. Users begin their creation process on our app — turning their everyday photos and creative assets into works of art. They can then share that art with the PicsArt community, but also amplify their content on any other platforms of their choice — for example, in iMessage, on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp, etc.

Tell us how AI and image recognition/analytics fit into a modern business’ tech stack.

We rely on AI immensely for user customization and personalization, as well as content moderation, and creativity. We use AI and Image Recognition for simpler tasks such as filtering and flagging inappropriate content, but we also use it for more advanced uses cases such as helping us determine what content resonates with our users. We can surface content that is relevant to our users based on their likes, preferences and edits, and essentially help democratize the creative process by showing all the tools, sources and assets that were used in a specific image.

We also use AI to handle the heavier and more professional editing for our users — whether it’s removing a background or an unwanted object in a photo, our trained AI and image-detection abilities, enable users to create sophisticated edits without having the professional skillset.

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What are the core tenets of PicsArt’s AI technology?  

AI is fully woven throughout our platform, but the core uses cases are visual transformation, segmentation and classification of images, behavior prediction and content moderation and recommendations.

Would most businesses turn to AI eventually for better performance?

Yes, absolutely. AI enhances efficiency and throughput, and can automate many tasks that require intensive manual labor. Most industries have already turned to AI for better performance — we see it happening in healthcare, FinTech, legal and many other industries.

Tell us more about your recent investment in the Russian AI market.

Our AI needs are immensely growing and evolving. We have a lot of data and Machine Learning needs in house and in order to fulfill these needs, we wanted to expand our talent search — Russia is in close proximity to our Armenian office and has a lot of great schools with programs focused on AI and ML.

How would your collaboration with the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) benefit the industry?

Our collaboration with MIPT was strategic to hiring and will enable us to hire the best AI talent in the region. By recruiting from the world’s best AI talent pools, we stay ahead of the curve, and can continue enhancing PicsArt’s existing AI-based features such as visual transformation, segmentation and classification of images as well as incubating new, cutting-edge applications.

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How is the Russian AI market evolving compared to other geographies, especially North America and China/India?

Russia still trails China and the US in the realm of AI, but these are the top three countries leading the AI race. While the US leads in business-centric AI, China is focused on larger scale applications and quickly growing, but in the near future China and the US will be parallel global AI leaders.

How potent is the Human-Machine Intelligence for businesses and society? Who owns Machine Learning results?

A company’s customers and shareholders are its first priority — it must protect its private data and business strategies with these entities above all else. If anyone outside these areas seeks to own the Machine Learning results, it falls on the AI industry as a whole to establish a track record of addressing privacy concerns and compensating customers for the benefits they provide in the advancement of the company’s AI.

Where do you see AI/Machine Learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2020?

AI has massive potential and we’re already seeing it in action — self-driving cars, voice-enabled smart home products, virtual assistants, robotics and beyond. While robots and AI may replace a lot of today’s low-qualified jobs, it will also create more specified jobs that require “human skills” such as sales, marketing and innovation and customer service.

The Good, Bad and Ugly about AI that you have heard or predict –

AI is only going to get bigger!

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The Crystal Gaze

What AI start-ups and labs are you keenly following?

I pay a lot of attention to the big players such as Facebook and Google — particularly Google’s Open-Source; I also follow DeepMind, a London-based AI startup that was acquired by Google in 2014.

What technologies within AI and computing are you interested in?

I’m particularly interested in computer vision, image recognition and automation.

As a tech leader, what industries do you think would be the fastest in adopting AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for AI technology markets?

Technology, healthcare, and business management. Healthcare will be the largest because there are so many specialties within healthcare (cancer detection, DNA-testing, brain scans, diagnostics, etc.) that are primed to be streamlined with AI and ML. In time, everything will become more mobile and more consumer-centric. For example, robots will one day become your personal healthcare advisor.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

I like to start every morning writing down the top 5 or 10 important things I’d like to accomplish in the day. It can be something small or big — but creating a list helps guide you down a path of getting things done, one chunk at a time.

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Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

People and companies who are less public about their AI strategies.

Thank you, Hovhannes !Hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Hovhannes Avoyan is a serial entrepreneur, investor and scholar. He is the current CEO and founder of PicsArt, a leading social photo editing startup with more than 400 million users worldwide. Avoyan brings more than 25 years of experience in computer programming and global business management. Prior to PicsArt, Avoyan founded five other startups and all of them brought to successful acquisition by global companies.


PicsArt is the #1 photo and video editing app, powered by a creative community of more than 100 million monthly active users and influencers. Every month, the PicsArt community creates, remixes and shares nearly one billion images, making it the largest open-source collection of content in the world, including free-to-edit photos, stickers, filters, and more. PicsArt is available in 30 languages and can be downloaded on iOS, Android, or Windows. Headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Armenia, Los Angeles, Beijing and an AI lab in Moscow, PicsArt is backed by Sequoia Capital, DCM Ventures, Insight Venture Partners, and Siguler Guff and Company.

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