MarTech Interview with Steve Kristy, CEO at LiquidPixels
Hi Steve, please tell us about your journey into the imaging/technology space and how you started at LiquidPixels.
After 18 years in the yellow box of Eastman Kodak, trying to push them into the digital era, I left my position at Kodak.com. During the ensuing four months, I investigated a half-dozen different ideas, eventually drafting business plans for two of them. About that time, Marc Spencer decided to move on from Kodak, as well. He and I joined forces and decided to pursue the notion of real-time dynamic imaging. In 2000, the dot-com era was crumbling and e-commerce was in its infancy. None-the-less, we formed LiquidPixels and began the journey of convincing companies that fast, optimized, high-fidelity imagery was critical to their online success.
In the age of 3D printing/imaging, digital advertising, e-commerce and more, what is the future of digital imaging solutions?
Pixels are everywhere. The use of visualization is only going to increase, both in the online visualization of products that do not yet physically exist, such as customization (allowing people to explore limitless visual combinations); and, in UX, where increasingly more items will become virtual—such as the physical buttons on a mobile phone which have vanished and become imagery on a screen. The ongoing increase of computing and graphics processing power will open access to 3D technologies, such as augmented reality and virtual reality married to dynamically generated objects and environments, personalized in real-time. How soon until we see our first interactive, real-time, holographic product displays?
What kind of market / industries use your digital imaging solutions? Please tell us about your ideal customer profile.
Dozens of industries already use dynamic imagery solutions and all industries can benefit.
E-Commerce businesses in particular profit from advanced colorization techniques, product customization and personalization, and image optimization. Apparel, jewelry, promotional items, furniture and home décor, automotive, and manufacturing industries are the most heavily-invested in dynamic imaging. However, imagery is used in countless ways throughout the entire enterprise ecosystem, so any company, regardless of its industry, can benefit from the power of dynamic imagery.
As a CEO, how are you tackling the COVID-19 induced disruptions?
We are a technology company, so our abrupt transition from an office atmosphere to an entirely work-from-home environment was seamless and mostly painless. Likewise, our clients are flexible and progressive. They had the necessary infrastructure to allow for a quick changeover from brick-and-mortar to an entirely e-commerce-based climate. Through agility and strategic planning, LiquidPixels and our customers have experienced tremendous growth during this otherwise very challenging time.
Could you provide a teaser into what you usually discuss with your Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, Chief Information Officer, and your Head of HR? What are the usual points of disagreement?
As we continue our rapid organic growth, many of our discussions are about increasing resources and whom to hire next.
Should we expand our engineering department? Sponsor additional conferences?
Further enhance our creative team?
Other discussions are about our product roadmap and what is next for our business. We employ a group of enthusiastic and creative people, so the discussions are passionate about resource allocation, but these are good problems to have.
Hear it from the Pro: How does digital imaging improve brand messaging and customer experience?
With traditional imagery, a stand-alone picture is required for each product in every possible product variation. Dozens, or even millions, of images, are needed for a single product. However, true dynamic imaging is driven by data, done in real time, and rendered on demand.
A single master image can instantly create imagery in any variation in response to a user’s choices, allowing customers to visualize not only a product in its available colors or patterns, but to visualize product combinations, much like the serendipitous shopping behavior of the brick-and-mortar world. Images can be tailored based on shopper combinations, while simultaneously optimizing for presentation and device. The superior online experience created by dynamic imagery leads to improved customer satisfaction, because the images are authentic representations of an end product. Dynamic imagery, therefore, leads to higher conversion rates, reduced returns, and repeat business. And, since dynamic imagery can be used anywhere digital imagery is used—websites, emails, computers, smartphones, tablets, billboards, and in-store displays—it creates a true omnichannel experience.
How do you differentiate your services from the competition?
LiquidPixels is the only provider of enterprise-class dynamic imagery solutions. This is not just hyperbole—we created this technology. We hold four patents in dynamic imaging. We invented it and we continue to innovate every day. No one can do everything we do.
For example, our LiquiFire Image Chain language – the script language used to request a dynamic image – can be as simple as a short URL to have an image resized to fit available space. Or, complex business logic can be executed in real-time to render an image based on data obtained from product, inventory, and pricing databases, customer preferences, purchase history, and current promotions. The list is endless and yet easily incorporated into a LiquiFire Image Chain. As I said, no one else can do this.
What unique technologies are you keenly following to grow your business into new markets? Any AI component here?
AI in general, and computer-vision specifically, play a strong and increasing role in our products and services. We love to leverage complex technologies invisibly to bring value without complexity, processing imagery in the best, fastest, and most flexible way.
Any friendly advice to all young entrepreneurs and marketing professionals?
In the 20 years of running the business, numerous mantras have proven worthwhile. I will list several here in no particular order:
Surround yourselves with people smarter than you and be willing to delegate.
Only the paranoid survive.
Never give up.
Your technology must be solid; but in the end, it is all about the Sales and Marketing.
Bootstrap if you can; but be sure you can afford to live without an income for at least a year.
Invest in a good lawyer.
Family first. During their final days, no one has ever said, “I wish I would have spent more time working.”
Thank you, Steve! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
As founder and CEO, Steve guides LiquidPixels with three decades of digital imaging experience. He brings expertise and a proven track record of leadership to the development and integration of imaging software and hardware. Prior to founding LiquidPixels with Marc Spencer, Steve was a Director at Kodak.com, helping to lead the world’s largest imaging company into the digital millennium. While there, he co‑managed the creation of the Photo CD System at Eastman Kodak Company and the follow‑on FlashPix™ standard. He was integral in uniting Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, LivePicture, and Kodak to this open imaging specification.
LiquidPixels is the world’s only provider of enterprise-class dynamic imaging solutions. Built on open standards, our LiquiFire Dynamic Imaging Solutions integrate into existing Web and workflow environments, enhancing product creation and visualization while reducing production costs. Founded in 2000, LiquidPixels makes its patented technology available as a hosted service or via on-site enterprise servers with solutions that may be tailored to each of our customers’ unique needs.