Superfish CEO Adi Pinhas hopes that his on-line shopping comparison tool will be to Web pictures and photos what Google is to words.

 Where Web shoppers fish for bargains

 

A screenshot of the Superfish website

By David Halevi

Every penny counts. And that’s one reason for the success of Superfish, an Israeli-invented shopping comparison tool which in just four months has been downloaded by about 1.5 million people. Another reason for the popularity of the Superfish Window Shopper is that it makes shopping more fun.

With its unique image search engine technology, Superfish, based in the Tel Aviv district of Givat Shmuel, hopes to become to Web pictures and photos what Google is to words, says CEO Adi Pinhas.

"We break down images into recognizable components and search the Web to find matches, and we present them as alternative choices for the image the user is looking at. The technology is not unlike Google’s; Google searches text strings on indexed sites for matches and presents them to users in its search engine, and we search images on indexed sites for images," he explains.

"The technology can work with any Web image, but we decided to begin with a shopping comparison engine," he adds.

Finding a better deal

You download the Superfish Window Shopper from the company’s site and use it on major shopping sites like Amazon, Buy.com, Walmart.com, etc., that sell apparel, footwear, jewelry, handbags and accessories. Pinhas is sure that the tool, rolled out to about 4,000 sites earlier this year, will be usable on nearly all shopping sites and most products by the end of 2011.

 Where Web shoppers fish for bargains

An icon appears next to each image, which, when you click on it, pops up and displays visually-similar products from hundreds of stores. Clicking on those links transports you to the competing site, where, hopefully, you’ll be able to get a better deal – or a product more suited to your needs.

Those clicks are how Superfish makes its money, Pinhas explains. "All the sites we work with run affiliate programs, so we earn a little money each time a customer clicks on one of our links and makes a purchase." One might think that sites like Amazon would not want to cooperate with a company that makes a tool that refers customers to competing sites, but "they realize it’s a two way street. We refer people in their direction as well, so they have an opportunity to profit as well," Pinhas says.

The fact that Superfish has a profit-making Web technology model excites investors as well. In November, Superfish raised $3.4 million from Xenia Venture Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), Tamir Fishman Ventures, and Silicon Valley-based International Venture Fund (IVF). The funding is part of a $4 million financing round that Superfish was expected to close by the end of 2010.

Cell-phone version on the way

Superfish, originally called Link-it, was established in 2006. Pinhas, who created the technology along with partner Michael Chertok, says that it has been working on its technology since then, releasing it only several months ago. "Now we have 20 people in our R&D center in Givat Shmuel, and a small sales office in California," Pinhas says. "We expect to have between five and six million users by the end of 2011."

Among the innovations Pinhas is contemplating is crawling websites in languages other than English for its image database, and non-English versions of Window Shopper. "That’s something we hope to begin developing soon, probably starting with versions for use in Western European countries. We want to feel completely comfortable with English first."

Another challenge Superfish is considering is a cell phone version. "Everyone who hears about the product wants to know when we are going cellular," Pinhas recounts, and while he doesn’t have a specific date for a mobile version, "it’s definitely on the agenda."

Although at first hearing Link-it might seem to be a more appropriate name for what the company does, Pinhas says Superfish works just fine. "When people go shopping, especially on the Internet, they’re often ‘fishing,’ searching for the right deal. We help them supercharge their fishing expedition."