Focusing on improving the video quality of smartphones, the Swedish company “Imint” cooperates with a number of head phone manufacturers in China

The smartphone imaging software market totals US$2-250 million, with Imint’s market share of approximately 2%

Reporter: Li Ziyue

Editor: Shi Yaqiong

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Users have higher and higher requirements for cameras in mobile phones, and the competition on the AI ​​vision track has become increasingly fierce. Recently, 36 krypton interviewed Imint, a Swedish smart sensor and data analysis software company, whose video enhancement software Vidhance developed, can transform smart phone cameras and other types of cameras into professional video production equipment. In 2015, the company was listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange.

2016 became Huawei after suppliers, Imint began to enter the Chinese market, and with Vivo, millet , byte beating cooperation, the head of the company. The company’s turnover began to increase rapidly in mid-2020, and achieved a balance of payments in the same year. The company currently accounts for approximately 2% of the global smartphone imaging software market.

Imint was founded in 2007. The team originated from Uppsala University in Sweden. The two founders of Imint were Harald Klomp and Jakob Sandström, both of whom were working at the Image Analysis Center of Uppsala University. Among these two people, Harald is the company’s core driving force and the company’s first CEO. Jakob left the company a few years later to pursue another career related to software development. Harald is a serial entrepreneur. After founding Imint, he left the company and devoted himself to the establishment of several other companies, many of which are related to next-generation energy production and distribution (LeadCold Reactors, Save-by-Solar, etc.). The current CEO of the company is Andreas Lifvendahl (the interviewee this time), who has served as the CEO of Imint since 2012. A graduate of Engineering Physics from Uppsala University in Sweden, Andreas has extensive experience in the software and semiconductor industries in the European, American and Asian markets. At present, the company has about 40 employees, more than half of the R&D team, and more than 90% of Imint employees have engineering degrees or doctorate degrees.

Focusing on improving the video quality of smartphones, the Swedish company "Imint" cooperates with a number of head phone manufacturers in China

(Image source of Imint CEO Andreas Lifvendahl: Photo courtesy of interview)

At the beginning of its establishment, the company focused on the research and development of aviation investigation software and was active in the field of national defense. In 2013, with the advent of the smartphone era, Imint also began to focus on improving the quality of real-time video on smartphones. In 2014, the video enhancement software Vidhance for Android was released. Software functions include video anti-shake, noise reduction, horizontal calibration, Selfie mode, optical anti-shake support, dynamic motion blur reduction, real-time intelligent composition, multi-camera calibration tools, etc. Vidhance has a high score on DxOMark’s video stabilization list (DxOMark is the global image quality evaluation industry standard).

As a video enhancement software platform, Vidhance can convert smart phone cameras, or any type of camera, into professional video recording equipment. Based on the breakthrough video stabilization algorithm, Vidhance provides end users with an excellent experience and maximizes the potential of the underlying hardware. Efficiency can be improved through additional functions that are tightly integrated with Vidhance. The efficient use of the underlying hardware meets the requirements of high performance and low power consumption at the same time. In addition, it can also improve the video recording experience in all situations. Vidhance measures the rotation angle through the mobile phone gyroscope sensor, making its solution more anti-shake performance. Vidhance video stabilization can also use the most advanced 3D model in the camera system to correct unnatural imaging caused by human factors (such as keystone distortion and rolling shutter distortion).

Focusing on improving the video quality of smartphones, the Swedish company "Imint" cooperates with a number of head phone manufacturers in China

(Image source of Imint’s partner company: Photo courtesy of interview)

At present, Imint has cooperated with more than 20 companies around the world, including smart phone brands Huawei, Vivo, Xiaomi, OPPO, chip giant Qualcomm, Internet companies ByteDance, etc.

Focusing on improving the video quality of smartphones, the Swedish company "Imint" cooperates with a number of head phone manufacturers in China

(Photo source of the number of Imint service equipment from 2015 to 2021: Photo courtesy of the interview)

From 2015 to 2020, the number of Vidhance devices equipped with Imint continues to grow, with more than 400 million units in 2020, and as of May 2021, there are nearly 500 million mobile phones equipped with Vidhance.

Financial status

Focusing on improving the video quality of smartphones, the Swedish company "Imint" cooperates with a number of head phone manufacturers in China

(The quarterly distribution of Imint’s turnover from 2016 to 2021. Picture source: Interview courtesy of the picture)

About three-quarters of Imint’s turnover comes from software licensing, and the rest comes from software development components or tool licensing, and maintenance costs. Since 2016, turnover has shown an upward trend. After falling in Q2 of 2020, it rebounded strongly. In 2021, Q1 turnover increased by 68% compared with the same period in 2020.

Imint’s turnover in China increased by more than 30% year-on-year, accounting for 80% of global turnover. In addition to the smartphone business, the company also plans to expand its business to other new areas such as smart glasses and wearable cameras. Imint said that many customers have expressed great interest in it.

Focusing on improving the video quality of smartphones, the Swedish company "Imint" cooperates with a number of head phone manufacturers in China

(2016-2021 Imint’s pre-tax profit quarterly distribution. Picture source: Interview courtesy)

Profit before tax was positive in Q2 and Q3 of 2018 and Q3 of 2019 in the short term. After Q3 of 2020, it will realize stable profitability and continue to grow. The pre-tax profit in Q1 of 2021 reached a record high of about 4 million ESK; EBITDA was about 4.4 million ESK; OPEX was 10.4 million ESK (in 2020 Q1: 10.8 million ESK), due to the stock option allocation project, personnel expenses increased slightly.

Focusing on improving the video quality of smartphones, the Swedish company "Imint" cooperates with a number of head phone manufacturers in China

(From 2016 to 2021, the distribution of Imint’s cash flow by quarter. Source: Interview)

Cash flow continued to increase after a brief decrease in Q1 in 2020. In 2021, Q1 cash flow reached 2.1 million ESK.

Focusing on improving the video quality of smartphones, the Swedish company "Imint" cooperates with a number of head phone manufacturers in China

(Imint stock price picture source: Bloomberg)

The stock price has gone through the downturn during the epidemic phase and showed an overall upward trend in 2021, reaching its peak in late May. (The yellow line is the control index: Sweden OMX30)

Similar company

Similar domestic companies include Rainbow Soft Technology, SenseTime Technology , and Megvii Technology. Both Shangtang Technology and Megvii Technology entered the market from the perspective of face recognition technology, but from the perspective of the landing scenario, Shangtang Technology mainly focuses on the security, finance and mobile phone fields (mainly in the field of in-depth entertainment, such as facial expression simulation, etc.); Vision Technology focuses on finance, facial recognition in urban brains, and user portrait construction for offline retail, and has less cooperation with mobile phone manufacturers. Hongsoft Technology focuses on the landing scene of camera technology and has obvious C-end differentiation advantages.

Similar foreign companies include CorePhotonics from Israel and Morpho from Japan. CorePhotonics mainly provides camera design solutions and vision solutions, and was acquired by Samsung in 2019. Before CorePhotonics was acquired by Samsung, Imint conducted extensive cooperation negotiations and some joint R&D projects with it. Usually, such innovative sensors are ideal partners for Imint, because Imint’s software can fully exploit the potential of new sensors and connect valuable terminal functions. Morpho’s main business is to provide an image processing framework, embedded in mobile phones, cameras and other devices, and was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2011.

Imint said that its competitive advantage lies in two aspects: First, product quality and performance. Algorithms, video/image quality and energy efficiency have the best overall results. The expert team can integrate, calibrate, and adjust all software and hardware to provide better , Smoother and more reliable integration projects; second, in terms of customer service, as an innovative company, Imint has a high degree of flexibility, fast response, high efficiency, smooth communication with customers, fast delivery Customer satisfaction to deliver the promised products.

Market size

Focusing on improving the video quality of smartphones, the Swedish company "Imint" cooperates with a number of head phone manufacturers in China

(Image source of smartphone imaging software market in 2020: image courtesy of interview)

According to the data of Imint, the global market for smartphone imaging software reaches US$2-250 million, and the market share of Imint is about 2%; the total video software market is about US$70-100 million, of which Imint accounts for about 7%; video anti-shake The total software market is US$12-18 million, of which Imint accounts for about 20%. According to Imint data, this is the largest share of independent software vendors.

Imint enters the Chinese market

China’s science and technology industry has developed rapidly in recent years, providing new opportunities for foreign companies to enter China. China’s leading position in the field of smartphones and smartphone manufacturers’ focus on camera functions have gradually shifted the entire professional ecosystem of camera hardware and image processing software to China. This has provided companies like Imint with more innovations. The opportunity to integrate into high-quality end-user functionality. Imint sees the vigorous vitality and fierce competition in the Chinese market (especially the smartphone market). Smartphone manufacturers are brave enough to accept innovative and bold solutions, and Imint can use its own technology to improve the performance of smartphones.

In 2016, Huawei became Imint’s largest customer. With the help of Huawei, Imint began to enter the Chinese market. Imint said that the cooperation with Huawei has enabled them to deeply understand the pain points and challenges of the industry, and iterate products quickly, thereby helping customers to maintain technological leadership. As Huawei successfully launched its P series and Mate series mobile phones in its important business, Imint also quickly gained recognition in the Chinese market and established cooperative relationships with more Chinese brand customers, including major Chinese smartphone manufacturers. At the same time, Imint is actively expanding its cooperation with OEM/ODM and ISP hardware, and has now become an important member of the ecosystem of China’s imaging industry. In addition, facing the maturity of 5G technology and the application trend of “video is life”, Imint has formulated an innovative development strategy and began to explore new areas with vigorous development potential where Imint can give full play to its technological advantages, such as industrial video and video applications. Human-computer, video social, etc.

As a Swedish company, Chinese domestic customer household demand for suppliers is one of the major challenges it faces. In order to better meet the challenges, Imint optimized the support system to improve service efficiency. The company established an office in Shanghai, hired talents who understand the Chinese market and culture, and formed a technical support team and sales team of about 5 people to help Imint establish a solid cooperative relationship with key Chinese customers such as Huawei and Xiaomi; the company also A virtual team has been established in China and Uppsala to listen to the needs of Chinese customers, understand the local market, technology trends and potential challenges, and give feedback to the product development team in Sweden. In addition, many employees in the Swedish headquarters development and sales team are of Chinese descent. They graduated from Sweden’s top universities, such as Imint’s “alma mater” Uppsala University.

Imint also shared valuable experience for companies that want to enter the Chinese market: “If young companies want to enter the Chinese market, they must really work hard to explore and understand it, so that they can enter the market as soon as possible to obtain opportunities for cooperation. The Chinese market provides opportunities for technological innovation. With fertile soil, innovative things will be quickly discovered and commercialized quickly. Regardless of the size of the company, it is very important to find ideal “seed customers”. For Imint, Huawei is our important customer, and other companies will take advantage of their own circumstances. Different choices, the right one is the best choice.”

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