Your face gave Brian Brackeen and Kairos their best year yet

All week we’re going to be looking at people, companies, and organizations who dominated their sectors in 2016. Other winners: Lyft and Uber (transit), Swire and Brickell City Center (real estate)

Facial recognition company Kairos and founder Brian Brackeen will remember 2016 as the year that they exploded. Brackeen’s face was everywhere (Black Enterprise named him Innovator of the Year) and Kairos became one of the Miami tech success stories after raising $5 million since 2012 and acquiring their first company this year.

“It was really a transformational year for us,” says Brackeen. “In November 2015, we were processing 46,000 faces a month through our system… As of Dec. 1 of this year we were processing 3.4 million faces a month. We’ve grown 7,144 percent in the last year. It’s been a ride.”


But what does it even mean to “process faces”? What does Kairos even do?

As machines take on more and more of the tasks that humans used to do, facial recognition sort of subs in for the way humans can read each other’s faces and respond to the emotions they see there. Kairos products also analyze the emotions detected. Altogether, the products basically allow machines to fake empathy.

“We help different people do different things – cruise lines identify people in photos, movie studios understand emotions of people as they watch films,” he explains. “Anywhere a human is present, there’s a potential customer for us, some type of sale.”

“We basically help our customers to better understand humanity. Our potential customer base is essentially all of humanity, which helps.”

They started the year by acquiring another company, called IMRSV, and spent the rest of this year merging the two, something that allowed them to launch a host of new facial recognition products

How does Kairos make money? Every time a machine uses one of Kairos’ products, a fraction of the transaction goes into Kairos’ pocket.

Film companies can learn about how viewers react to their movies (Courtesy of Kairos)

Looking ahead

The potential customer base is only going to grow. Brackeen points to autonomous vehicles as one of the biggest potential beneficiaries of their work. Right now they drive however the factory programs them.

But with facial recognition, cars can adapt to their regular riders’ personalities.

Cars can process whether a passenger feels alarmed by or impatient about the way it accelerates to cruising speed and adjust, for example.

With autonomous cars already hitting the roads – and ride-hailing companies talking about bringing them into their fleet – there’s enormous potential there.

Miami = endless potential?

Five years into Kairos, with one year of explosive growth under his belt, Brackeen remains an unadulterated champion of Miami’s tech scene. He praises the recent influx of talent, its diversity, the ratio of investors to startups asking them for cash, and the low cost of living compared to other tech hubs.

“Miami is the single very best place in the world to start a startup, period, bar none, no apologies,” he says.

Courtesy of Kairos

“I couldn’t have afforded to run this business all those years trying to [figure it out] in a more expensive market like San Francisco. Miami allows you more swings of the bat, more time to get it right, No. 1.”

“Another extremely important thing is … California has one angel investor for every three startups, while there are three [investors]  in Miami for every one startup.”

One thing is certain: success stories like these lift the profile of the whole tech ecosystem, so Kairos’ success is going to reverberate beyond their Wynwood office. Get ready for an even bigger year in 2017.