SweetEscape Founders Emile Etienne (L) and David Soong

SweetEscape, an AI-driven on-demand photography startup headquartered in Indonesia, announced today that it has raised US$6 million in Series A round of funding, co-led by Openspace Ventures and Jungle Ventures.

Burda Principal Investments and existing investors also participated in the round.

The money will be used to develop the startup’s AI technology and strengthen presence across Asia.

Headquartered in Jakarta, SweetEscape currently has over 100 employees across Jakarta, Singapore and Manila and it plans to double the team size by the end of 2019.

In 2017, the startup had raised US$1 million seed funding round led by East Ventures, with participation of Beenext, Skystar Capital, and GDP Venture.

SweetEscape was founded in 2017 by David Soong and Emile Etienne, who were also the founders of Bridestory, a wedding marketplace platform which was recently acquired by Tokopedia.

The startup was first established to allow consumers to discover local photographers while traveling and to ensure the memories are captured by locally curated professional photographers.

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In the current form, SweetEscape ​is a photography platform that offers photoshoots for any occasion in over 500 cities in 100 countries globally for both consumer and businesses. With thousands of photographers under its network, the firm aims to empower the photographer community by providing services, including post production for them to pursue their passion while addressing the rising demand for quality visual content to consumers and businesses.

With a tap of a finger, customers can book a photo session in less than a minute, edited photos can then be downloaded through the app within 48 hours.

The company is focused on being the first AI imaging technology in the region to lead the innovation and the transformation in this US$80 billion photography industry.

Founder and CEO Soong said: “Our ultimate mission is to empower the photographers’ community while providing consumers with affordable access to quality photos anywhere around the world.”

“I have been a photographer for the past 20 years. 70 per cent of a photographer’s time is spent not taking photos. Our platform makes their lives easier — with us handling 80 per cent of the photographers’ workflow and post-production — increasing their productivity and income and allowing them to pursue their passion. To do this, our goal is to leverage AI image processing technology to accelerate and automate the post-production process,” he added.

Founder and COO of SweetEscape Etienne said: “We started SweetEscape to address a problem in the travel photography segment but as we continue to scale, we started to observe a broader usage of our platform beyond travel. The growth in non-travel (birthdays, baby showers, graduations, family photoshoots and others) have consistently exceeded our expectations. With this new funding and the support of the investors, we will focus in strengthening our foothold in Asia while building our presence in new markets around the world.”

SweetEscape has also started moving into the business photography segment, providing food photography, real-estate photography and headshots — servicing global clients including WeWork, P&G and HSBC.

Openspace Ventures focuses on Series A and B investments in technology companies based in Southeast Asia. Key areas of investment include fintech, healthtech, edutech, consumer applications and cloud-based solutions. It is currently investing its second fund and has approximately US$225 million in total committed capital. Openspace has invested in 25 companies, including Go-Jek; Halodoc; Love, Bonito; Topica; CXA, FinAccel, and Pathao.

Burda Principal Investments is part of Munich-headquartered Hubert Burda Media. With DLD (Digital, Life, Design), Hubert Burda Media has established a global network on innovation, digitisation, science and culture with conferences around the world. Burda Principal Investments is the company’s unit to provide growth capital to digital ventures in the US, Europe, and Asia.