He kept in touch with the founders, he said, and watched PimEyes gain more and more media coverage, especially of the scathing variety. In 2020, PimEyes claimed to have a new owner, who wished to remain anonymous, and its headquarters were moved from Poland to the Seychelles, a popular African offshore tax haven.
mr. Gobronidze said he “heard” sometime last year that this new owner of the site wanted to sell it. So he quickly started collecting money to make an offer, sold a seaside villa he inherited from his grandparents, and borrowed a large amount from his younger brother, Shalva Gobronidze, a software engineer at a bank. The professor would not say how much he paid.
“It was not as large a sum as one would expect,” Mr Gobronidze said.
In December, Mr. Gobronidze set up a company, EMEARobotics, to acquire PimEyes and registered it in Dubai due to the United Arab Emirates’ low tax rate. He said he retained most of the site’s small technical and support team and hired a Belize-based consulting firm to handle inquiries and regulatory questions.
Mr. Gobronidze has rented office space for PimEyes in a tower in the center of Tbilisi. It is still being renovated, lamps hang loose from the ceiling.
Tatia Dolidze, a colleague of Mr Gobronidze at the European University, described him as “curious” and “stubborn” and said she had been surprised when he told her he was buying a facial search engine.
“It was difficult to imagine Giorgi as a businessman,” Ms Dolidze said by email.
Now he’s a businessman who owns a company steeped in controversy, mainly over whether we have a special right to control images of us that we never expected to be found this way. Mr Gobronidze said facial recognition technology would be used to monitor people if governments and large corporations had the only access to it.