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Reface grabs $5.5M seed led by A16z to stoke its viral face-swap video app – TechCrunch

Reface investments

Buzzy face-swap video app Reface, which lends customers superstar ‘superpowers’ by turning their selfies into “eerily lifelike” well-known video clips on the faucet of a button, has caught the eye of Andreessen Horowitz. The Silicon Valley enterprise agency leads a $5.5 million seed spherical within the deep tech leisure startup, introduced as we speak.

Reface tells us its apps (iOS and Android) have been downloaded some 70 million instances because it launched in January 2020 — up from 20M once we spoke to one in all its (seven) co-founders again in August. It’s additionally attained ‘prime 5’ main app standing in round 100 international locations, the US included — in addition to bagging a ‘prime app’ award within the annual Google Play best of. Fairly the yr, then.

That sort of viral development clip has been turning heads in all places. In addition to nabbing a16z for its seed lead, Reface has pulled in funding from quite a lot of outstanding angel buyers throughout the gaming, music, movie/content material creation and tech industries. 

This consists of — from the gaming business — Ilkka Paananen, CEO of Supercell; and David Helgason, founding father of Unity Applied sciences. From the world of music: Scooter Braun (identified for managing prime pop stars like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande); and Adam Leber, a supervisor to Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, and an Uber investor. 

On the movie/content material creation facet its angels embody Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and Peter Serafinowicz (by way of Deep Voodoo); Bryan Baum and Matt Kives, founding father of K5 World (whose purchasers have included the likes of Bruce Willis, Jesse Eisenberg and Eric Stonestreet); and Natalia Vodianova, a mannequin, philanthropist, and actress.

Tech business buyers becoming a member of the spherical as angels are: Josh Elman (ex-investment accomplice at Greylock and on the boards of Medium, Operator, Musical.ly and Jelly); and Sriram Krishnan (investor and former product lead at Microsoft, Fb, Snap and Twitter).

It’s the sort of broad-based pleasure that may be generated when sizzling development streams like ‘no code’ and viral social video get crossed. (No less than if, like a rubbery face masks, we stretch the definition of ‘no code’ to cowl — in Reface’s case — a push-button, AI software for pro-style content material creation; the ‘no code’ label sometimes refers to b2b instruments that simplify app constructing however the widespread theme is supercharged accessibility.)

With such a glowing portfolio of early stage backers Reface’s Ukrainian founders are absolutely proving the worth of sticking with it the place deep tech is anxious. As we reported again in the summertime, three of the founders started working collectively virtually a decade in the past — honing their machine studying chops straight out of college. Their tenacity is now paying off in viral spades.

“The Reface crew has taken their extremely subtle, machine studying know-how and remodeled it right into a shopper expertise that’s seamless to make use of and enjoyable to share with your mates,” stated Connie Chan, basic accomplice at Andreessen Horowitz in a supporting assertion on the funding.

“We’re simply starting to see the potential functions for his or her core know-how throughout shopper, leisure, and advertising experiences and the Reface crew has the creativity and experience to assist form that future,” she added.

“I consider that Reface has the potential to be the next-generation personalization platform that allows the gamification of films, sports activities, music movies, and lots of different fields that persons are keen about,” added Supercell’s Paananen in one other assertion. “I’m excited to see the crew develop Reface right into a neighborhood that permits folks to create energetic private connections with artists and one another by means of content material they love.” 

Reface’s co-founders, Denys Dmytrenko, Oles Petriv, Ivan Altsybieiev, Roman Mogylnyi, Yaroslav Boiko, Dima Shvets and Kyrylo Syhyda (Picture credit score: Reface)

Reface says the seed funding will permit it to step on the expansion fuel. Together with stepping up work on a software that’s able to detecting its personal fakes, which it needs to construct to shrink the chance of the tech being misused.

Earlier this yr the startup advised us the detection tech can be prepared by fall so it’s evidently taking a bit longer than anticipated. However garnering viral development for its celeb-video face-swaps could nicely have reconfigured its priorities a tad.

A beforehand slated fall launch of UGC video for face-swapping has additionally not but absolutely materialized.

A neighborhood that’s presently fuelled by creating and sharing excessive manufacturing worth superstar video clips appears a really totally different sort of ‘eerie’ vs letting customers unfastened on face-swapping themselves onto the physique of their child brother, say, or grandparent (to not point out the broader dangers of not high quality controlling the bottom materials for face swaps). So taking time to get strong controls in place makes good enterprise sense. As does specializing in stoking the viral increase with contemporary celeb content material by retaining content material companions pleased.

Requested in regards to the delay, Reface advised us UGC video has been “partly” launched at this level, since customers can obtain their GIFs. “It’s nonetheless in beta as we’re testing and enhancing — detection system, moderation, communication with customers — to make it possible for content material won’t be misused,” it stated, including: “Concerning video, now we have a bunch of creators who present us with content material instantly. This fashion we will take a look at all of the UGC mechanics. We plan to launch the UGC choice to the general public by the tip of Q1.” 

On the still-in-development detection software, Reface stated the plan is to launch it alongside UGC.

“We’re coaching our fashions to maximise the detection high quality,” it advised us on that, including that it hopes to have the software finalized in April 2021.

Reface’s its overarching ambition is to construct “the largest platform of personalised content material” — monetizing that by partnering with content material holders and celebrities to supply head-turning “inventive digital advertising options”.

Having a close to captive viewers for buzzy social content material through the pandemic has clearly helped the mission, even because it’s boosted social rivals like Snap.

With so many bored youngsters caught at dwelling with their telephones this yr, there’s been a chance for development throughout the board of social media. (And a16z is a backer of a number of different social performs, together with audio-based social community Clubhouse, and — for teenagers — the Roblox social gaming platform, to call simply two.)

In August 2020, Reface says it turned viral and ranked primary within the U.S. AppStore — (briefly) surpassing TikTok and Instagram. Celebrities together with Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg, Britney Spears, Joe Rogan, Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus and Dua Lipa have all shared their refaced movies on social media this yr, it additionally notes.

This yr it’s inked partnerships with leisure business luminaries to advertise new video launches, together with Bieber, Cyrus and John Legend, in addition to working with Amazon Prime to promote the Borat film premiere — racking up “thousands and thousands” extra shares and refaces.  

“Funding from Andreessen Horowitz will permit us to speed up this development, empower our crew with new skills and enhance know-how, as we’ll proceed work on a pretend movies detection software to ensure accountable use of our AI know-how,” co-founder Denis Dmitrenko added in a press release. 

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Author

Natasha Lomas