Last year, 92% of marketers said that video is an integral part of their marketing strategy. The average person will spend 100 minutes every day in 2021 watching online videos according to a recent study. As organizations are investing in videos, startups are building platforms to support the process. Synthesia is an AI-powered video generation platform that saves enterprises up to 100x the cost and time of producing a video. The company leverages deep learning to simulate real videos and real actors without the need for costly infrastructure like camera crews, actors, cameras, studios, and a lengthy post-production process. Clients are able to produce professional-quality videos in minutes with a single API call and a few clicks. The company is working on codifying the entire video generation process, where videos will be generated through code, offering unprecedented scalability and efficiency.
London TechWatch caught up with Cofounder and CEO Victor Riparbelli to learn more about the future of video production, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding, which brings the total funding raised to $16.6M, and much, much more.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
The funding round is led by FirstMark Capital, the NY-based early-stage fund, and also adds two new angels to the cap table: Christian Bach (CEO, Netlify) and Michael Buckley (VP Communications, Twilio). All existing investors are also participating in the round: LDV Capital, MMC Ventures, Seedcamp, Mark Cuban, Taavet Hinrikus, Martin Varsavsky, and TinyVC.
We raised a Series A, $12.5 million, all equity.
Tell us about your product or service.
Synthesia is the world’s first and largest enterprise AI video generation platform. Instead of filming video content with a camera, Synthesia uses AI software to simulate real videos and real actors – eliminating the need for film crews, studios, actors, and cameras. This makes creating videos with real people as easy as writing an email – while reducing the cost and time of producing a video by more than 100x.
Synthesia’s first product STUDIO launched in public beta in the summer of 2020. It is now used by more than 1000 companies, including several Fortune 500 companies. Previously, Synthesia’s technology has enabled award-winning AI media campaigns such as Malaria no more with David Beckham, Lionel Messi Lays campaign, and JustEat ads with Snoop Dogg.
Cameras will be replaced by code. This is the big idea Synthesia was founded on and what we wanted to pioneer when Synthesia was founded in 2017.
We want to make it easier for anyone to communicate via video. The next iteration of the internet will be driven by video and interactive experiences, but current methods of production don’t scale.
Synthesia powers a paradigm shift in media production, enabled by AI. From thinking about video production as something we record with cameras it’ll be something we program with computers.
Our mission is to reduce the entire video production process of film crews, studios, actors, and cameras to a single API call — reducing the friction of video creation and making it possible for anyone to create professional-looking videos in minutes, directly from their browser.
As the platform advances our long-term vision is to make it possible for anyone to create a completely synthetic Hollywood film from their bedroom, without the need for anything else than a laptop.
Our entire platform is built on deep learning – taking many of the processes known from Hollywood visual effects and teaching deep learning networks to replicate them at scale. Our system is able to synthesize photoreal talking-head style video in minutes and makes it easy, fast, and scalable to produce video for business use cases.
Technically our systems use a variety of deep learning and computer vision techniques including GANs (generative adversarial networks).
How is it different?
With our technology platform, we’ve reduced the entire video production process to an API call – it now takes 3 minutes (on average) to create a video vs. weeks of work with traditional production. Enterprise customers and individual creators can scale their production infinitely (1 video is roughly $1 dollar) and tailor video content to individual users, companies, or employees.
A recent example of this is the Messi campaign for PepsiCo’s Lay’s, where a total of 650 million video variations were created. On that project alone, fans generated hundreds of thousands of videos.
To create Messi’s synthetic avatar, all we needed was 5 minutes of training footage of him speaking to the camera. Anyone can make their own avatar (eg. senior staff or a branded persona to represent your brand) with only 5 minutes of footage of the person.
From the 5 minutes of video, our algorithms learn how the actors move and look in speech. Our technology can then synthesize new videos in any language.
We also have a selection of built-in actors on the platform that are available to all clients including the $30/month plan. These are real actors who get remunerated every time someone makes a video with them.
Our platform supports 40 languages, further expanding the scale of client video experiences.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
The market we occupy is introducing video where previously you could only have text.
Video is 9x as effective as text when it comes to educating and communicating with customers, staff, and other stakeholders.
Most companies are investing heavily in integrating video into their customer and employee experiences and Synthesia offers a scalable way of making lots of video content quickly and at an affordable price.
We work mostly with Learning & Development and Corporate Communications that are now making video content rather than sending out PDFs, emails or PowerPoints. For example, educating a global workforce on new policies or products.
We’re are seeing the emergence of a new category with AI video. Global clients are building full video experiences in Synthesia (Messi, Beckham campaigns), while individual users are building entire businesses on our platform.
Some examples of businesses built with Synthesia: video chatbots with a human face, SEO optimisation using video content, and interactive video experiences. We also see agencies and consultancies augmenting their services business using Synthesia.
What’s your business model?
We are a SaaS platform, charging based on platform seats. We have a $30/user plan for individual creators and scaled enterprise plans for SP500 multinationals.
How has COVID-19 impacted the business?
The pandemic has definitely accelerated the adoption of synthetic media. We’ve seen two major trends:
As traditional video/audio productions became impossible during lockdowns companies began looking for alternatives. In addition, many of our clients were planning in-person training events that needed to be shifted online. This helped clients understand the value Synthesia can bring, opening new use cases and opportunities to augment existing content.
In addition, we’ve also seen just how important video is when everyone is remote. This is something we’re hearing from a lot of our clients — when you’re behind a screen all day the last people want to do is read long documents. Videos are much more effective and this has been made even more clear during the pandemic.