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

Buzzy face-swap video app Reface, which lends customers celeb ‘superpowers’ by turning their selfies into “eerily realistic” 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 right this moment.

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

That type of viral progress clip has been turning heads everywhere. As effectively as nabbing a16z for its seed lead, Reface has pulled in funding from various distinguished angel traders throughout the gaming, music, movie/content material creation and tech industries. 

This contains — from the gaming business — Ilkka Paananen, CEO of Supercell; and David Helgason, founding father of Unity Technologies. From the world of music: Scooter Braun (managing accomplice of TQ Ventures, recognized for managing high 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 aspect its angels embody Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and Peter Serafinowicz (through Deep Voodoo); Bryan Baum and Michael Kives, founding father of K5 Global (whose purchasers have included the likes of Bruce Willis, Jesse Eisenberg and Eric Stonestreet); and Natalia Vodianova, a mannequin, philanthropist, and actress.

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

It’s the type of broad-based pleasure that may be generated when scorching pattern streams like ‘no code’ and viral social video get crossed. (At least 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 frequent theme is supercharged accessibility.)

With such a glowing portfolio of early stage backers Reface’s Ukrainian founders are certainly proving the worth of sticking with it the place deep tech is worried. As we reported again in the summertime, three of the founders started working collectively nearly 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 team has taken their highly sophisticated, machine learning technology and transformed it into a consumer experience that is seamless to use and fun to share with your friends,” mentioned Connie Chan, common accomplice at Andreessen Horowitz in a supporting assertion on the funding.

“We’re just beginning to see the potential applications for their core technology across consumer, entertainment, and marketing experiences and the Reface team has the creativity and expertise to help shape that future,” she added.

“I believe that Reface has the potential to be the next-generation personalization platform that enables the gamification of movies, sports, music videos, and many other fields that people are passionate about,” added Supercell’s Paananen in one other assertion. “I’m excited to see the team grow Reface into a community that allows people to create active personal connections with artists and each other through content they love.” 

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

Reface says the seed funding will enable it to step on the expansion gasoline. Including stepping up work on a software that’s able to detecting its personal fakes, which it desires to construct to shrink the chance of the tech being misused.

Earlier this yr the startup informed us the detection tech can be prepared by fall so it’s evidently taking a bit longer than anticipated. But garnering viral progress for its celeb-video face-swaps might effectively have reconfigured its priorities a tad.

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

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

Asked in regards to the delay, Reface informed us UGC video has been “partly” launched at this level, since customers can obtain their GIFs. “It’s still in beta as we’re testing and improving — detection system, moderation, communication with users — to make sure that content will not be misused,” it mentioned, including: “Regarding video, we have a bunch of creators who provide us with content directly. This way we can test all the UGC mechanics. We plan to launch the UGC option to the public by the end of Q1.” 

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

“We are training our models to maximize the detection quality,” it informed us on that, including that it hopes to have the software finalized in April 2021.

Reface’s its overarching ambition is to construct “the biggest platform of personalized content” — monetizing that by partnering with content material holders and celebrities to provide head-turning “creative digital marketing solutions”.

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 children caught at house with their telephones this yr, there’s been a chance for progress 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 youths — the Roblox social gaming platform, to identify 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 promote 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 “millions” extra shares and refaces.  

“Funding from Andreessen Horowitz will allow us to accelerate this growth, empower our team with new talents and improve technology, as we will continue work on a fake videos detection tool to guarantee responsible use of our AI technology,” co-founder Denis Dmitrenko added in a press release.