Turning every computer into an AI-powered video production studio: a look at Synthesia’s history, key members, major achievements, and future

In this series of ai.nl, we feature the most promising AI companies in the world: where do they come from, what have they achieved and what are their plans for the future. In this episode, we are looking at Synthesia, a London-based company offering an AI video platform where users can create professional videos simply by entering text.

Video is one of the most powerful tools to communicate in the world. However, it is not easy for everyone to shoot, produce, edit, and upload a video online. In order to do all of those actions, you will need not only skills but also access to devices, and that can be a big deterrent to anyone planning to enter the world of videos.

With AI, Synthesia believes that it can solve this entry barrier by making “video easy for anyone.” With its technology and solution, Synthesia wants everyone to rethink not only about video production but also synthetic media. The company is strongly pushing towards a world where synthetic media is not restricted to being a catch-all term to describe video, images, text, and voice.

Built by AI researchers and entrepreneurs

Synthesia was founded in 2017 by a team of AI researchers and entrepreneurs from UCL, Stanford, TUM, and Cambridge. The company, founded by Lourdes Agapito, Matthias Niessner, Steffen Tjerrild, and Victor Riperbelli, has raised a total of $66.6M so far, according to Crunchbase.

The AI video editor startup has raised funds from investors like Mark Cuban, Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Seedcamp, and Firstmark. The big names in the investors list of Synthesia alone makes it one of those AI startups to keep an eye on. These investors are not only betting on the possibility of a video-first consumption but instead on an internet that will be video-first.

The co-founders of Synthesia want to allow anyone to create or make video content without access to cameras, microphones, or studios. It is using artificial intelligence (AI) to change the process of content creation. The company says that the “ability for AI-driven systems to generate audiovisual content is one of the most exciting developments enabled by recent progress in deep learning.”

In order to create AI avatars, Synthesia simply requires 5 minutes of video and it then applies deep learning to understand and create an avatar. The next step is for the user to edit this avatar using the applicable filters and templates. During its Series B announcement, Synthesia revealed that more than 35 partners at EY now have their avatars.

With focus on accelerating commercialisation and investment in long-term research, the company is building technology that can accurately capture detailed 3D human data at scale. This data will help Synthesia move from front facing AI video creator to a platform capable of creating “full scenes and movies.”

Synthesia: key members

  • Victor Riparbelli (Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder)
  • Prof. Matthias Niessner (Co-founder)
  • Prof. Lourdes Agapito (Co-founder)
  • Steffen Tjerrild (Chief Financial Officer/Chief Operating Officer & Co-founder)
  • Jonathan Starck (Chief Technology Officer)
  • Nadia Eslami (Vice President – Partnerships)
  • Moos Hueting (Lead AI Research Engineer)
  • Karel Lebeda (Research Engineer)
  • Antoine Fond (Research Engineer)
  • Corneliu Ilisescu (Research Engineer)
  • Qi Liu Yin (Research Engineer)
  • Jake Gillespie (Lead Backend Engineer)
  • James Durrant (Research Engineer)
  • Hyeyoun You (Video Editor)
  • Jakob Marovt (Head of Growth)
  • Gregor Belcec (Head of Product & Engineering)
  • Adam Chelminski (Senior Backend Engineer)
  • Dan-Vlad Cobasneanu (Product Marketer)
  • Urban Marovt (Full Stack Engineer)
  • Daniel Verten (Head of Creative)
  • Oliver Svensson (Senior Account Executive)
  • Tadej Matek (Full Stack Engineer)
  • Martin Rünz (Research Scientist)
  • Yoan Petrov (Video Production Specialist)
  • Youssef Alami Mejjati (Research Scientist)
  • Benjamin Klasmer (Research Engineer)
  • Christopher Spitz (Account Executive)
  • Elena Shakhrai (Research Engineer)
  • Conrad Riparbelli (Growth Marketing Associate)
  • Tatiana Hristova (Avatar Production Specialist)

What products does Synthesia offer?

One of the ways that video content is created right now is using softwares from the likes of Apple and Adobe. Synthesia wants to change that and is offering a web-based platform for creating AI videos. It says that with its technology, people will be able to turn their computer into a video production studio.

It is also designed to be extremely simple to use. All one needs to do is subscribe to Synthesia, choose a template and avatar for their video, type the text, add visual elements like images, videos, shapes, soundtracks, and then generate a video in minutes. It is meant to be less labour intensive while at the same time capable of turning text into speech in more than 60 languages and accents.

Synthesia claims to offer over 60 avatars and customers can even add custom avatars. There are also custom backgrounds, audio uploads, background music, and other features like video sharing pages, multi-slide videos, and option to update the content. This flexibility alone makes Synthesia a potent tool for video production.

It is priced at $30 for 10 video credits per month and corporates have their own options. The service is already being used by the likes of Reuters, Teleperformance, Nike, Novo Nordisk, Google, and BBC, among others.

Synthesia: timeline of key events

  1. April 2017: Founded by Lourdes Agapito, Matthias Niessner, Steffen Tjerrild, and Victor Riperbelli
  2. October 2017: Pre-seed round of $1M
  3. April 2019: Seed round of $3.1M
  4. April 2021: Series A round of $12.5M
  5. December 2021: Series B round of $50M

How is Synthesia being used?

Synthesia is already being used for creating training videos and is also being used for how-to videos, and marketing videos. Teleperformance is using Synthesia Studio to scale its production of video learning content. The company is using Synthesia’s AI avatars to create global compliance training and onboarding videos on topics such as security and data privacy.

Teleperformance says it has saved 5 days per video created by switching from video authoring tools to Synthesia. It has also saved $650 per video and used Synthesia for localisation of the content.

WPP, a leading name in the creative transformation industry, is also using Synthesia to train its workforce. The company is using AI videos to train 50,000 employees and is focusing on upskilling 5,000 data practitioners. The company is also looking to demystify AI for 50,000 of its 100,000 employees by the end of 2022.

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