Animated avatar generated by AI video platform Synthesia.
Synthesia, a digital media platform that allows users to create videos generated by artificial intelligence, has raised $90 million from investors – including the US chip giant. Nvidiathe company revealed exclusively to CNBC.
The London-based company raised cash in a funding round led by Accel, an early investor in Facebook, Slack and Spotify. Nvidia stepped in as a strategic investor, putting in an undisclosed amount of money. Other investors include Kleiner Perkins, GV, FirstMark Capital and MMC.
Founded in 2017 by researchers and entrepreneurs Victor Riparbelli, Matthias Niessner, Steffen Tjerrild and Lourdes Agapito, Synthesia develops software that allows people to create their own digital avatars for company presentations, training videos – or even compliments to colleagues in over 120 different languages . .
Its ultimate goal is to eliminate cameras, microphones, actors, lengthy editing and other costs from the professional video production process. To do this, Synthesia has created animated avatars that look and sound like people, but are generated by artificial intelligence. The avatars are based on real actors speaking in front of a green screen.
“Productivity can be improved because you reduce the cost of making a video to the cost of making a PowerPoint,” Accel’s Philippe Botteri, Synthesia’s lead Series C investor, told CNBC, adding that consumer adoption of video has expanded. platforms like YouTube, Netflix and TikTok.
“Video is a much better way to communicate knowledge. When we think about the company’s potential and valuation, we think about what it can give back, [and] in the case of Synthesia, we are only scratching the surface.”
Synthesia is a form of generative artificial intelligence, similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. But the company says it has been working on its own proprietary generative AI for years, and that while ChatGPT has only recently become public knowledge, generative AI itself is not a new technology.
Synthesia sells to enterprise clients including Tiffany’s, IHG and Moody’s Analytics. The company doesn’t disclose its sales or revenue metrics, though it says it has “continued to drive triple-digit growth,” with more than 12 million videos produced on the platform to date. The number of users on Synthesia grew by 456% year-over-year, the company said.
Synthesia plans to increase investment in its technology, with a particular focus on advancing AI research and making Synthesia’s avatars capable of multitasking.
“We work with 35% of the Fortune 100 [with a focus on] product marketing, customer support, customer success — areas of the company where you have a lot of text that you want to turn into video,” Riparbelli told CNBC.
“As we move into the next phase of the next generation of Synthesia technology, it’s all about making the avatars more expressive, able to do more things, walk around the room, have conversations,” he added.
Riparbelli explained that Nvidia isn’t just a semiconductor manufacturer—it’s also a powerhouse of R&D talent, with an army of engineers, academics and researchers who write articles on the subject.
“They’re not just a chip maker,” he said. “They have amazing research teams that are very leading in terms of how do you actually train these big models? What works, what doesn’t work?”
Business Insider previously reported that Synthesia was in talks with investors to raise between $50 million and $75 million in new funds at a valuation of around $1 billion.
The report did not include details of Nvidia’s involvement, nor did it mention the total amount of $90 million that was raised.
Synthesia is one of many companies attracting investor interest with AI and enterprise software that can reduce costs associated with certain business processes. Companies are looking lower expenses wherever they can fight rising inflation and prepare for a possible recession.
Last week, French business planning software company Pigment raised $88 million from investors including Iconiq Growth, Felix Capital, Meritech IVP and FirstMark, in part to increase their investment in AI.
Generative artificial intelligence is a rare bright spot in a European tech market reeling from dwindling funding and falling valuations. Investors rotated from high-growth technology firms to value sectors with more resilient income generation, such as financials, industrials, energy and consumer staples.
Recently, a report from the venture capital company Atomico showed that funding for European technology startups was on track to decline a further 39% in 2023 to $51 billion from $83 billion in 2022.
However, AI was one of the areas that attracted more investment, Atomico said, with generative AI accounting for 35% of total investment in AI and machine learning firms last year – the highest share ever and a big jump from 5% in in 2022.
There are concerns that using video AI tools as advanced as Synthesia could lead to deepfakes, videos that look like a user and manipulate them to make it look like they’re saying or doing something they’re not saying.
There have also been increasing calls from technology leaders and academics for a global pause in AI development outside of systems like OpenAI GPT-4 due to concerns that the technology is so advanced that it may pose an existential risk to humanity.
Synthesia first gained mainstream attention in 2019 for a deepfake video which featured a digitally animated version of the famous footballer David Beckham speaking about the campaign to end malaria in nine languages.
Although it was done with Beckham’s approval and for a good cause, the wider use of deepfake technology has led to concerns about the potential for disinformation.
To address this, Synthesia says it has ethics in mind when developing its software. The company requires consent from people who appear as avatars in its software, and uses a combination of human and machine learning to target material such as profanity and hate speech.
It is also signed up to Responsible Practices for Synthetic Media, a voluntary industry-wide framework for the ethical and responsible development, creation and sharing of synthetic media.
“There’s a lot of different discourses going on right now. One about very long-term existential kind of risk scenarios. I think it’s important to talk about those as well. But I’d like to see if there’s more of a focus on where are we today?” Riparbelli told CNBC in an interview.
“These technologies are already powerful. How do we deal with them.” hallucination? How are we going to deal with all the problems that come up?” he added. “It certainly has its pitfalls. But I think there’s also so much opportunity in that that levels the playing field and allows people to do a lot more with less.”