Last year we invested in the team at Synthesized, out to reimagine how companies share and access big data in a way that’s faster and safer than ever before. We sat down with Co-founder and CEO, Nicolai Baldin, to get an update on how the team and product have developed since we first invested and why ‘big data’ doesn’t need to be daunting.
Nicolai, explain to me what Synthesized is?
Synthesized aims to redefine the future of data assets.
For data to be useful, it needs to be shared, whether within a company between departments or with partners. Companies currently waste time, money and resources on suboptimal solutions to make it shareable in a privacy-compliant manner, or often do nothing with the data to avoid privacy and compliance issues. At Synthesized, we help partners solve this problem by using advanced machine learning and information security techniques: instead of sharing original data, we enable companies to work with compliant synthetic datasets mimicking the structure of the original data without disclosing any information about individual data points.
For the last two years, we’ve been developing our core product to address the problem for sensitive personal data and are currently helping our partners in product adoption.
What led you to create the business?
I have been working in machine learning and statistics for the last 8 years, and have collaborated with leading financial institutions in the US and the NHS in the UK. I was actually working on deep learning in early 2011 building recurrent neural networks with CPUs and Newton’s method before GPUs and stochastic gradient descent became the thing!
As I worked on some of the most advanced areas in ML, I became frustrated by the difficulty of obtaining quality test data due to compliance barriers and realised how massive the gap is between what the scientific community has developed and what it actually delivered to the world, mostly because of lack of infrastructure and communication with data. That’s how the idea for Synthesized was born around 2016.
Can you explain the underlying tech in more detail?
The underlying tech behind the main product is a high-dimensional machine learning engine that generates synthetic data sets by learning and reinforcing the structure of information found in original data. Based on recent advances in modern machine learning, our software is able to move beyond surface statistics to capture and reproduce the complex multi-dimensional patterns underlying realistic data sets. Unlike anonymization and encryption techniques, this approach enables our partners to share better quality information in a format useful for machine learning and analytics, without disclosing any information about individual data points.
Who is in the team?
When working on an advanced machine learning product, talent is key. Our founding team alone combines over 30 years of first-hand experience working on machine learning products in leading enterprises and research institutions. The founding team members invested two years building the core platform for data synthesis upfront by developing proprietary algorithms and novel frameworks. Our business development is led by two commercial experts with over 40 years of combined experience in driving product adoption. We’re supported by a range of technology veterans including ex-CDO of Deutsche Bank, ex-CTO of Saxo Bank, Staff Engineer from Google and investors that include Seedcamp and active support from the tech giants Google and Facebook.
What have been some of the key milestones on the Synthesized journey so far?
Sourcing talent and hiring the right people to complement the founding team’s skill set was a real priority over the last six months and we are now happy we’ve managed to piece together the missing pieces. At the beginning of this year, we completed the beta version of the main product which has already been tested by 2 leading financial institutions in the UK. The commercial team also managed to better tailor our commercial model to our partners’ needs and refine product positioning for them.
What is your vision for the future of data?
We want to help create a world where data is truly an asset for both enterprises and consumers that help generate the data. ‘Big data’ doesn’t need to be big and daunting. Knowledge and insights can be unlocked just as well from synthetic data without jeopardising the trust that people placed in companies.
What are the benefits of having Seedcamp as an investor?
We can’t speak highly enough of the Seedcamp family. It’s a very rare opportunity to have VC partners who invested very early in companies such as Revolut, Transferwise and UI Path sitting down with you when needed and openly discussing business challenges. Our team have personally learned a lot from sales coaches, Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and business development mentors.
For more information, visit synthezised.io
Ever wanted to create a video simultaneously in multiple languages and personalised to the viewer but lacked the budget and tech to make it happen? That’s where our latest investment, Synthesia, comes in with their video synthesis technology that enables brands and content creators to seamlessly scale their video production using artificial intelligence to internationalise and personalise video content.
We are thrilled to invest in the UK based startup as part of their $3.1m round led by LDV Capital and early investor Mark Cuban and joined by new investors MMC Ventures, Martin Varsavsky’s VAS Ventures, TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus and advertising executive Nigel Morris.
Their cloud-based platform ENACT enables customers to automatically generate personalized and interactive video content for their audiences at an exponentially faster rate and a fraction of the costs.
“Consumers and employees today expect video-based communication that is tailored to them. For companies it’s difficult to deliver these experiences because the conventional ways of creating video content is a physical process that simply doesn’t scale.” said Victor Riparbelli, co-founder and CEO of Synthesia. “Our mission is to make it easier to bring creative ideas to life without the traditional barriers of time, budget and skills. We are excited to collaborate with a great and diverse team of investors to execute on our vision.”
Synthesia recently launched their first global campaign with malaria survivors speaking through David Beckham to help raise awareness around the Malaria Must Die initiative. The campaign was widely recognized and applauded and has already exceeded 400 million impressions globally. The campaign was a joint collaboration between RG/A, Synthesia and Ridley Scott Associates for Malaria No More.
On the investment our Managing Partner, Carlos Espinal, comments, “We are incredibly excited by what the team at Synthesia is building and the smart use of deep technology to truly empower brands and creators to internationalise and personalise their content. The creative and ad world is developing so fast and yet has been severely lacking when it comes to trusted, reliable technology that enables people to scale their work at a pace that makes sense. The Synthesia team is uniquely placed to make this a reality through their use of computer vision and artificial intelligence.”
Synthesia was founded by a team of researchers and entrepreneurs from UCL, Stanford, TUM and Foundry. Notably Prof Matthias Niessner, one of the co-founders of the company, is behind some of the most well-recognized research projects in the field Deep Video Portraits and Face2Face.
The London based startup came out of stealth in November 2018, airing their first public demo with the BBC, showcasing Synthesia technology by enabling newsreader Matthew Amroliwala to speak three different languages. Their customers already include global brands such as Accenture, McCann Worldgroup, Dallas Mavericks and Axiata Group.
To achieve fully photorealistic video synthesis of humans the company has developed unique breakthroughs in computer vision, graphics and deep learning. The technical approach is inspired by traditional high-end visual effects but re-imagined using a range of deep learning technologies for an end-to-end automated pipeline.
As early pioneers in the synthetic media landscape the company and its new investors are excited about the possibilities for visual content creation. Dramatically reducing production costs, removing the language barrier and enabling entirely new creative possibilities will allow great culture to emerge without the conventional constraints of budget, time and skill.
Synthesia has strong ethical guidelines and has established itself as a trusted company in the space. Ensuring that all content created is consensual and that actors are in control of their likeness is a key priority for the company.
The company is actively working with governments and media organisations to create public awareness and develop technological security mechanisms to ensure that society gets to harness the benefits and reduce potential negative effects from synthetic media technologies.
We are thrilled to back Patrick, Charlotte and Will, co-founders of Cambridge-based Sano Genetics, as they close £500,000 seed funding for their innovative research platform that is set to transform drug discovery and accelerate the growth of personalised medicine. The company will enable large-scale genetic and medical research without sacrificing data privacy – putting individuals in control of their own information.
The Sano platform is powering research into many common disorders such as eczema, diabetes and depression, as well as rare diseases like muscular dystrophy. Its people-centric approach has attracted more than 1,500 participants in its first year – who have contributed tens of thousands of pieces of data.
Partner, Tom Wilson, comments: “We firmly believe the future of medicine will be more personalised – and the platform Sano is building will provide researchers with the data they need to enable this future. The fact that Sano’s platform can achieve this whilst also allowing patients to be in the driving seat and preserve their data privacy makes it even more compelling. As a founding team, Patrick, Charlotte and Will have perfect complementary skill sets to make their vision for Sano a reality and we’re delighted to be partnering with them as part of this funding round.”
Formerly known as Heterogeneous, the company is aiming to enrol more than 10,000 people and support half a dozen new research projects by the end of this year. “We want to build the platform that will make personalised medicine a reality,” said Patrick Short, CEO of Sano Genetics.
Unlike traditional genetic data sharing companies, Sano has created what it describes as a ‘transparent’ platform which allows individuals to opt in or out of different studies and share as much or as little information as they wish. “We are passionate about the potential for personalised medicine based on genetic and health data,” said Patrick. “But we are uncomfortable with all the uncertainty around privacy policies and data ownership from the big direct-to-consumer sequencing companies.
“Our platform allows scientists to do research into personalised medicine, and access dynamic health and genetic data sets, while still giving individuals transparency and control throughout the process. This is not a ‘nice to have’ – it’s an absolute requirement. When people trust in the system, and see the benefits from their participation, they are more likely to take part again in the future.”
It’s free to register – people are asked to provide basic information about their medical history to help match them to relevant research studies. If they already have genetic data – from an ancestry test, for example – they can add it to their profile and, with their consent, this can also be used in research. The company also works to match people with a research project that can fund the cost of DNA sequencing. Participants are given access to free personalised reports written by research scientists, based on their genetic data.
“This new approach by Sano is very exciting,” said research scientist Dr Mark Kotter, CEO of Elpis Biomed. “Our drug discovery and cell therapy research is often limited by outdated consent models and limited options for keeping in touch with patients to request participation in new studies. Sano’s work to match interested patients and patient groups with research projects has the potential to transform drug discovery and personalised medicine.”
Andy Kulina was one of the first users of the Sano platform. His daughter has the rare genetic disorder Phelan-McDermid syndrome, which affects cognitive development, communication and mobility. “I am always looking for ways to access the latest research on my daughter’s condition but rarely get any results or data from the studies we participate in,” said Andy. “Even when results are returned, they are often full of medical jargon. So I really appreciate the way Sano is working to support great research while giving participants full access to data and results.”
Other investors in the round include Cambridge Enterprise, the family office of Paul Forster, Will Neale, Jon Folland, Gordon Ashworth, Ramesh Haridas and Daniel Murrell, along with grant funding from the University of Cambridge and the Y Combinator Startup School.
To learn more about your genetics, participate in cutting edge research and join a community of people making a difference, visit Sanogenetics.com
The internet is broken.
That’s the belief of our latest investment, Tick, a simple, people-powered micro-video platform where users can both share and learn how to do anything in seconds – think stories meets ‘how-to’ videos. We are incredibly excited to invest in the team and lead their pre-seed round of over half a million pounds.
A counter to the narcissism and addictive nature of the internet, Tick wants to repurpose social behaviours and encourage greater altruism and productivity online through its platform where a billion people will learn a million new skills. The app-based platform offers a simple, mobile-first creator tool, and step-by-step viewing (for ease of follow along) – plus it dramatically enhances the search-engine discoverability of such content through publishing the stories onto the open web via the fast-growing Google ‘AMP’ story format.
We first discovered the phenomenal team at Zinc, the London-based business builder of companies that solve the world’s biggest problems. Tick is the brainchild of three seasoned entrepreneurs and operators: Franz Schrepf, Cedric Lam and Jess Butcher. Jess, former CMO and co-founder of Blippar, discovered Franz and Cedric while mentoring at Zinc and felt so inspired by the mission that she decided to jump in headfirst and join them on this big mission.
We believe this team is perfectly placed to kick-start a new consumer movement for creation and access to quick skills and knowledge and are delighted to lead investment into their pre-seed round.
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