Rephrase.ai, a self-described synthetic media production platform, announced today that it has raised $10.6 million in a Series A round led by Silver Lake and Red Ventures with participation from 8VC. CEO Ashray Malhotra says the plan is to put the new money into increasing headcount with a particular focus on Rephrase’s engineering, data science, product and business teams.
Rephrase was founded in 2019 by Malhotra, Shivam Mangla and Nisheeth Lahoti. From their freshman days in college, a theologian wanted to build a “text-to-film” engine that could take text or a storyboard as input and create a movie, Malhotra told TechCrunch. That proved too ambitious, so instead, the Rephrase team developed an AI system that creates avatars of human actors by mapping their faces, synchronizing their lip movements, and mimicking the tone and content of their voices.
“With video defaulting, what is holding back video creation today is the time and cost that is being spent on production,” Malhotra said by email. “This is the problem that the reformulation aims to solve.”
Using the Rephrase platform, the customer can select the avatar, background, audio and enter the text that the avatar will read. They can then export that video for use in the sales tools.
The technology is not particularly new. Startups like Synthesia, Neosapience, and Hour One rely on similar artificial intelligence systems to create customized videos for a range of use cases. New competitors are China-based Surreal, which aims to develop an AI video editing system that can animate not only faces but also clothing and movements. Elsewhere, companies focused on video and audio, including Respeecher, Papercup, Resemble AI, and Deepdub, have launched AI dubbing tools for programs and movies. Beyond startups, Nvidia is developing technology that changes video in a way that takes an actor’s facial expressions and matches them with a new language.
Rephrase has been serious about pursuing high-profile corporate contracts, however, with a client base that includes teams at Johnson & Johnson, Amazon and Castrol. Mondelez India has tapped the platform to register an avatar of Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan, which has been used to create personalized ads in local stores across India.
“Since the growth of our sales team, we have focused on building vertical solutions for key industries such as fintech, BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance sector) and consumer-facing. Most of our revenue comes from large companies with more than 1,000 employees,” said Malhotra. employee, so this is a huge area of focus for us.” “Rephrase’s growth comes at a time when many industries are looking for automated, scalable video solutions for business functions, particularly sales and marketing. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed traditional video production. Since creating real videos is a tedious process, we are actually seeing more demand in terms of automated video creation.”
Synthetic media platforms raise all kinds of thorny ethical questions, of course, what with the rise of deepfake technology and manipulated media. But Malhotra points to the company’s usage policy, which prohibits the use of avatars created by a remaster, depending on the content of starred videos. Customers, who must go through an approval process, control the copyright of any synthetic media they create.
“It has designed a reworking of its policies so that the creation of a digital avatar is ethical with the individual consent of the person concerned and based on the direct data of the person concerned,” Malhotra said.
San Francisco-based Rephrase has 35 people and expects to hire another 35 by the end of the year. To date, the startup has raised $12.5 million; Malhotra claims to have nearly two years of runway.
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