Dublin Startup Stories: Artomatix

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Dublin startups tell their stories, powered by DCU Ryan Academy.

Meet Dr. Eric Risser, Co-Founder of Artomatix…

Tell us about your product…
Artomatix is a cloud-based software tool designed to assist digital artists in various creative industries, starting with video games. We have built the first Artificial Imagination that can mimic human artistic creativity to realise lifelike virtual worlds. Users (digital artists to start with) give the software a few examples of a chosen piece of art and it then creates, within seconds, thousands of variants in the style of the original ones.

What inspired you to start Artomatix?
As a teenager I built my first computer game and, being the ‘best’ artist on the team, I discovered how big the pain of creation really is. I remember making one house, and it took over eight hours to make! Then I realised I needed over a hundred of these for my village…. never mind all the detailed backgrounds and terrains. To be honest, ever since then I’ve actually been on a trail to solve that problem… and more than a decade later I incorporated Artomatix with Neal (O’Gorman, Co-Founder).

How is Artomatix different?
Artomatix is different because it uses machine learning and a field called texture synthesis to generate new art assets. With Artomatix the artist creates the initial seed(s) and the software can then create the variants they need for their unique game.

What market are Artomatix targeting, and how big is it?
We’re initially targeting the games market, which is worth $90bn, but we’re applicable to many areas in the creative sector which is overall worth $1.3tn. Initially, we’re focused on a niche occupied by texture artists and we’ll then expand our product to include concept artists, modellers and beyond. Ultimately all digital artists in the world will benefit from our technology.

What’s your business model?
Our model is SaaS-driven. Artists subscribe to our service from our site, where they can upload their art, generate new art and download it. For those that already have their art pipeline in place, they may prefer to access Artomatix through the software packages they are already using. To address this need, we will be releasing a number of plugins for free: users just need to subscribe to the tier that is appropriate to them.

Who are your investors, how much did you raise and why does that matter?
We were lucky to garner €270k to date, in seed investment & prize money. We received an initial €10k from Trinity’s Launchbox and a grant of €15k through Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme. In March 2014, NDRC invested €100k, via VentureLab. In June, we won the Enterprise Ireland Roots in Research Award (€5k). In December 2014, we were accepted into CreatiFI, thanks to which we have raised €50k to date. In March 2015, we won the NVIDIA Early Stage Challenge ($100k). This prize money is the first step for us, and we’re currently raising a proper seed round, through which we hope to bring on board complementary industry experts.

It matters to us to raise/win that money because it’ll fuel our development. We need to have a strong technical team, supported by strong product/sales teams. Also, venturing into industrial production will take a lot of resources.

What are the biggest challenges Artomatix faces?
Our challenges are threefold: (a) finding the right usages for the technology, (b) our ability to go fast and release products relevant to all our target markets and (c) IP protection, our company relies on cutting-edge tech, and much of its success will originate in the preservation of its technological competitive advantage.

What do you think motivated your investors to write that check?
We believe we have the potential to be the biggest revolution in art creation since the democratisation of personal computers, with a significant technological edge over our competition. If that’s not appealing, then what is?

What milestones do Artomatix plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’ve just been shortlisted as one of the 25 finalists of the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield, possibly one of the world’s most competitive startup contests. We plan to build on our recent successes to complete our seed round. We’re in a good position here (as we already garnered great investors) to launch our beta, which is almost ready, and to build on it. We’d love to expand and target all kinds of digital artists, and to explore hardware opportunities through 3D printing.

What advice can you offer companies in Dublin who are just starting out?
Go to people and talk to them!! Everyone is so nice and willing to help, it would be a shame not to benefit from that.

Tell us something you love about Dublin as a startup community and as a city…
First of all, it’s an extremely dynamic ecosystem. Secondly, there is a strong solidarity within this ecosystem, which makes it easier for everyone to put the hurdles behind them easily. Irish startups also benefit from the Irish diaspora internationally. That’s a big advantage.

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