Metaverse & The Future of 3D Creation
Creating content for virtual worlds, six funding rounds, 1400 jobs, Skroutz marketing, state of VC in Greece, startup financing, and more
Happy Friday! Welcome to Hunting Greek Unicorns #47. I’m Alex, a product guy turned VC, and every two weeks I send out a newsletter with everything you need to know about the Greek startup industry.
If you find this interesting, you can share it with your friends or subscribe, if you haven’t already, and join 3,312 readers.
Democratizing the creation of 3D content, the metaverse, and gaming as the new big tech battleground, with Konstantina Psoma, CEO & co-founder of Kaedim
If we're increasingly moving towards immersive, virtual experiences, then we're going to need ways to democratize the creation of 3D content.
This week, I’m very excited to welcome Konstantina Psoma, CEO & co-founder of Kaedim, on Hunting Greek Unicorns to chat about turning 2D art, sketches and photos into 3D with AI, gaming as the new big tech battleground, the metaverse and much more. Kaedim is building key infrastructure for the creation of immersive, virtual, interactive worlds, enabling 3D artists and gaming studios to effortlessly generate 3D assets. Founded in 2020, the team already counts several gaming studios in its list of customers, an interesting list of supporters and backers, and most importantly enters the market with a really inspiring vision at a time that couldn’t be more relevant.
Let’s get to it!
Can you share more about what Kaedim does? What problem does it solve for people designing experiences for digital 3D worlds such as game developers and 3D artists?
The idea for Kaedim started from a personal frustration when I needed to re-create a cathedral in Bristol in 3D software for a University project. Although the concept seemed straightforward to me, “the same way you draw on a piece of paper, you can also draw in 3D, how hard can it be?”, the reality shocked me. Having completely underestimated the task I found myself needing hours to model each 3D object (chairs, tables, walls) using super-complicated and steep-learning-curved 3D software.
So then, the next question that came to mind is: “Wait a minute, I know who does this in scale! 3D video game developers of course! They must have a secret, a way to do this much more efficiently than me. What is the secret?” My curiosity peaked so naturally, I started talking to game developers to figure out the missing piece. Only to find out... There is no secret. That’s how everyone does it. Hours and hours of manual 3D asset creation. For every single piece that you see on your screen.
That was my personal experience of the problem, but how is it noticeable on a large scale? There is a very limited supply of people who are really good 3D artists, and the cost of training one is very big. Years of training on steep-learning-curve 3D software and all while the whole world turns 3D and the metaverse is the only thing people are talking about.
For the metaverse to be an enjoyable experience, the amount of 3D content that needs to be produced is unimaginable. To understand this, let’s examine the problem in just one of the metaverse’s segments, video games. Take for example console games that need to create a world with set boundaries and limited play time. Even the production of these is nowadays deemed unsustainable due to extreme costs of production. And 3D asset creation is a significant contributor.
Shawn Layden, ex-chairman of PlayStation, and whom we are lucky to have close to us as a friend and advisor, talked about this problem in public 2 years ago (take a look here).
Hiring more talent, and forcing people to crunch to meet deadlines is not the solution as demand moves much faster than supply can be trained and deployed. If we want to start building the metaverse, and more importantly, if we want everyone to be able to contribute to the building of the metaverse, a big change must happen. Our proposition? Enable anyone who can create something in 2D to create something in 3D. And nowadays, everyone can snap a photo.
So, at Kaedim we are building ML software that transforms 2D images into 3D content. Those 2D images can take a variety of different forms. From a picture of an object that you took with your smartphone, to some concept art you designed in Adobe Illustrator, to a photo of a sketch that you drew with a pen and paper. With our solution we achieve 2 things:
1. Expert artists can use our tool to accelerate their workflow. We are working with companies that first create concept art in 2D for their games. Instead of starting from scratch to re-create in 3D, they pass their 2D art through the Kaedim platform and they have a shaped 3D model to start from. As a result, 3D prototyping, iteration and creation become much faster. These companies have more time to devote to their hero assets, and to iterations of their games, giving them a significant competitive advantage.
2. Giving to you, your friends and myself (common people without the gift of a 3D artist) the power to create in 3D. In this case, the outputs can be directly integrated with games/metaverses that allow for User Generated Content. There are no limits on how you can use this, you could even 3D print your keychain out of a photo that you saw online (requires a 3D printer).
What is the current experience from a user perspective?
We are building our technology with one very important criteria in mind: anyone should be able to use it. Regardless of the user being a 3D artist or not, a kid or your grandparents. Here is how the technology works:
The user uploads an image of the objects they’d like to recreate in 3D. This image should feature only one object, clearly in the foreground and with a simple background. Then, the user has the option to tweak some parameters. Currently, we offer the options of:
determining the target polycount of the produced model,
uploading different views of the object for a higher detail capture,
increased detail generation
When they are satisfied with the settings, they can go ahead and press Generate, which will take their image through our algorithms. When their asset is ready, they receive a notification and they can view it in the asset library of their account. We have also created a 3D viewer so that the user can quickly examine the object by rotating and zooming in different parts. Finally, the user can go ahead and download the 3D model from the app.
You mentioned the term “metaverse” a few times, so I have to ask. What is the best way to think about it, what are its key characteristics, and how much of it is already here?
I think the key characteristics of the metaverse include a virtual environment, virtual presence of people and virtual transactions between people, items, shops, companies.
The metaverse already exists in games, some examples are Minecraft, Roblox, The Sandbox etc. where all the above key characteristics are fulfilled. Someone could argue that every game is actually already part of it.
However, I imagine it at a next level of immersiveness. I am not sure how quickly this will be the reality, i.e. being able to bring your avatar in a virtual world and navigate around like you are doing now in the physical world, meet people, buy stuff, travel, exercise etc. Definitely, this is not a strict requirement for the metaverse, but this is what we are moving towards.
I think people will start visualizing the concept of metaverse even more when there will be virtual universities, virtual stores, virtual events and meetings where you enter a 3D world as a virtual 3D presence yourself. And we are not too far from that. The main obstacle is what we discussed at the beginning. Who is going to create those endless 3D worlds?
Until then, I expect a lot of game-like experiences where you will go into a virtual Zara shop with your avatar (of exact dimensions for this use case) to try on clothes before they arrive in the mail.
Let’s leave some space for surprises of course; very exciting things are happening in the space!
Gaming has evolved to one of the hottest industries recently, where everyone seems to want a bigger piece of the pie. Microsoft acquired Activision, Netflix launched Games, Take-Two Interactive acquired Zynga, Meta has bought up lots of the biggest VR game developers. Do you think gaming is becoming the new big tech battleground?
That is a really good question. Although gaming was overlooked for many years, both by investors and buyers, lately more and more people have come to realize its power.
Why? Well, because whoever can create virtual experiences (gaming companies) will also be creating and, let’s admit it, dominating the whole web3/metaverse space. And gaming companies have actually been doing that for years. They have been creating and publishing 3D/AR/VR experiences since the 70s and if there is one expert on the metaverse, it’s them.
So naturally, gaming is becoming the new hot industry of our era because how you make a game is very closely related (actually identical) with making the metaverse. If you think about it, the metaverse is just an endless selection of “games” whether that’s a virtual university or a virtual shop or an actual shooter game.
So yes, the gaming industry’s time to shine is here, and I am certainly happy about it!
Where does Kaedim fit in this future?
We touched on this a bit at the beginning, but this is a big part of our vision at Kaedim. Yes, we want to help alleviate the prominent pressure that the gaming industry is feeling because of all the costs growing, but we always have in mind the end goal which is giving everyone the opportunity to contribute to our (virtual) 3D future.
More and more, experiences will start including user input. Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch was an example of this application. Nowadays, there are games that allow users to customize their environments by uploading 2D art to cover a wall in the game for example. Well, the natural next step is something like what Minecraft is, a complete 3D customisation and personalisation of the environment. The only difference will be that it will be high-resolution, and you won’t even need to know all the Minecraft rules to be able to create in 3D. It will be as effortless as it is today for someone to take a picture.
This is what we see at Kaedim, this is where we are moving towards. We have already started signing up companies that want to integrate User Generated Content in their games and give their users the superpower of creating in 3D and we are excited to see all of that in action.
Who else is behind Kaedim?
Kaedim is currently a team of 8. We are supported by a large network including a lot of our investors who have built $B businesses, thought leaders of the space and fellow founders that are steps ahead and look after the ones coming after them, such as Matt Robinson (Nested), Tom Blomfield (Monzo), Chris Kingsley (Rebellion), Alan Rutledge, Ian Hogarth (Songkick), Mandeep Singh (Trouva), Rika Christanto (Ontruck), and venture capital fund Accel.
We are mainly based in London, but we are still operating remotely to some degree. You might catch us playing Minecraft or other online multiplayer games every Wednesday evening.
We are always looking for people who are interested in the intersection of 3D art and technology while also thriving in the crazy startup culture. So please get in touch with us if that sounds familiar to you.
You can follow us along our journey here:
Looking for your next opportunity? Check out job postings from Greek startups in Greece, abroad, and remotely. Company information is also available.
Blockchain interoperability network Axelar raised a $35m Series B round reaching a $1b valuation, with a goal to connect users and provide frictionless experiences across multiple blockchains.
Numan raised $20m debt funding, completing its $60.1m Series B round with the aim to establish itself as the leading consumer health brand for men in Europe.
ODAIA raised $13.8m for its AI-powered commercial insights platform for pharma companies.
Krotos, a team supporting content creators and studios in designing the sound effects and character voices for the likes of Game of Thrones, Avengers, Lion King, and Star Trek, raised a funding round led by Metavallon VC.
Treepoints raised £150k to scale its carbon offsetting services for businesses and individuals.
HOMLI, an AI-powered real estate company, announced a pre-seed round from Plug and Play Tech Center and more investors.
The winners of the 4th cycle of CapsuleT accelerator were Vivestia, Kleesto and Unlimited Adrenaline.
A new funding scheme called Scale-Up Initiative was announced for startups in Europe with Greece being part of it. Details and ways to deploy capital are still not confirmed.
Interesting Reads & Podcasts
“Greece's fledgling tech scene starts to take off”, from Reuters.
Startup financing, the VC model and the essentials of fundraising, with Myrto Papathanou, Partner at Metavallon VC, Chris Gasteratos, Associate at Marathon Venture Capital, and Konstantinos Karvounakis, Associate at Metavallon VC, here.
A panel discussion on the state of the venture capital in Greece with partners from funds: George Dimopoulos, Venturefriends, Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou, Velocity Partners, Myrto Papathanou, Metavallon VC, Katerina Pramatari, Unifund, George Tziralis, Marathon Venture Capital and Marco Veremis, Big Pi Ventures.
A behind-the-scenes-look at the marketing efforts of Skroutz by Katerina Derveni, Marketing Manager and Nick Soueref, Marketing Lead, here.
An article with the founders of ΙnstaShop, Softomotive, Pollfish and Accusonus sharing their experiences and discussing their recent exits.
Yannis Dosios, Vice President, Emerging Business at Twitter, on M&A strategies, what a larger company would look into before completing an acquisition, leading teams and more, here.
Nikos Drandakis, founder & CEO at Flyway, on his journey from Beat to Flyway, here.
A new newsletter on all things web3 by Alex Letsas, MBA candidate at MIT.
A podcast with Michail Kouroupakis, Lead Product Designer at efood, discussing UI/UX trends, designing efood app, and more.
A podcast with Dimitris Melachroinos, co-founder & CEO of Spitogatos, on his journey creating and scaling Spitogatos.
“Social Meet-up in Thessaloniki” by Greek Cryptocurrency Community on Feb 19
“How To Build A High Performing Product Team” by Product 360 on Feb 22
“React To React Athens MeetUp #4” by React 2 React Athens MeetUp on Feb 23
“Data Engineering Solutions & Security with OpenSCAP” by AzureHeads Cloud Meetup on Feb 23
“Kubernetes Athens vol15” by Athens Kubernetes Meetup on Feb 24
“GreeceJS Virtual #43” by GreeceJS on Mar 1
“Athens UX meetup no37 | UX & Psychology” by Athens UX Community on Mar 2
Hot European Deals
Let’s take a look at some of the latest hot deals in Southeast Europe:
Midas | Digital stock brokerage app from Turkey raised $11m
Mediately | Slovenia-based medtech startup aiding doctors in making better decisions raised €7.2m
Sportening | Croatia-based sports social network raised €6m
CoLumbo | AI-based assistance to radiologists from Bulgaria raised €2.1m
Tokinomo | Romanian retail tech startup secured $1.7m
How did you like this week’s Hunting Greek Unicorns? Your feedback helps me make this great.
You can also follow me on Twitter!
Thanks for reading and see you in two weeks 👋