INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Bolesław Michalski of Comixify Tells Us How They are Transforming Videos and Photos into a One-Page Comic Strip
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Bolesław Michalski: Life is difficult during a Pandemic. We are very lucky because none of us has been touched by COVID yet. We have switched to 100% remote work, which is familiar to us. We know its advantages despite a few negative consequences; it does not slow us down in work on our AI and our platform. However, it changes the world that surrounds us very much, and this influences us indirectly. Examples include suspended projects which, due to a pandemic, were not completed. Another element is the change in investors’ attitude, some of whom prefer to wait out the storm.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Comixify.
Bolesław Michalski: As for me, I have spent most of my career in investment banking and the cybersecurity industry. Comixify.ai interested me mainly because of the idea behind the company and the people behind it. Another element was my deep need to leave the financial market and do something creative. When I met Tomek, Paweł, Maciej, and Adam, the founders of Comixify.ai, I was convinced that I wanted to join them! As for the company, its history can be learned from an excellent article by Maciej Pęśko (Comixify.ai CTO). In brief: In early 2018, the founder worked in different companies, and we barely knew each other. The thing they had in common was a strong computer vision background and passion for creating something great. At that time, Paweł, Adam, and Maciej were still at Warsaw University of Technology, and that is where they met Tomasz Trzciński, one of the greatest Computer Vision and Machine Learning specialists at the University.
Once they all met, it went quite fast, and in less than 2 months, Comixify.ai founders developed a working algorithm with a prototype application demonstrating it. They called it comixify. What happened next was unbelievable! Everything started with this tweet by David Ha, a highly followed Google Brain scientist. Within a month, our platform became extra popular. We had around 25 000 unique users, 50 000 views, and around 35 000 comics generated within the first month. The traffic was so big that we struggled with website performance, and we had to immediately upscale it as the algorithm itself was quite slow and unoptimized. The website was unable to handle all the users at once. This impulse motivated us to engage in this project full time. In February 2019, we established the company comixify.ai. We were founded by Betaworks, a VC fund and start-up accelerator founded in New York City, and there we started to shape the products. Also, the team was expanded by one new person at that time, and this person was me! We went thru a few upside-down vision and product shaping session and but
FINALLY! WE’VE GOT IT!
As of now, Comixify develops money-saving video post-production tech based on AI. It’s already used by post-production studios in NY & London, daily used by semi-professionals for various tasks. Our solutions use AI to save money by limiting hours of manual labor done every day at professional visual effects studios.
We simply reinvented how the video post-production works. Our solution includes Ai-powered Style Transfer, Rotoscoping, and Super Slow Motion. Through a simple browser interface, you are able to access our data-driven models 24/7 and use them with flexible business plans. All models demonstrate our proprietary AI algorithms we developed during 5+ years of research done at Stanford University, Warsaw University of Technology, and Columbia University. We continuously work to push technology behind Comixify by adding more tools, advanced Machine Learning algorithms, and increasing amounts of training datasets.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Bolesław Michalski: The main problem, the genesis of which lies in the pandemic, is for us a change in investor attitudes and the withdrawal of some projects that we expected to handle for our clients. Of course, we have prepared ourselves properly, and we still have a lot of runways ahead of us, but still, talks with investors who have gone into a somewhat passive mode look different than in 2019 or very early 2020. We do not complain that auto-reflecting over our product allowed us to extend the services to be suitable for maths and professionals. Thus, we opened our platform to the entire potential B2C market! And considering that more than 25% of beta testers who test our platform are amateurs, video editing enthusiasts, we see a lot of customer potential in them. Having time for tests and verification, we are ready with a product that will conquer the market!
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Bolesław Michalski: We have decided to lower the amount of remuneration. This decision had a positive impact on the length of our runway. We consider it very reasonable. Our team is small, and we try to address all the needs that we have or meet at the moment. It can be difficult, but so far, we are doing it! Undoubtedly, our first step after acquiring an investor will be its extension, and we hope that with this decision, we will be able to help people who have lost their works at the end of the pandemic.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Comixify in the future?
Bolesław Michalski: We are always trying to stay positive. I know it may sound quite funny, but it is one of the most important elements of our activity. When it was still possible, we tried to meet after work or replace a few coding hours with joint go-karts or golf lessons. It is these little things that keep us on the backside of the force in these difficult times. As for the company, we see Comixify.ai as a company that will continue what it is doing now, rebuilding AI’s theoretical possibilities into actually useful tools. We focus on the SaaS platform, which will provide users with video editing tools. In Q1 2021, we plan to sell 2 new modules to it, Inpainting and Super-resolution, and now users can use Style Transfer, Super Slowmotion, or our apple of the eye, Rotoscopy.
Your final thoughts?
Bolesław Michalski: The Covid pandemic is hard for all markets, and there is not a single one that will not feel the negative effects of the pandemic; we are doing all we can to build our product in these hard times and to stay positive. With well-set targets and well-organized work, we know where we are going with our product and our services. This is something I can advise to all other companies.
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