Startup of the Day: Zibra AI, Ukrainian deeptech

Co-founded by Alex Petrenko, Vladyslav Zavadskyi, and Den Dmytrenko in 2021, Zibra AI is a company that builds a platform for creating AI-generated assets for any virtual world and experience. Currently, Zibra AI’s tools are used by more than 100,000 users worldwide and over 2,500 active annual subscribers. In August this year, the startup received $500,000 of investment from a16z Speedrun. Zibra AI’s team consists of 25 people, and is mainly located in Ukraine.

In the Startup of the Day column, the team of Zibra AI shares more details about the startup’s idea, its product, and future plans.

The Startup of the Day column on AIN.Capital is dedicated to tech projects from all sectors that originated from the CEE countries. If you would like to introduce your project, please fill in the questionnaire.

How did you come up with the startup’s idea? What was the reason/motivation behind it?

Zibra AI was co-founded by Alex Petrenko, Vladyslav Zavadskyi and Den Dmytrenko, in 2021. Vladyslav (who later became the technical co-founder and Head of R&D at Zibra AI) had been working on technology to accelerate 3D processing using the power of AI. He shared those ideas with Den, as he knew Den was helping tech ideas develop and scale. Den realized that that idea could become the basis for a startup and be scaled. Later, he introduced Vlad to Alex Petrenko, who previously held senior business development roles at CoWorking Platforma and Talkable.

Then, they gathered a team together and started developing a unique solution for the gaming industry. Being gamers themselves, their goal was to automate the most time-consuming processes, enhancing the rate at which gamers experience new titles and ensuring a more streamlined workflow for developers.

How long did it take to reach the prototype or MVP? What did you encounter?

We were working on a core technology itself for about 5 months before we started building actual solutions based on the core technology. It took us around 11 months to launch the first MVP and roll out those features to the gaming community for testing purposes.

“Our product is complex and we faced a lot of challenges with porting our solution to a full range of devices to create a first platform-agnostic solution that could work anywhere.”

Another challenge was around running a series of optimizations to fin into strict performance limitations of mobile platforms.

When exactly did you launch your product? Or when the launch is planned?

Our goal is to build a platform for creating AI-generated assets for any virtual world and experience. The product is very complex. To complete its development entirely it will take more than a couple of years. We cannot afford to wait, so we are building it with the principle that each component can be implemented separately.

We began with liquid physics and later added smoke and fire, cloth simulation, and much more. Currently, we are working on adding functionality for generating 3D objects and packaging all of this into a single platform for creating 3D content for all virtual worlds.

Several components of this product, specifically solutions for creating realistic liquid physics, smoke, and fire, are already on the market. Currently, Zibra AI’s tools are used by more than 100,000 users worldwide.

Tell us about the startup’s business model. How do you monetize your product?

We started with a community bottom-top approach and rolling out our features for free to the indie development community. Now, we have more than 2,500 active annual subscribers and are ready to make a shift into our second step in GTM — serving SME gaming companies with Studio licenses. After we’re planning to add ENT-level customers and expand outside of gaming (VR/AR + Filming/Production).

What are your target markets and consumers?

Having iterative steps in our GTM, our ideal target customer might be slightly different depending on the company’s stage. Right now, we’re focusing on SME gaming studios that are purchasing a typical studio license without any customization.

Afterward, we’re planning to add ENT-level companies because that’s the only way to grow and stress test our solutions. Primarily targeting regions with big gaming development communities — US, Asia, and Nordics.

If the startup has already launched the product, what are the results: metrics, income, or any clear indicators that can be evaluated?

Zibra AI launched its flagship product, Zibra Liquids, in 2021. Since its launch, the company has garnered significant recognition from industry leaders and has formed strategic partnerships with major players such as Epic Games, Nvidia, and Unity.

In May, Zibra AI was selected as one of only 32 out of 1,600 applicants (and notably, the only participant from Eastern Europe) to participate in a16z’s SPEEDRUN program, which led to a $500,000 investment from a16z.

What about your team? How many people are working in the startup? If you’re looking for new employees, indicate whom exactly.

Currently, there are 25 people on the team. Twenty-three of them are located in Ukraine. During the full-scale war, we expanded the team by hiring an engineer from Poland, and a sales manager based in the USA.

Have you already raised any investments? Provide us with more details on each funding round: the amount, investors, the purpose of the investment.

We’re closing our seed round now with some notable investors onboard, including a16z, Hartmann Capital and Metavision.

In 2022 we closed our pre-seed round, $1,2 million with some notable angels, including Sebastien Borget, Phil Libin, Scott Hartsmann, SID Venture Partners, and Gismart. Before that, we did a small round of $500,000 locally in Ukraine to bootstrap the project.

What’s next? Tell us about your future plans.

Primarily, we are focusing on growing our tech expertise by hiring top ML and 3D talents from the gaming industry and accelerating our development pace. With our seed round, we’re aiming to lay the groundwork for our b2b process and start scaling fast.