The creator-first, enterprise-ready tool for professional art creation, Layer AI, today announced the successful closing of their first seed round. Round included top serial entrepreneurs and industry legends like Jim Payne, gaming angels like Akin Babayigit, Michele Attisani, and Dilpesh Parmar and gaming VCs like The Games Fund, The Games Syndicate, GFR Fund, Laton Ventures along with other AI/Tech VCs and angels like 500 Global, Elena Silenok, Taimur Rashid. Additionally, the team also got a strategic investment from the US-based top art production and talent house Devoted Studios.
Getting to know the team
Layer, based in San Francisco, is founded by a team of passionate professionals with decades of experience in AI, Gaming, and Computer Vision. Volkan Gurel is the CEO, with a background in engineering and management from MIT, Hunch and Coinbase. Burcu is the CRO and served in multiple client-facing roles across multiple products from ads to game services at Unity & LoopMe. Kuo-chin, PhD is the CTO who recently joined bringing 20 years of experience in Computer Vision from Appen and XMotors. Finally, Mehmet is a self-taught technical artist and game developer who co-founded and sold Gram Games to Zynga in 2018.
The team strongly believes a compact elite team can outcompete larger players and will expand by staying selective and laser focused on gaming. They believe in driving significant value to many businesses is critical to their own success, whether they are garage startups or industry giants. They are now hiring for their founding team positions: https://www.layer.ai/careers
What makes Layer unique?
Layer is simply unmatched when it comes to seamless integration into art pipelines and intuitive creator workflows, providing a great user experience and productivity boost. As proven by customer testimonials and detailed case studies, Layer leads the race as the tool of choice for game creators of all skill levels whether they are just starting their journey or have mastered game development. Layer proves any creator can go beyond their imagination and experiment with brand new ideas and art styles. A lot of AI tools today focus on either general use cases and foundational model training, or offer standalone cool features but don’t actually serve the everyday use cases. Most of them are either too complicated or are not designed for multi-disciplinary teams and certainly not enterprise ready.
“Layer supercharges artist teams’ productivity by 240% and helps expedite the delivery of art to meet deadlines” says Production Lead, Games United
“Layer AI supercharged Tripledot’s art creation, 3Xing our production speed and elevating quality. By reducing our reliance on outsourcing studios, we’ve not only saved significant costs but also brought the magic of art production in-house. We’re incredibly excited about this technology and eagerly await further updates. VP of Creative at Tripledot Studios.
Creators not only can go faster but can also supercharge their imagination. “Our art pipeline is not only faster, the variations Layer provides has been super helpful in increasing our creative potential and exploring brand new ideas”‘ says the Artist at APPS Teknoloji. (more quotes will be available on our website by 10th of November)
Layer already empowers many artists to generate images based on their own art styles, allowing them to seamlessly iterate on these images through its premier AI-assisted canvas. Layer is the only generative AI solution that has been adopted by the teams of world’s largest mobile gaming studios. Layer has a clear direction in style-consistent output quality, speedy generation, and an intuitive interface that’s committed to solving game artists’ challenges using AI.
Volkan Gurel, the CEO believes “Just like Web 2.0, Cloud computing or mobile unlocked novel applications that beat incumbents and other startup competitors based on a great product experience, we believe the AI revolution will be no different. AI has unlocked many new applications that will be built on top of this new tech stack and we plan to win by building the best product experience for artists in the enterprise leveraging the power of all the great foundational models and tools released by OpenAI, Meta, Stability AI and others. We’re creator-first, enterprise-ready and will remain model-agnostic”.
While Layer is focusing on perfecting 2D generation in games for mobile, then AAA studios, the team is already looking ahead. In the near future, Layer will generate both spine and sprite animations from text, images and other animations and further expand to 3D workflows. Layer will also build integrations into non-gaming workflows like marketing and advertising.
Layer will continue its dedication to style-consistent output quality, seamless workflow integrations that empower and free artists from redundant workflow overheads. “AI unlocked many opportunities for gaming and we want Layer to be the easiest tool to get onboard with and the fastest to ROI “ says Burcu Ozcengiz, the CRO. Layer is already serving numerous top tier clients like Tripledot, Sciplay, Mag Interactive and hundreds of professional artists since launching in February 2023. Layer is also working to shore up their compliance program and will achieve SOC 2 and ISO certification to further cement the security and reliability of their offering for the enterprise.
Quotes from investors:
“Being deeply rooted in game development we see pivotal changes coming to production with Gen-AI tools coming into play. We are not big fans of the idea of flooding the market with soulless content and Layer.AI sets itself apart by aiming to enhance, not replace, human artistry, liberating creators from mundane tasks. That is what we all believe in. We also like that their focus is on enterprise clients and their real needs for seamless integration into existing production pipelines.” – comments Maria Kochmola, General Partner at The Games Fund.
About our investors:
Jim Payne (via Breakpoint Capital)
Seed Financing by Founders for Founders. As company builders and operators ourselves, we provide expertise and guidance along the journey rooted in our own experience, in addition to the capital you need to build and grow. We are focused on investing in companies from inception through Series A. For more information, please visit https://www.breakpointcap.com/
500 Emerging Europe is an early-stage investor under the broader 500 Global network, backing early-stage Emerging European companies and helping them scale globally. Over the past 5 years, we’ve invested in 60 companies including 3 unicorns and several centaurs, who have collectively raised $1B+ from top tier funds. For more information, please visit https://500.co/
Elena Silenok is a developer, entrepreneur, angel investor and board member. Elena is passionate about technology enabling culture and creating a better version of tomorrow. As a Board Director of D’Amelio Brands (primary business venture of Charlie and Dixie D’Amelio, top TikTok influencers with 300M+ social media followers) and VRU (ultra low latency wireless transmission protocol), and angel investor in 20+ early-stage tech startups (AI, security, consumer, defense tech), Elena is always on the lookout for transformational ideas and visionary teams.
Laton Ventures (10 gaming founder LPs)
Laton Ventures is a new venture capital firm empowered by its network of successfully exited founders, enabling an unparalleled access to early-stage opportunities and robust operational support for its portfolio companies. The fund’s strong industry ties and hands-on operational expertise aim to help its investments achieve success. Investing predominantly in very early stage gaming companies — from mobile to AI-enhanced experiences — Laton Ventures is poised to capitalize on forward-looking opportunities.For more information, please visit www.laton.vc
The Games Fund
The Games Fund (TGF) is the leading gaming VC fund with offices in New York and Cyprus and invests in innovative early-stage game and game-tech companies. TGF is founded by games industry veterans and recognized as one of the TOP early stage gaming investor
The Games Syndicate
The Riyadh Angel Syndicate is a group of individuals from around the globe that supports startups focused on the games industry across Saudi Arabia and the world with early stage capital, advice, and mentorship to help them succeed. Our mission is to support the startup ecosystem by offering early stage capital that provides founders with vital resources at the most critical point in their startup journey. For more information, please visit https://riyadhsyndicate.com/
Devoted Studios is a US-headquartered production management studio composed of expert art directors, producers, creative staff, and tech leads, wholly devoted to optimizing external development into a pain-free process. For more information, please visit https://devotedstudios.com
Dilpesh co-founded Aequus, a leading monetisation platform for app developers, leading Aequus to an exit in 2022. Has over a decade of experience working with leading Mobile content companies to build monetization strategies and teams. Through his in-depth knowledge and experience, Dilpesh has led teams at Shazam, Outfit7, Kwalee, and IQzone. He was instrumental in Outfit7’s exit for over $1bn. Currently Dilpesh is serving as Director or Product at Moloco, one of the largest DSPs.
Michele co-founded FACEIT, the leading competitive gaming platform with over 30 million users and as CBO he led all of the company’s B2B partnerships as well as their media division. FACEIT was sold in 2022 along with ESL (forming ESL FACEIT Group) to Savvy Games Group for $1.5B, the biggest sale to take place in the esports industry. At EFG he assumed the role of Chief Business Development Officer with a focus on expanding partnership with all the game Publishers and Developers across the entire portfolio of products and solutions of the group.Michele has been a competitive gamer for over 20 years. His passion for gaming is complemented by a career working in top Fortune 500 investment & consulting firms, and he has personally been active as an Angel investor in over 50 companies and mentor for numerous technology start-ups.
GFR Fund is an SF-based venture capital firm that invests in the future of gaming, entertainment, and consumer tech. It has a proven track record of investing in companies across consumer sectors, including gaming, streaming, generative AI, creator economy, blockchain, and more. Some of the fund’s notable investments include RTFKT, a producer of unique digital products, which was acquired by Nike in 2022; VRChat, a leading social VR platform; and Omeda Studios, a London-based creative studio for community-driven games. The GFR team is a group of experienced investors and leading LPs, with deep expertise in the gaming and entertainment industries. The team is led by general partners Teppei Tsutsui and Yasushi Komori. For more information, please visit https://www.gfrfund.com/.
Taimur Rashid (Recursion Venture Capital)
Recursion Venture Capital (RVC) is a boutique, early-stage micro fund based in Bellevue, Washington, founded in early 2022 by Taimur Rashid. RVC invests in founders that are building amazing companies. When great ideas and teams come together around technology and novel business models, remarkable things happen, and legendary companies are created. Taimur is a senior business executive with 20+ years of experience in new market development, strategic business development, and customer success. He served as an operator at Oracle, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Redis. After 4+ years as an angel investor, Taimur formalized his investment thesis and started RVC with a focus on emerging data technologies, AI/ML and developer platforms and tools.
Sébastien Borget is the Co-founder and COO of The Sandbox decentralized Metaverse, a virtual world where players can create, play, own, govern and monetize their experiences using NFTs & SAND, the main utility token of the platform. Sebastien also became the President of the Blockchain Game Alliance in 2020, a non-profit organization of 500 key members of the industry. He was recently named #4 in the Top #100 2022 most influential people in crypto by CoinTelegraph.
Akin is a Co-Founder of Tripledot studios, fastest growing European company according to Financial Times, valued at $1.4 bn. Previously founded Luna (exit to Ironsource). Experience includes Facebook, Activision Blizzard King, McKinsey and Skype. Active angel investor across 30+ companies including Dream games ($2.8bn valuation) and Spyke games ($250m valuation). MBA from Harvard Business School, MS from Yale University.
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(This information is published from a press release.)