Snapchat acquires AI Factory, a deepfake image and video startup with Ukrainian roots

Snap Inc. has acquired AI Factory, a startup with Ukrainian roots that develops image and video technologies. In an exchange with Ukraine Digital News, Snap’s press service confirmed the deal, which was initially reported by Ukrainian tech blog AIN.UA.

Snap declined to provide any further details, but AIN.UA heard from “a source familiar with the matter” that AI Factory was valued at $200 million in total. According to this source, the deal allowed Snap, which already owned a stake in the startup, to acquire stakes of other investors for a value of $166 million. 

Founded in 2018, AI Factory operated in stealth mode from three offices (San Francisco, Kyiv, and Zaporizhzhia), reported AIN. The company employs 70 people, some of which will move to the Snap office.

AI Factory’s technology is behind Cameos, a recently launched Snapchat feature which lets users insert deepfake-style selfies of themselves into a scene, and send them to friends. Thus, as reported by Variety, Snapchatters can look like a flying hotdog, a singing bird with a chef’s hat, a talking cat, or a dancing roast.

AI Factory was founded by Ukrainian-born entrepreneur Victor Shaburov, who previously founded and sold to Snap a facial-recognition startup called Looksery. The augmented reality filters developed by this startup were used to create face effects while making selfies; thus Snapchat users could change their eye or skin color, alter their face to remove blemishes or look thinner. 

Looksery was sold to Snap in 2015 for a reported $150 million. Following the deal, Shaburov served as Snap’s director of engineering. He left the company to found AI Factory in 2018.

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