Founders Fund leads Series Seed for further computer vision technology and product development
(San Francisco, January 2020) – Forma has raised $7M in a Series Seed financing from Founders Fund, GSR, founders / executives from YouTube, imgur, Sandbox VR, Polyvore, Roblox, and others to build photorealistic digital identities unconstrained by the physical world. The funds will be used to refine computer vision technology and product development.
Forma’s current products on iOS and Shopify empower users to visualize themselves in any outfit, which previously required physically putting on clothes or merely using imagination. This is a new source of style inspiration for personal exploration, style discussions with friends, or shopping in a world of overwhelming choice; already, Forma has partnered with hundreds of retailers who have increased their shoppers’ confidence and purchase conversion rates by offering digital tryons. Forma believes visualization is a critical component in exploring personal style, and shoppers will soon demand to see themselves in an item before buying online, just like they do offline. In the future, Forma plans to extend their technology to power photorealistic avatars in video games, movies, VR, videoconferences, or anywhere a visual representation is useful in the digital world.
Their proprietary computer vision and graphics technology produces pixel-level photorealism in real-time with regular photos, i.e. no need for special hardware (e.g. 3D cameras), green screens, Photoshopping, or photo stitching. While many have tried this idea over the years, this had been impossible to scale until recent breakthroughs in AI technology (specifically deep learning) and GPU hardware.
Co-founder and CEO Ben Chiang says: “We’re fortunate to partner with long-term investors who believe in building deep technology applied to universal desires. In our case that desire is the exploration of visual identity, which is increasingly shifting to the digital world. While our technology and products are still early, we’ve already seen a strong and broad response from the market, and this funding enables us to continue innovating and refining the experience. We believe that it’s a matter of when, not if everybody will have a digital avatar just like they have Facebook, hopefully powered by Forma!”
“Forma is capitalizing on recent breakthroughs in computer vision to enable anyone to create a photorealistic avatar from a single photo. There is huge demand for this technology in the retail world and beyond,” said Keith Rabois, Partner at Founders Fund.
Forma was founded in San Francisco in October 2017 by co-founders from Uber, Intel, and Stanford, and has raised a total of $12M in funding. They have a small and motivated team from a wide variety of backgrounds and a shared passion for creative problem solving.
About Founders Fund
Founders Fund invests in the world’s most important and valuable companies across all sectors and stages. The firm has been an early backer of some of the most impactful companies of the past decade, including SpaceX, Palantir, Airbnb, Stripe and Facebook. Founders Fund pursues a founder-friendly investment strategy, providing maximum support with minimum interference. For more information, visit www.foundersfund.com.
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Co-founder + CEO
As we enter the 2020s, what is your style right now? Can you still wear those skinny jeans? What’s the difference between street style and just being lazy? Does athleisure count as fashion?
We were curious what Forma users today liked the most from the 2010s. Perhaps expectedly, some styles really dropped in popularity quickly, while others show more lasting power.
That got us thinking: Which styles from different decades stood stood the test of time and are still relevant as we enter 2020? Below are Forma users’ favorites, grouped by decade. Are they what you expect?
Note: Click to try any of the below outfits on yourself!
This decade’s trends should be familiar to most of you, we’ll have to check back later to see which stood the test of time!
Skinny ties on a slim-fitted light grey gridded suit (thanks Justin Timberlake!):
Women have found ways to make ripped jeans classy!
The hoodie inside jacket with jumper looks good on Tom Holland aka the internet’s boyfriend:
Overalls made a comeback in cutoff form:
And everybody’s favorite superhero is…Deadpool??
Bombastic outfits and futurist dresses like this Met Gala dress show how close we are to becoming the Capitol in The Hunger Games!
Seems like our impression of the 2000s was experimentation with colors and patterns from the 80s...mixed with denim!
This denim jacket mixes pretty well with plaid leggings:
Followed by....a mustard yellow denim jacket with houndstooth shorts. Seeing a pattern here? ;)
Well, our memory of the 90s isn’t great, so it’s helpful if the outfit dates itself:
Wait, so festival wear is just 90s fashion??
Take out the iPhone and iPad and this dude coulda walked out of the 90s:
Our view of the 80s seems more accurate than the 90s somehow!
This A-line leather dress and flowy blouse somehow pull off retro and stylish at the same time
David Bowie and the rest of the 80s seemed to have more patience putting together outfits
What’s more 80s than MTV and Madonna?
Research shows you have 73.8% more fun when wearing neon
The following is a guest post from Okonkwo Azubuike. He love writing and fashion, mostly for himself but sometimes for other people!
Style traditionally refers to the art of self-expression with what you wear. For most, it is a unique identity or a manner with which one may arrange his/her appearance.
It is often used interchangeably with ‘fashion,’ but style is personal, an art of organizing one's appearance. It represents a person, their opinions, their sense of identity. Style is a beautiful blend of how you dress, move, talk, think, and live, what you like and where you come from.
According to Rachel Zoe, a renowned American fashion designer, businesswoman, and writer.
"Style is a way to talk without having to speak."
Style is about understanding yourself, and it evolves along with you. It is eternal; without ends.
What’s my style?
To get to know what style matches you best, you must first understand your body; type and shape.
Like Hubert De Givenchy wrote,
"The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.”
1. Unique body shape
There are quite a number of body shapes, from pear to apple, hourglass, lean column, and inverted angle body shapes. Even amongst these categories, bodies fall across a spectrum of shapes and sizes.
With recent developments in technology such as augmented reality, you may now virtually try-on clothing to visualize your style. In other words, you can now try before you buy and see the clothes on yourself without driving to the mall and facing the stink eye of the store attendant impatiently awaiting your decision amongst six dresses, or putting down a huge order online and returning all but one item after trying on and rejecting all the others 😊
Because part of style is comfort, understanding your body size/shape will help you choose clothes that will accentuate your best features, hence, boosting your self-confidence. Develop that understanding by trying different silhouettes!
2. Personality fit
To fully understand what style matches you best is to study and understand your personality. Your style of dressing tells your stories; how you think, talk, feel, your lifestyle and values. Your appearance sends messages. It speaks for and about you long before you begin to talk. It is in itself a form of expression.
Understanding what non-verbal cues you intend to project, will go a long way in aiding your future shopping sprees and how individuals address you. After all, human judgment has become an issue of perception and not one of reality.
3. Colors matter
The final way to effectively cap your overall style is to know your colors. What colors speak to you, express your uniqueness and make you feel and look at yourself?
Colors evoke emotions and allow a peep into your personality. The colors you wear can tell others that you are calm, seeking attention, or anything between.
While humans interpret colors differently, it is important to choose a color that blends with your skin and makes you feel like yourself.
Traditionally, contrasting fair skin with darker tones (and vice versa) works as a stunning eye-catcher. However, style can be more nuanced than simple rules, so you may want to try out more varieties to get a direct feeling for what works best for you.
Style should be personal, and most of all, fun. If clothing was solely about utility, then we’d all be wearing the same clothes every day! If your style is personal and fun then you’ll build confidence where you cannot go wrong!
Build your style, it is your signature!
Every year when Halloween comes around, there’s a mix of excitement and anxiety. It’s the year I can be anything I want...but what do I want to be?? It’s a perennial struggle, but breaking it down the costume-picking process makes it less stressful, and dare we say, even fun!
Step 1: Ideation
If you’re anything like, you get stuck right away on the first step of ideation. It’s like a blank canvas or a blinking cursor...where to start??
We’ve found that categories is a good place to start. Do you prioritize being scary, attention-grabbing, comfortable, political, funny, or even...punny? Even if you’re not sure yet, narrowing down to just 2-3 of these helps a lot!
You can also look for sources of inspiration such as Pinterest, Instagram, Google, or Reddit. We’ve found good ideas by looking for people, topics, or even typing ‘halloween’ or ‘costume’ into their search bars. If you want to do something super on trend, you can even look up the top daily searches on Google to see what people are talking about.
Finally, if you’re really desperate, the quickest path to a costume is probably going to a physical store or e-commerce and just buying a ready-made costume. This doesn’t have to be lame (although it can be…), you can always choose a classic and there are some pretty creative costumes online these days too.
Step 2: Visualization
Okay so you have some ideas now, but how do you know if it looks good on you? Back in the day, the only choice was to somehow get the actual costume and put it on, realizing you look ridiculous, and repeating this process until you find one you like (or run out of energy / $$$).
Thanks to technology these days, you can skip a bunch of steps by visualizing your costume digitally! That’s like, literally what we’re doing here at Forma, where we’re slowly digitizing every outfit in the world for anybody to try on, even costumes! You can try costumes that other users have already uploaded, and if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can even add your own outfit by simply uploading a picture!
You could also use some face swap tools or perhaps try some filters on Instagram / Snap etc. But regardless of what you use, use technology to remove the guesswork and see yourself before committing!
Step 3: 2nd opinion
Now, this is a step that too many of us skip...whether it’s costumes for Halloween, a first date, or a business meeting. Think of somebody who has good style judgment AND is willing to tell you the truth, even (especially!) if the truth hurts. First of all, maybe something you’re not sure of actually looks amazing, and you just need another set of eyes to give you a tiny boost and you’re done! On the flip side, would you rather have somebody you know tell you that you look bad, or would you rather be out there on Halloween and a bunch of people think it without telling you??
And after Halloween is over, you might want to keep this going...at least for special occasions :)
Step 4: Live it
Once you’ve decided, there’s nothing left except to live your costume. So much of your costume (and style overall, while we’re at it) is how the person wears it. Does it really matter what Zendaya wears? Ok, it probably matters a little but what she wears is secondary to her authenticity and owning it.
And if you think that being Zendaya is probably a bit too hard, then forget about other people, you should live your costume and own it because hey, Halloween is supposed to be fun. You have 364 other days in a year to worry about what other people think :)
A couple of months ago, Forma started dabbling in some small scale ads to test how different user groups react to our digital try-on product. We set up a bunch of different campaigns using Facebook’s fancy targeting tools: different countries, age groups, Facebook vs. Instagram, etc. And indeed we saw that the ads performed differently - the beauty of Facebook!
We knew that creative has a large impact on advertising effectiveness (it’s well-researched and documented, including ‘49% of sales lift from advertising is due to creative’ from Nielsen), but as a small startup we didn’t have resources (or expertise) to dedicate to creating fancy advertising videos. So we started with what we had: simple GIFs showing our tech:
Not quite earth-shattering, but this was what we could come up with quickly, and technically speaking it did cover Forma’s unique technology and product. The ads did reasonably well, at least compared to industry benchmarks we’d heard - but the reality was we had no benchmark for ourselves.
Then one night I was having drinks with a college friend of mine, and given he spends millions of dollars on FB per month at his gaming company, I asked him for his feedback. He asked, “Have you tried an iPhone video recording of somebody using your product?” Apparently they paid a top-tier agency 6 figures to create a super high quality ad that they were happy with, and on a whim they recorded a QA engineer playing their game and the latter performed 10x better in ads.
I had heard that creative can make a 10x difference, so we filmed a video of Heather, our partnerships lead, using our app in our office. 10 minutes of inexpert shooting with my iPhone and 15 minutes of inexpert editing in iMovie later, we had our new creative:
We won’t be winning any creative awards with this, but it works: literally changing nothing else, this ad performed Nx better than the previous ad! In our case I would say the new ad is better in demonstrating how our product and tech works than our overly simplified gif above, but it also gives us confidence that we don’t need a big-budget ad for a while.
We think this falls into the broader theme of the importance of authenticity. People are overwhelmed by choices and advertisements in the digital world, but rarely do they come across something honest and real that they can relate to. We see common threads in Instagram/Snap Stories, Tik Tok, and even Hollywood feature films shot entirely on iPhone (Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane) - clearly there’s still a lot of value in high-quality, high-production value creative, but the low-fi iPhone video worked for us. Would it work for you too?
Hello world! We wanted to start our blog by exploring some of the underlying reasons and human desires that motivated various team members to build Forma. While it was obvious to us that visual identity is deeply personal and different for everybody, we see below that even what visual identity itself means also varies with different perspectives!
In the physical world, you are what you were born into. Virtually, you can have many personalities and looks in different online communities. "This is the new world, and in this world, you can be whoever the hell you want."
Computer Vision Researcher
I may not be a typical user. The virtual identity does not mean much to me. Maybe Generation Z is quite different.
In real life, I care about my visual identity such that it reflects my personality. I want to make sure What I wear is proper. For online visual identity, I want it to be able to summarize the current status of me. And it needs to be proper as well.
I think what Forma can help for people like me is to provide material for me to choose in order to have a proper looking online better than any photo I currently have.
I view my visual identity as an ongoing effort to show the outside world the person I feel like I am inside. I want to accentuate my professionalism to investors, energy at work, performance on the basketball court, comfort at home with family. All of those are me, I’m not pretending to be something I’m not - and even if I was, well that is something underlying about me as well.
Authenticity is important to my individuality so people know who I am - so I know who I am. But who I am isn’t simply one-size-fits-all - it varies depending on the setting as above, but also changes over time just as my life changes. That’s what makes my identity unique, a dynamic blend that is different than anybody else in the world.
But this visual identity is in fact limited - by time, money, and access. I can only walk into so many stores or shop online before I’m too tired or run out of money. As a result, what I wear is from 5 brands that are the lowest-risk approximations of my ‘style’. But just as Spotify allowed me to develop a much more nuanced and personal playlist because trying new songs cost me no time or money, I’m excited for Forma to empower me to try on all sorts of styles that I would not have tried otherwise.
I think of visual identity as stretching across the in-person and digital realms. For in-person, it’s the physical, outward appearance of myself - here, I have some control over how I present myself. For digital, there’s a lot more flexibility to shape how others perceive my appearance and demeanor - whether it’s through my avatar’s appearance, the username I pick, the type of pictures I post, who I choose follow, etc.
What I’ve noticed for my online visual identity, is that I tend to pick features that reflect my physical appearance and aspects of my personality. It seems that I’ve consciously and subconsciously decided that my online visual identity is an extension of my overall identity!
As a designer, I’m constantly surrounded by beautiful images and objects, and over the years have really defined my own personal taste across all kinds of visual mediums from clothing styles, to my favorite colors, to photos that capture my feelings. The collection of all these things is what I consider my visual identity. This idea, though, sits mostly in my head, as I rarely fully express my style in my busy day-to-day. I would love to have a space where I can explore and visualize my identity, maybe not as I am living today in real life, but a version of myself truer to my imagination.