Dima is Changing the Face of Business
What’s your story?
I am Dima Shvets, and for five years I was a managing Partner of a seed-stage venture capital fund. I was an early investor in 39 tech startups operating worldwide: Allset, RetargetApp, Kwambio, DelFast, InstantApi, and Publicfast. I contributed to furthering the portfolio company’s successful fundraising from Greycroft Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Metamorphic Ventures, and FJ Labs.
Last year I decided to take a risk and quit VC to become a co-founder of the AI startup, RefaceAI. I knew the market very well from the investor’s side. But now everything is upside down, in my role as a startup founder, learning how to turn technology into products, developing them, pitching them, as well as reaching out to investors.
RefaceAI is a unique AI technology that swaps faces in Gifs, images, and videos. The company was covered by Forbes, Mashable, The Sun, and The Verge. Even Elon Musk tweeted about it. We launched our app for Gifs personalization, Doublicat.com, in January, and it got 600 media mentions within a single week! Soon we will launch Reface Studio, a unique web interface tool for content creation and personalization. Stay tuned!
What excites you most about your industry?
VC and AI are different sides of the tech industry, yet at their core, their shared value is in people and relationships. I love people and I like to help them build their success stories. AI is one of the most prominent fields in the tech ecosystem and I am excited to be a part of one of the most groundbreaking companies. AI definitely is the future of software, though it is pretty much unpredictable at what scale and within what timeframe. The same is true in our particular tech space. We are working with GANs, and have state-of-the-art conditional technology at the core of our products. But there is still the need to educate and develop the markets that are evolving right now. We were working on our novel technology before all the hype, and we see this technology working for more than just the entertainment industry. We are the company that provides a unique solution that is scalable across different industries resulting in a new layer of technology that opens personalization, content creation, and content sharing for every user and small business.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been dreaming of Asia since childhood, and have been inspired by the Samurai culture and “The Last Samurai” film, starring Tom Cruise. When I was a VC fund managing partner, I evaluated several investment opportunities in Asia, and decided to pass on them. But, in the Autumn of 2018, I was a partner in a London-based fintech company, and spent 2 months in Asia doing business development, fundraising, and establishing partnerships. Most of my time was spent in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou) and Japan (Tokyo). But I also had a chance to present our business in HongKong, Singapore, and Seoul. That experience definitely exceeded all my expectations. I fell in love with Asia and made meaningful connections, with the hope of continuing to do business in Asia. Now, at RefaceAI, we have connections and work with companies in China and South Korea. I’m sure our presence in Asia will continue to grow.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Shanghai. It has the perfect mix of cultural heritage, a solid business ecosystem, great travel destinations, and geographical positioning. You can feel and see the energy of the business atmosphere in every district of Shanghai. And it is also one of the best places in Asia to get venture capital financing as well as support for startups. Shanghai is doing a great job attracting entrepreneurs.
Frankly speaking, Singapore is really great too, especially with cross-border business opportunities and multinational societies. For startups and tech, Singapore is one of the leaders in becoming an innovation hub for Southeast Asia.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Never give up. Even after the darkest night, there is a dawn. After the heaviest rain, there comes a rainbow. As an AI company, we know these axioms to be true.
Who inspires you?
My family, as they always support me and give me strength through their unconditional love. Also, my RefaceAI team. They have become my second family. They never stop inspiring and surprising me on our journey to become a meaningful player in the tech world. They are always open to the challenge of new frontiers and we help each other, every single minute. My team inspires me to move forward and to do my very best.
What have you just learned recently that blew you away?
How investors and product entrepreneur perspectives differ dramatically. Being on the entrepreneurial side now, I realise how different VCs think compared to entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur’s job is to have a vision and never give up. A VCs job is to look at the “best possible outcome for the company,” and to find sometimes controversial companies and solutions to help them in their pursuit of becoming the next unicorns. I call it “controversial truth,” looking for what may go wrong rather than what could go right. Exactly the opposite of the entrepreneur’s perspective.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I love my life and all the experiences I have had. I have no regrets and wouldn’t do anything differently. My philosophy is to continue moving forward and to enjoy each moment and the special people around me. One thing that I recommend doing, in any situation, is to be positive, love the people around you, and understand that we are living our best life, ever.
How do you unwind?
Sport is my meditation and source of energy. I used to play tennis professionally when I was a kid. I also participated in judo. Football, snowboarding, wake surfing, surfing, running – that is the stuff I like. I also enjoy traveling, yachting, hiking, and going to music festivals with my beloved friends.
Favorite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bali for sure. It is a place that broadens your mind, offers a variety of activities and experiences, and makes you feel fulfilled and happy. Japan is also a top destination. From a cultural standpoint, it is a nation that stays unique and authentic in times of total globalization.
Everyone in business should read this book:
- “The Hard Things About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers,” by Ben Horowitz. This book is about real life, the tough life of an entrepreneur. Most business books focus on how to do things correctly, whilst Ben acknowledges upfront, there is no such thing as a perfect business; however much planning you put into it, screw-ups will inevitably happen.
- “Trilogy of Desire,” by Theodore Dreiser The trilogy is made up of three books, “The Financier,” “The Titan,” and “The Stoic.” These books encompass one of the most fundamental stories I’ve ever read about life and business. Definitely worth reading.
Shameless plug for your business:
RefaceAI is a unique, state-of-art AI technology that allows you to swap faces in Gifs, images, and videos. You just need one photo of a face, or one video, and, using our tech, magic happens!
RefaceAI was featured in Forbes, Mashable, The Sun, and The Verge. Even Elon Musk tweeted about it. We were working on this specific technology before all the hype, and we are more forward thinking in the use of this technology than just within the entertainment industry. We are the company that provides a unique solution that is scalable across different industries and results in a new layer of technology that opens personalization in creation and sharing of content for every user and every business. The Future is NOW – Just “reface it” and share it with the world!
We aim to be the first unique platform for content and lifestyle personalization (adding AR/VR to it, as well) which provides tech products and solutions for industries like gaming production, streaming, Adtech, cinema production, as well as the entertainment industry.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.