Sova VC
Published in

Sova VC

Lights, camera, action: why we invested in CG Hero

If you’ve ever stayed to watch the end credits after a superhero movie, you’ll have noticed how much of them are taken up with seemingly endless lists of CGI designers. But take a closer look and you’ll see that it’s not just one visual effects (VFX) studio with a small army of digital artists. Increasingly, the list will be made up of many design houses that might have contributed to a particular VFX shot, character animation, or visual effect. (For example, Spider-Man: No Way Home, which has grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide, credits 15 different VFX companies).

So what does this have to do with Sova VC? A lot, as it happens. In fact, the market for computer-generated content production has become large and highly fragmented. Studiohog estimates that no less than 562 studios are specialized in VFX only, while other estimates put the figure even higher than that. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the GC market goes far beyond VFX studios and accounts for thousands of players. The space has become so diversified and specialized that you might have one designer who focuses purely on rendering hair on an animated character, or another who works exclusively on buildings or vehicles.

These narrow specializations entail different skillsets and qualifications for designers — often geographically distributed — which come at different prices and affect the costs of content production. What’s even more, the market for CGI content is so much more than just big-budget movies or games; it’s in sectors like retail, automotive, electronics, and food.

And what do buyers and sellers on a distributed market need? A collaborative platform to bring users together and make project management easier.

CG Hero is an end-to-end platform operating from Manchester in the UK, enabling companies to work with teams of digital artists around the world and aiming to solve several challenges in the industry today, including the high cost of CG content production. Its model is consistent with a B2B marketplace, and if you follow Sova VC, you’ll know that we believe strongly in the b2b marketplace model as an investment opportunity. When we met Jonathan Llyod — co-founder of GCHero — and his outstanding team, we immediately saw a great opportunity in the potential of the platform to disrupt an industry burdened with messy and ineffective processes. Together with Beringea, we have just led a £4 million Series A funding round in CG Hero.

Big budget production

In the movie and TV industry, producers tend to rely on in-house teams or external studios providing full-stack services to lead the project, but more specific CG items are usually outsourced. On most standard projects, anywhere between 30–50% of CG content will typically be produced by outsourced designers.

Into the metaverse

Similarly, game development studios typically combine in-house production with outsourced services from multiple providers. The average project of a large studio will involve 20+ outsource teams and more than 100 digital artists. That studio might only need a specialist in hair design, for instance, to fulfil a three- or six-month project. With a collaborative platform like GCHero, they can source a freelancer and retain them on contract as needed, without incurring the costs of a full-time recruit.

CG Hero’s addressable market stands at $8 billion p.a., across key verticals like gaming, films, etc. To put that figure in context, the total size of the gaming software market was valued at $107 billion in 2020, with $9.34 billion dedicated to art production in the USA, Canada and EU.

The company also stands to benefit from the significant recent growth in the NFT space. NFTs are just a small part of giant computer-graphics market, so in fact, platforms like CGHero were already well-positioned to support the creation of NFTs, even before the phenomenon of CryptoKitties in 2017–18.

By removing bottlenecks in the existing VFX supply chain, CG Hero makes it faster and 2x cheaper to deliver 2D, 3D, animation, VFX, and other types of digital content seamlessly to enterprise clients by connecting them with thousands of industry professionals, or ‘heroes’.

Streamlining this process means enabling clients across a wide range of industries to engage their audiences across exceptional computer-generated graphics from AR to VR, and into the metaverse.

But CG Hero is more than just a marketplace. Its one-stop-shop procurement solution not only helps clients to find world-class suppliers, but also enables them to create project teams and manage them throughout the whole process of CG asset creation. This is a part of the process that general freelancer marketplaces don’t focus on.

Artists assemble

By automating workflows through the platform, this business model unlocks a strong network effect, since agencies, heroes and clients tend to bring their suppliers and customers to the platform as well, to simplify and unify their workflows. Like SmartCat, another Sova CV marketplace investment, CG Hero isn’t trying to compete with VFX studios. In fact, they form part of its customer base since they’re also looking out for talent on a per-project basis.

There are more than 4,500 vetted heroes registered on CG Hero’s platform, either as individual freelancers or studios. On the other side of the fence, the platform has a sizable client baseincluding Fortune 500 enterprises and familiar names like Arjo, the BBC, Disney, Epic Games, Kingfisher, LG, Netflix, the NHS, SEGA, Unilever, Valvoline and others.

Endgame

CGHero is disrupting the market for creative production — currently led by a number of in-house production and design studios — by introducing a platform on which the very bests artists around the world can gather and collaborate. It also comes as a complement to the current market players who can use the platform to expand their existing team and tackle opportunities that they may otherwise have lost due to lack of talent and resources.

Since it was founded in 2017, CG Hero has proven a successful B2B platform with established client relationships — some current clients have been sticking with the company since its beginnings, and increased the number of tasks they order through the platform every month.

Not all heroes wear capes; some draw them. We’re looking forward to helping CG Hero and its outstanding team write the next chapter in its story.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Alexey Bulygin

Principal at Sova VC. I work alongside a passionate team to empower early stage tech disruptors in their journey