Hollywood producers among the backers for Belfast-based Retinize

Irish VC Sure Valley Ventures leads £2m seed round for father and son-founded start-up

Belfast-based Retinize has closed a £2 million (€2.38 million) seed round led by Sure Valley Ventures. It is the first investment under the Irish-founded VC's new £95 million (€113 million) UK-focused f und.

Other backers include Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri, the multi-Emmy award-winning producers behind the CBS hit show The Amazing Race, which was recently renewed for a 34th season.

Retinize was founded two years ago by Phil and Jack Morrow, a father and son team whose roots lie in high-end film and television. The company originally spun out of Wild Rover Productions, formerly one of Ireland's leading independent TV producers with shows that include Just for Laughs, Secret Fortune and the Dara Ó Briain-led School of Hard Sums.

The start-up, which has been largely operating in stealth mode, is developing an innovative software product called Animotive that uses virtual reality (VR) technologies to transform the 3D animation production process. It works across augmented reality (AR), VR, multi-screen installations and software development to allow users to quickly create their own 3D animated content in a virtual environment.

Retinize's clients include the BBC, National Geographic, World Health Organisation, Save the Children, BMW, Tourism NI and Seagate.

The new investment is intended to help the company roll-out Animotive globally.

Among the other backers in the latest funding round is Techstart, which previously led a seed investment in Retinize, VGC Partner and Clarendon/Co-Fund NI. A number of angel investors also participated, including Ben Morrow, senior product manager of Adobe Aero, the Photoshop-maker's AR creation tool.

Sure Valley Ventures was founded by Barry Downes and Brian Kinane, who previously sold Waterford-based software company FeedHenry to Red Hat in a €60 million-plus deal.

Automating content

It is focused on investing in disruptive software innovation in sectors such as the metaverse, Web 3.0 decentralised technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity. Among the Irish companies it has backed are Wia, GetVisibility and Artomatix, a developer of tech to automate the creation of 3D content, which was acquired in a $60 million deal by gaming studio Unity Technologies in early 2020.

"We are thrilled to have Sure Valley on board as our lead investor – they have a deep knowledge of the creative tech sector and what impressed us most was the time they took to really understand and challenge our long-term goals and objectives," said Phil Morrow, Retinize's chief executive.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Sure Valley principal Isabelle O’Keefe said the start-up’s solution would speed up the animation process, something which is usually very labour intensive and expensive.

“What Retinize has done is to develop a very innovative way of doing 3D animation production in a way that keeps costs low.”

“Retinize is targeting customers in the mid-market space, which is a huge opportunity because the cost of production for organisations can be too high. I’m really excited by what they are doing to disrupt the market,” she added.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist

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