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Education

Sergey Tokarev and KSE present an innovative IT university in Ukraine

A presentation of a new IT University took place in Kyiv. Sergey Tokarev, the Founding Partner at Roosh, in the partnership with Kyiv School of Economics (KSE), described a new educational institution launched in Ukraine. Next Summer, Ukrainian school-leavers will be able to apply for study at SET University.

According to the founders, SET University will be the one that will alter the Ukrainian educational system, and fulfill the Ukrainian IT market with professionals ready to launch tech startup unicorns.

The name of the university is combined from three words that refer to university vision – Science, Entrepreneurship, and Technology. Sergey Tokarev says that his goal is to initiate changes in the industry: Ukraine has to implement a product approach not an outsourcing one to create a new economy.

University educational programs will include specialized IT disciplines and also practical courses aimed to teach students how to pitch ideas and launch startups. To achieve this goal, SET University has created a Startup Garage, an analog of the Stanford model.

The university will provide a wide range of opportunities for students: they will work on real cases of IT companies, pitch ideas for a venture studio, and compete for funding.

IT industry requires such an innovative university because there is a lack of professionals, around 100,000 job vacancies are open with no one to fill them. Another problem is the level of education – a lot of educational programs are not tailored to the IT market requirements. Usually, companies hire young specialists and spend a lot of time and money to train them to work on real projects according to their business needs. SET University expects that there will be no unemployed students among the graduates.

The founders of the university will involve top-level specialists to teach and become mentors for students. The program developed following concerns of IT companies will include courses on Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Cybersecurity, and other fields of expertise critical for the industry. 

Education in the university will be available for everyone. Based on a tuition-based model, the students will be able to apply for a grant or a scholarship that will cover the cost of the education. 

Sergey Tokarev says that an income share agreement model will be implemented in the university. It means that students can pay for the education after graduation, and this payment will be taken as a percent of their salaries.

The idea of the establishment of the university had arisen when Sergey Tokarev faced a lack of good professionals while developing his projects. Investing in more than 100 start-ups, he understood what specialists were in high demand on the market. For several years, he had been working on the idea of SET University.

To boost the project, Tokarev partnered with Kyiv School of Economics as a leading Ukrainian economic university to develop an innovative educational center together where IT specialists can be educated.

The application process will start in July, selected students will be able to sign agreements with the university. 

Sergey Tokarev says: “We want universities to become an open platform for all participants of the IT market. We would like everything to be about technologies, and each participant of the market would be associated with the university. SET University will become an educational framework for achieving these goals.”

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Uncategorized

Sergey Tokarev talks about the history of STEM is FEM

The world is facing a huge issue of gender imbalance in the field of IT, energy, and mechanical engineering. The girls are reluctant to choose IT as a profession due to a huge fear of staying unsuccessful. Moreover, our society still believes that there are such things as male and female jobs. The fear and stereotypes lead us towards the lack of female specialists in tech fields. Most high school girls do not opt for IT specialties when they reach a university. Sergey Tokarev, a Reface investor, aims to help female students get rid of their fear and combat these stereotypes.

The Reface investor initiated a program, STEM is FEM, to deal with the strong existing stereotypes in Ukrainian society almost a year and a half ago. There are only 15-30% women specialists in the STEM fields. At the global level, there is 30% of women’s participation in IT-related fields. STEM is FEM aims to boost the confidence of high school girls to build a career in the IT sector.

“I faced this problem in my own IT projects. The gender balance in a company always has a positive effect on business,” says Sergey Tokarev. He clearly wants to improve women’s participation in STEM in Ukraine. STEM is FEM provides an opportunity to every Ukrainian schoolgirl to get motivation, knowledge, and awareness about a career in STEM. The program organizes two-day events in a module related to a specific industry every two months. The schoolgirls can participate in these modules by entering a competition.

The participants of a module attend motivation lectures given by a female leader or employee of a specific industry. The industry professionals also give lectures to the participants of a specific module. Many leading businesswomen, ministers, ambassadors, and organizational heads have attended the modules under STEM is FEM. Similarly, the employees of Google, Global Logic, robot companies, agricultural startups, and other companies have also attended the relevant modules in the past year and a half.

Apart from that, STEM is FEM organizes excursions to a topic-related enterprise for the participants. The participants have visited the Aviation Museum, Global Logic, Kyiv Electric, and BMW Showroom. The enterprise visits are currently canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the educational modules, the competitive schoolgirls have created various projects. These projects include 3D printed benches, bicycle stations with advanced features, and robotic models for combating coronavirus. STEM is FEM awards the winners of the competition with useful industry-related courses and other prizes. However, some events in the new modules are currently suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions in Ukraine.     

“STEM is FEM is also conducting various educational and awareness-boosting events in collaboration with other organizations,” explains Sergey Tokarev. The project collaborated with the Goethe Institute to launch a reading club. It provides training and workshops to the participating schoolgirls on regular basis. The aim of the project is to allow Ukrainian high school girls to use their time and knowledge in a most productive manner. The program also organizes special meetings for the participants to broaden their horizons.

The events are designed to develop the professional abilities of the schoolgirls and motivate them to enter the IT-related fields without any fear, according to Sergey Tokarev. The motivational lectures from the successful women in different industries boost the confidence of schoolgirls to get rid of their fear and become a woman in STEM.

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Technology

Sergey Tokarev about Reface’s success in 2020: Best App on Google Play and $5.5 million from Andreessen Horowitz

75 million downloads, investment from Andreessen Horowitz, Best App on Google Play, and dozens of collaborations with world-class celebrities: it’s rare for a startup to boast such achievements in its first year. One of such phenomena is the Ukrainian Reface, an app for swapping faces on GIF images and videos. Sergey Tokarev, an investor in the company, tells about how the startup has managed to achieve such success.

A million downloads in the first quarter

Today, Reface is a world-famous Ukrainian company headquartered in Kyiv, the staff already includes more than 100 employees. However, it was not always like this. The success story dates to 2011. Back then, a group of several Ukrainian developers began to work on modernizing machine learning methods. After a while, the team switched to developing their own artificial intelligence technology that would be able to replace faces in images in a quality manner. As a result, they developed a unique Reface technology, and its name became the name of the company.

‘After a while, the guys improved the technology so that you could swap faces not only on static images but also on GIFs and videos. This development is unique and still has no competitive alternative in the world. This is what is used today in the Reface app, which can be downloaded from the AppStore or Google Play,’ says Sergey Tokarev.

Exponential growth

The app was released in January 2020. Within three months, its creators celebrated the first million downloads. And that was just the beginning. Today, Reface has been downloaded over 75 million times. The users’ recognition affected the ratings in the world charts: by the end of summer, the app was on top of AppStore in the US and dozens of other countries. In Google Play, Reface also demonstrates impressive results.

‘At the end of the year, Reface got to the Best Apps 2020 list according to Google Play. The app keeps on maintaining strong positions in the charts, and the number of downloads keeps on growing. Millions of people regularly use the app for swapping their images and share the results on social media,’ says Sergey Tokarev.

Celebrities and collaborations

GIFs and videos created in Reface are as realistic as possible, the process takes just a few seconds, and a user-friendly interface allows you to use the app with no difficulties. All this made the Ukrainian development popular among users from all over the world. The world-class celebrities also noticed the app.

“Celebs like Snoop Dogg, Britney Spears, Joe Rogan, Chris Brown, Dua Lipa, and many others have shared the images created in the app in their social media. Every day, this list gets new people who become fans of Reface. Often, this follows with joint projects with the company,’ says Sergey Tokarev

Reface technology was used to create promotional videos for Justin Bieber, the Amazon Prime trailer for the second part of Borat, and advertising for Red Bull. Also, Reface took part in an advertising campaign for one of the largest telecommunications companies in France SFR that used Cristiano Ronaldo for the company’s image. And together with JBL, Reface launched a contest on Instagram: the participants could swap their faces with Reface and post the result in their account, and this way, they get a chance to become the face of JBL’s new advertising campaign. Reface also participates in social projects. The technology was used to conduct a virtual march by UAnimals to support animals in Ukraine.

Investments

In November, Reface raised $5.5 million in its first round of funding from Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital fund based in Silicon Valley. The list of contributors also includes the managers of Justin Bieber and Britney Spears, investors in Uber, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter.

Reface says the investment and support from Andreessen Horowitz will help develop the technology and expand partnerships with music labels, film studios, and influencers.

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Sergey Tokarev aims to destroy stereotypes through STEM is FEM

Sergey Tokarev, the initiator of STEM is FEM, talked about the success and achievement of the project so far during the first year. The STEM is FEM project has completed the first year with various noticeable achievements.

What is STEM is FEM?

STEM is FEM is a charity project initiated by Sergey Tokarev, a Reface investor, last year. The project aims to destroy gender stereotypes in the tech industry of Ukraine. During the first year of the project, more than two hundred individuals from all across Ukraine participated in seven educational modules. The Reface investor talked about the importance of gender equity in different fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). STEM is FEM conducts free educational events for schoolgirls in Ukraine to encourage their participation in the STEM fields.

Sergey Tokarev said that they got the idea of initiating this project when they found a huge gender imbalance in the IT-sphere of Ukraine. He noted, “Today, the whole IT sphere is striving for gender parity. However, the number of women in IT still barely reaches a third of the total number of developers.” In Ukraine, there is a stereotype that only men can be IT professionals. Women are less likely to choose IT while studying at the school, college, or university level. Tokarev said that there was a need for change in this regard. That is why he initiated a project, STEM is FEM, in 2019 to introduce schoolgirls with different career prospects in the field of IT.

How does STEM is FEM teach schoolgirls?

In the first year, the project held seven free educational modules focused on STEM. These modules introduced the schoolgirls to various tech industries including ecology and energy, biotechnology, information technology, robotics, 3D modelling and printing, construction and architecture, and mechanical engineering.

The length of a module of STEM is FEM is usually two days. Female speakers share their personal experience and professional knowledge related to the topic of the module. The participants are engaged in various creative activities to judge their learnings. During the first year of the project, the schoolgirls designed disinfection robots, benches, and bike stations. “During the offline modules, our participants visited the aviation museum, the genetic laboratory, the hydrometeorological institute, the dispatch service of Kyiv Electric Networks, as well as GlobalLogic, Beetroot, and a BMW car showroom, where schoolgirls could gain first-hand knowledge about tech processes,” said Sergey Tokarev.

Most of the modules under this project were held in Kyiv. The purpose of holding these modules in different enterprises located in Kyiv is to allow the participants to see the practical implementations of the lectures given by the specialists. However, the project is organizing online modules at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tokarev ensured that they would get back to normal practice when the pandemic would end.

STEM is FEM also involves motivational speakers in its modules to allow the participants to get aspiration from various successful women in the field of politics, diplomacy, business, and government. Sergey Tokarev noted, “Motivation is one of the most important keys to success, along with technical skills.”

There are various other organizations that supported STEM is FEM during the first year. These organizations include the US Embassy in Ukraine, the Finnish Embassy in Ukraine, UNICEF and UN Women, America House Kyiv, Beetroot, GlobalLogic, BMW Ukraine, and various others. Tokarev called gender imbalance in STEM a ‘global issue’. He said that there was a need for global efforts to destroy this stereotype.

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Technology

Sergey Tokarev tells how Ukrainian app Reface taught the whole world to swap faces

Reface investor Sergey Tokarev spoke about one of the most successful Ukrainian tech developments and how it managed to conquer the world charts in less than a year as well as take the first places in the US App Store downloads charts.

Back in summer 2020, Reface, a face swap app for videos and GIFs, conquered the American market. The Ukrainian development, formerly called Doublicat, gained first place in the Entertainment category surpassing the downloads number of such giants as Instagram, YouTube, and Netflix. This way, it became the first Ukrainian app to reach such top positions. After a while, it gained first place in the overall chart as well.

Unlike other world-famous Ukrainian mobile apps, such as Grammarly, Travelpost, and Fander that gradually reached the world’s top positions, Reface took off at a breathtaking pace.

50 million downloads in 9 months

The official app release took place on January 13, 2020, as Doublicat app. In the first few months, it was downloaded over a million times. Six months after the release, the downloads exceeded five million. In mid-August, the app surpassed Instagram, YouTube, Zoom, Netflix, TikTok, and Amazon in a number of countries, and by the end of the month, it reached 20 million downloads. By September 7, that number had almost doubled and RefaceAI boasted of getting 35 million users. In the Android charts, the app reached first place in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and a dozen other countries.

‘As of the end of October 2020, Reface is in the top 10 in the App Store and in the top 20 in the Google Play Top Free Entertainment Apps in the United States. Every day, there are tens of millions of videos created in the app, and the number of the app downloads has already exceeded 50 million,’ says Sergey Tokarev.

Celebrity support

Not only ordinary users appreciate the app but also world-famous celebrities. There are many artists, such as Snoop Dogg, Britney Spears, DuaLipa, Jennifer Lopez, and many others that have refaced their images.

The artists of Ukraine, a country native to the developers, also give attention to Reface. Moreover, RefaceAI even created a video ‘#Blogger’ with the singer Jerry Heil, known for the hit “Okhrana, otmyena”. In the joint video, there was extensively used the face replacement technology.

This way, according to the creators, the app’s popularity growth is by 90% organic. Since its release, the app has been mentioned over 600 times in media worldwide, including in major media such as Forbes, Mashable, Techcrunch, and VICE. According to Sergey Tokarev, in 65% of cases, users post videos and photos created in Reface in their social media accounts.

Working principle and technology

Talking about the analogue programs for swapping faces, the unique feature of Reface is based on using an exclusive technology developed in-house. Unlike other developers who use CGI (computer-generated imagery), Reface is based on the GAN (generative adversarial network) machine learning algorithm. This way, by using exclusively artificial intelligence, they have achieved the maximum realism of the final content.

‘If you compare it to analogues, the advantage of Reface is that the technology incorporated into it does not just replace one face with another with good quality, but does it in real time, literally in seconds. And you can do it on any smartphone. We have made this technology simple and accessible to everyone. You don’t need to be a professional in video processing or have any expensive equipment to do with high quality what was previously possible to do only for months and exclusively by experts,’Tokarev says.

Short story

Launched in 2011 as NeoCortext, the development company was working to improve machine learning methods. After some time, the developers began to create their own artificial intelligence algorithm to replace faces in images. The result of the work became the RefaceAI technology that later gave the name to the company.

“The team has gone through a long and difficult way. During this time, the company has accumulated enough experience to become a leader in the area. Now, there are a lot of companies that want to enter the market but there is a large gap between us and competitors in terms of technology,’ says Sergey Tokarev.

Safety first

RefaceAI pays great attention to safety and social responsibility. Aware of the risk of using technology for unscrupulous purposes, the company is taking preventive measures. Firstly, the content created in the app is marked with watermarks, and secondly, the company is simultaneously developing software that allows determining the authenticity of the video and the possible software modifications that the content may have gone.

‘At the moment, only about a tenth of the potential of our technology is in the public domain: it is possible to work only with low-quality GIF images or with a limited set of videos,’ says Tokarev.

The future is with personalization and B2B

RefaceAI’s plans are quite ambitious. In the coming year, the company plans to attract one hundred million new subscribers. At the same moment, the developers are creating several more new products. This fall, the company is planning to release a full-fledged video editor Reface Studio that will be based on the technology of fast processing of synthesized videos. And next year, there is expected to be released the Full Body Swap function, so one can swap not only the face but the whole body in images and videos.