Investing in Meshcapade

Meshcapade’s Chief Scientist Michael Black, VP Business Development Nicolas Keller, Board Member Diana Kimball Berlin from Matrix, CTO Talha Zaman, and CEO Naureen Mahmood

I’m so happy to share that I’ve led Meshcapade’s seed round and joined their board on behalf of Matrix. I’m grateful to Naureen and the whole team at Meshcapade for welcoming me into their inner circle, and to Lina for connecting us in the first place.

To build the next generation of AI-native products that put people first, we need to be able to digitally represent the human form in a consistent, dynamic way—every joint, every curve, every wobble. That’s where Meshcapade comes into play: they’ve worked tirelessly to build the digital human layer of the internet brick by brick, starting with their patented SMPL body model—the de facto standard, with more resources, code, and datasets available than for any other body model. And with over 100 customers, including several Matrix portfolio companies and six of the top 10 NASDAQ companies, Meshcapade’s technology is already woven into applications across apparel, fitness, healthcare, gaming, AR/VR, and more. This funding will unlock the next chapter of Meshcapade’s mission: training foundation models for the analysis and synthesis of 3D human motion.

The SMPL body model in action

Meshcapade’s founders stood out to me in a few dimensions:

  • Vision: Two of Meshcapade’s cofounders, CEO Naureen Mahmood and Chief Scientist Michael Black, are co-authors of the original paper introducing the SMPL body model, which was the missing puzzle piece that enabled an avalanche of progress in the field. When I sit together with them and hear their plans, I always feel like I’m living five years in the future.
  • Pragmatism: Vision is empty if it doesn’t work, and the Meshcapade team is preoccupied with building technology that works in real life for real customers. SMPL has succeeded in large part because unlike other body models, this one was designed to meet engineers where they were—it was built to be compatible with game engines from the start, not conceived in the abstract with a hope that users would fill in the gaps.
  • Persistence: One of the great joys of being an early stage investor is working together with founders as they build their life’s work. To see that Michael, a pioneering computer vision researcher, has been pulling on the thread of modeling, analyzing, and synthesizing the human form for decades brings new meaning to “life’s work.” Meanwhile, Naureen and Talha have been working side by side with Michael to bring these ideas to life in multiple contexts for the better part of a decade now. Meshcapade is fueled by lasting insights formed in lasting relationships.

The journey to investing in Meshcapade was an adventure I’ll never forget. It started as these things often do: a founder I deeply trust (Lina from Infinity AI, another seed investment of mine), made the introduction; Naureen and I scheduled our first call for a Tuesday. After our second call that Thursday, I was excited enough that I knew I had to get to the bottom of the intuition. I ended up booking a flight to Tübingen, Germany, for the next day to spend a long weekend immersed with Meshcapade’s founders. Across a candlelit dinner that first night (halfway delirious from the long flight), thoughtful conversations as we walked along Tübingen’s cobblestone streets, and all the in-between moments that make relationships real, my conviction grew. By the time I boarded my flight back to San Francisco a few days later, I was sure I wanted to work together; fortunately, they felt the same. I’m honored to have the opportunity to work with Naureen, Michael, Talha, and the whole Meshcapade team as they build their life’s work.

There’s so much to Meshcapade—this is only scratching the surface! Check out their blog post and press release for more details, and you can follow Michael on Twitter and Naureen on LinkedIn to stay up to date. And, of course, they’re hiring—take a look at their open roles, and if we know each other, you’re welcome to reach out to me personally if you’re interested.