Ben-Zion Benkhin is making your selfies dance and sing

Ben-Zion Benkhin is making your selfies dance and sing

Who: Ben-Zion Benkhin, co-founder and CEO, Wombo, a lip-synching app
Company HQ: Yonge and Bloor
Founded: 2020
Employees: 10

How it works: “Upload a selfie and select a song from the catalogue, then the app will use artificial intelligence to animate your picture, making it look like you’re singing along to the music and performing a choreographed dance.”

Eureka moment: “In the summer of 2020, I was sitting on the rooftop of my apartment at Church and Charles, smoking a joint with my roommate, enjoying a beautiful evening. I thought to myself, Why hasn’t anyone made an app that turns a regular photo into a hilarious animated video? By the end of a four-hour discussion, I was convinced we needed to make it ourselves.”

How much you spent initially: “About $60,000. A chunk of that came from my co-founder’s parents. We put the money toward computer hardware, branding and app developers.”

Your turning point: “In February 2021, we shared the app with 10 of our friends. It spread organically from there. Since then, about 50 million people have downloaded it.”

Your big-time backers: “We just closed a $6-million seed round, with an investment from Sound Ventures, Ashton Kutcher’s fund.”

Advice you would give your younger self: “The things you hear from teachers are usually bullshit. To be successful, watch what regular people are doing. That’s all the information you need.”

The worst advice you’ve received: “‘You need a degree.’ I grew up in a world where if you want to learn or do something, the internet makes anything possible.”

Coolest thing in your home office: “I have a limited-edition gold Volcano vaporizer. I got it for $750 at the Toronto Hemp Company.”

Tech jargon you use too much: “ ‘Synergize.’ It’s just a fancy way of saying there’s an advantage to putting things together.”

Typical work-from-home attire: “A black Uniqlo crewneck T-shirt and black Nike shorts. I also wear a Magen David necklace my grandmother gave me when I was six.”

If you weren’t running a start-up: “Growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut, but I wasn’t disciplined enough for all the work it would have involved. Hopefully I can still get to outer space before I die.”

Higher learning: “I tried out a few different majors at U of T, like math and philosophy, but I dropped out after five years without a degree.”

App you can’t live without: “I live off Uber Eats. I always get the schnitzel wrap from What A Bagel.”