LottieLab, a London-based motion design and collaboration platform, has announced a $4 million seed round. The company’s pioneering platform makes creating with the Lottie file format easy, enabling design teams to quickly create, edit and deploy animations. The round was led by early-stage VC firm Point Nine, and participants included 20VC, Entrepreneur First, and prominent founders including Webflow’s Vlad Magdalin, Invision’s Clark Valberg, Slack’s Tamar Yehoshua, and Squarespace’s Anthony Casalena.
LottieLab plans to use the funding to expand its team, further develop the platform and establish it as the go-to tool for animators. Harry Stebbings, the podcaster-turned-investor founder of 20VC, joined the round believing that “LottieLab will be one of the defining tools of the next five years.” Point Nine partner Christoph Janz also highlighted the platform’s potential to change animation: “When it comes to animations, things haven’t changed much in the last decade. We’re thrilled about Lottie Lab’s vision of democratising motion design.”
Andrew Ologunebi, CEO and founder, with Alistair Thomson, co-founder of LottieLab spoke to TFN about how LottieLab got started, and their plans to change how animations on the web and in apps are created.
The lack of development of animation tools
Animation is everywhere, it’s almost a surprise not to find a little Easter egg animation in an app when you try to scroll too far or a tap has no results. But despite this, the way that animations are created has remained unchanged for years. Animated GIFs are commonplace, but have large file sizes and offer no real interaction. And while the Lottie format — a JSON-based animation format named after pioneering German animator Charlotte Reiniger — has seen huge growth since it was first developed in 2017 it managed this with no dedicated design tools.
“In order to create them, you need a developer that can code them from scratch, or someone that can use After Effects and a Lottie plugin,” explained Ologunebi. “You’re using a 25-year-old VFX tool that was built for something completely different. But Lottie has been adopted at an incredible rate, despite having so many blockers.”
Ologunebi is perhaps not a typical founder, and not just because he is one of the too few black founders (although funding to black founders has quadrupled in the past year, there is still some way to go) but because LottieLab owes a lot to his teenage hobby. He began coding and animating before he was a teenager, before starting a career with household names in UX and design roles. However, he was not satisfied and wanted to do more. Leaving his career behind and using his savings, he applied to Entrepreneur First where he met co-founder Thomson, and they immediately hit it off. Realising there was no tool to create Lottie animations, they set out to create one.
A perfectly timed platform
Despite being widely used on the web and in 80% of the top mobile apps, Lottie’s has a steep learning curve because of the tools needed to create them. By creating a simple web platform, LottieLab can make anyone an animator.
“We’re kind of building us from the bottom up to make it the simplest animation format for designers and for people that want to create really cool animations,” says Ologunebi. And it sets them apart from their competitors, who either use proprietary formats or are tied to older ways of production. “We’re very design-centric, while a lot of our competitors sometimes just recreate what exists but add a few more features.”
Ologunebi also acknowledges that it is an idea whose time has come at just the right moment. “If we tried to pitch this two years ago, we would not have been able to land it because the market wasn’t mature enough. Lottie animations have been adopted at a crazy rate over the past two years, so we did it at the right time.”
The result has been extraordinarily rapid growth. Despite only launching in July, LottieLab is collaborating at different levels with some of the internet’s biggest properties, like Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter, and TikTok. And that is potentially the tip of the iceberg, Ologunebi estimates the global product animation market could be worth $25 billion.
The future of animations
Despite the lure of big clients, LottieLab remains focused on its product. Talking about some of the names they are working with, Ologunebi revealed, “it’s more important for us to work on editor features. We’re still working with all these really excited designers from Google and TikTok and Duolingo, Airbnb, Twitter, and the rest of them. Working with teams allows us to get to product-market fit a lot earlier.”
Looking to the future, Ologunebi plans to use the investment to expand their time, with a focus on finding the best people. The plan, from there, is to continue the private beta and have a public launch later in the year. His vision is that we might soon be sending each other Lotties. “LottieLab is a really easy design tool on the web, you can export without ever touching after effects or code,” he says. “It democratises an industry standard. And that can be something that takes over GIF.”