This startup integrated art into technology to build a successful startup!

Narine Emdjian
3 min readJan 20, 2021


Not every day you see people who are ready to quit their job and start a business that makes others happy. Yet, Agata Badalyan, co-founder of Dzook, and two of her closest friends decided to do so.

One morning while doing her ritual of drawing people around, Agata drew her closest friend Irina. But, she pushed her creative boundaries. She decided to put her friend’s portrait on a mockup of a phone case, and post it on my Facebook page. She also asked her followers if someone would be interested in customized phone cases.

It was quite impressive to get about 20 orders after the Facebook post.

Bonded with the mutual love towards art and creativity, Agat and her two closest friends quit their jobs in an IT company and launched their company 3Dzook in 2016, a creative startup that makes personalized gifts.

“I’ve been drawing people all of my life because I noticed how happy they are when they receive some artistic or cartoonish version of themselves, how excited they are then to share it all over the media,” Agata Badalyan

While demand has started to grow, more and more people have started to send their photos to use on different accessories, like mugs, T-shirts, phone cases, socks, and on. This is when they turned to technology to meet their customer needs.

When technology meets art

While trying to scale the market, the number one challenge has become to catch up with customer demand. Because every portrait has been done by hand, there were long waiting times for customers to get their product.

In today’s fast-moving competitive market, delivering orders in 7–8 days was not going to work for a long hall. Specifically, Holiday seasons were tough. Many businesses struggle to meet orders from customers who’re rushing to get last-minute gifts for their relatives, and up to 20 orders per day.

This was not something Agata and her team were expecting to have. But it was also very sad because they had to turn down customers.

This is when technology met art to address rapid changes in customer demand, and reduce waiting time for customers to get their orders.

While pondering around how they can resolve this problem they met their AI magician (how Agata called AI specialist Abel). Abel who is an art lover and a talented engineer suggested using artificial intelligence to teach a computer to draw like they do with hands.

So combining their art with artificial intelligence, they have created AILA, an AI algorithm that learned to draw illustrated portraits just like humans. They call it with the very girlish name AILA, as they think it’s a girl algorithm. The uniqueness of technology is that the algorithm created by their team can create artworks using a database provided by their artists.

The algorithm converts simple photos into artistic illustrated portraits. AI algorithm is trained on 1000s of artworks. This technology allows people to have their drawn portraits in different art styles.

But, this was not enough for these unstoppable founders. Pushing their creative boundaries, they have decided to enter the mobile app world. Now they’re developing mobile and a web application “look” which allows users to get their portraits, converted from simple selfies into artistic animations.

Dzook is a free app, that simply can be used after download. It also offers a new video feature. Now you can upload short, up to 10-second videos. After users create a video, it can be sent to your email, or directly shared on any social media platform. These are mostly cool tools for people who like to create and distribute video content.

Today, 3Dzook which has started from a hobby to draw a portrait is a successful startup with 13K monthly active users, and 365,000 portraits generated in 133 countries.

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Narine Emdjian

Founder at iFund Lab | Federal Funding Expert helping startups & tech entrepreneurs to raise non-dilutive funding through SBIR & other federal funding programs.