Once the stuff of science fiction, artificial intelligence (AI) has become an integral part of our everyday lives. It is now used in various ways, from improving efficiencies to unearthing new discoveries. And according to Fortune Business Insights, its ubiquity and pervasiveness will only continue to grow. The market research firm estimates that the market will reach a staggering $1.3 Trillion by 2029.
With its momentum and acceptance, there seems to be no end to what AI can do. It is even making waves in the creative industries. It’s not only doing work that humans once did but also creating new categories of creativity itself! AI-generated art is one of the newest genres on the scene, and its creators are now selling their works of art on places like stock photography websites, NFT marketplaces, and even traditional art galleries.
The AI Art Evolution
Like the AI industry itself, the AI-generated art world is rapidly evolving. And the team at NightCafe Studio has been blazing trails within the industry since its inception. The first, and still one of the most widely utilized AI art platforms on the market, NightCafe Studio offers more algorithms than any other solution, and it keeps adding more. The company recently partnered with OpenAI to bring DALL E-2 to the platform.
Founded by husband and wife team Angus and Elle Russell, NightCafe Studio has become the go-to source for both hobbyists and seasoned creators. But what’s more impressive than the market itself is how the duo from down under made it possible for anyone to create unique, hyper-realistic images just by typing a few words into a text box.
According to Angus, NightCafe Studio started as a side project in 2019. And like many disruptive technologies, the software developer first created the application to solve his own problem.
“The idea was spawned when a friend came over to my apartment and commented that the walls looked a bit bare,” said Angus. “I agreed and spent the next few days scrolling through thousands of works in all the big poster art stores. There was plenty of stuff I liked the look of, but nothing felt personal enough.”
How NightCafe Studio Got Its Start
Angus knew that AI art had been around for a while in the form of “neural style transfer” (long before text-to-image art). Neural style transfer takes a content image, like a picture of your dog, and a style image, like a Van Gogh painting, and re-creates the content image in the chosen style.
“I thought surely someone has built a site to create and print personalized AI art”, added Angus. “But, after looking around for a while, I was surprised to discover I was wrong. So, I thought maybe I could do it.”
Being the expert software developer that he is, Angus was able to make short work of the project. However, he admits that the business model was pretty bad. Very few people are interested in buying prints of their artworks, and since the images took a lot of computing power to run, the site initially lost money every month.
Fleshing Out a Business Model That Works
“One week, I discovered that a single user had generated 1,500 pieces of art in a couple of days, and I calculated that it cost me about $300,” said Angus. “I decided to stop people taking advantage like that and introduced a credit system. The credit system was simple; you get seven credits per day. If you run out, you can come back the next day.”
The problem with that setup, however, was that there was no way for visitors to buy more credits.
“I didn’t expect people to want to pay just to create images,” Angus said. “It turned out I was very wrong about that. Overnight, I got several emails from people asking how to buy more credits. So, I decided to make it possible to buy credits, and to my surprise, the site went from being a money pit to a viable venture.”
From Neural Style Transfer to Text-To-Image
This was a huge milestone for what would come next for NightCafe Studio. The big inflection point in the platform’s history was the introduction of text-to-image art. When the first decent text-to-image art algorithms were hacked together in open-source code notebooks, people started posting incredible images on platforms like Reddit and Twitter. And that’s when Angus decided it was time to try and get text-to-image running on NightCafe Studio.
“Since we already had the website, the credit system, the GPU servers, etc., it was a relatively simple task for us, so we ended up being the first real text-to-image art service, excluding public code notebooks.” Added Angus. “I then posted about our text-to-image offering on Reddit and Hacker News, and over the next month, our revenue and usage increased by about 10x, and for the first time, we were quite profitable.”
Then, in October of 2021, a month or so after launching the text-to-image feature, someone posted an image on Reddit that made it to the front page. The comments section turned into an “everyone post your NightCafe images” thread. After a few frantic hours of trying to fix some scaling issues, NightCafe Studio managed to deal with the volume of requests and did a record day of revenue by about 17x. In the two days following the Reddit post, Angus said the platform processed as many creations in that short period as it did in the preceding two years.
A Hobby Becomes a Full-Time Job
At that point, Angus and Elle decided it was time to quit their day jobs and focus on NightCafe Studio full-time. Since then, things have been steady for the company, but the company is still growing fast in terms of revenue and creation per day. The platform now sees about one million images daily and now has a team of seven. And what gives the platform a unique advantage in a quickly growing space is its community.
“NightCafe Studio has more community features than any other platform,” said Elle. “You can follow other users, earn badges, participate in daily challenges, like and comment on your favorite creations, and engage in ways no other platform allows.”
NightCafe Studio has the most algorithms under one roof that users can choose between. Artists can even evolve between different algorithms. And its community and robust set of algorithms is a big reason why the self-funded startup has already produced over 75 million images from nearly 10 million AI artists.
What’s on the Horizon for NightCafe Studio?
Regarding what’s next for NightCafe Studio, Angus and Elle gave some subtle hints. They didn’t want to give too much away, but noted that the team has some big things brewing! NightCafe Studio recently added daily challenges to the website and plans on doubling its community focus.
When it comes to what inspires Angus and Elle to keep growing and expanding the platform, Angus says it’s the joy users get. “Our users come back every day because they love the feeling they get from creating art, he said. “It triggers a dopamine hit and a sense of pride and accomplishment that previously required mastery of a skill. AI art makes that feeling of pride and accomplishment easy to obtain, over and over.”
According to Elle, she loves the work because it makes a positive impact on people.
“It makes people feel better,” she said. “We often hear that our users use NightCafe Studio to wind down, feel better, de-stress, etc. That’s something that I love to hear.”
To see if you’ve got the chops to become an AI artist, I highly recommend heading over to NightCafe Studio and giving it a try.