Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Sabatino, founder of Imagined with AI. Together with my girlfriend Silke, we try to make a dent in the AI generated image market, and we’ve found some success! On our website you can upload 10 photos of yourself, a loved one, or your pet (cats, dogs, or even rabbits!).
It will generate unique portraits in various styles, including realistic profile pictures, cartoon styles like Disney and Studio Ghibli, Renaissance paintings, and many more.
Imagined with AI is used by customers in over 25 countries and helped generate over 234.000 unique images to date. By the end of December 2022, we’re looking at reaching the €10k ($10K) revenue milestone – just 6 weeks after launching!
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve been a full-stack freelance developer for about a decade now, I’m the head of development at a Belgian agency called Craftzing. My evenings mostly consist of me working on another project called Unipage, a niche food-ordering platform for the Belgian snack bar industry.
My girlfriend Silke is co-responsible for the marketing of Imagined with AI on social media. She also helps with (re)searching for new ideas to improve and expand our service and making practical applications, such as creating new sample images.
Since the summer of 2022 I had picked up a huge interest in the AI revolution that was happening – Dall-E had just gone public, Stable Diffusion was launched and the hype had started. For weeks straight, my nights consisted of writing prompts and figuring this whole AI-thing out.
We came up with the idea for AI-generated portraits on our city trip to New York in October 2022. Dreambooth was just introduced, we were jetlagged and thus the adventure began.
After playing around with a couple of Google Colabs, I trained my first model and shared the results on the Craftzing #random channel on Slack. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, which excited us to think about turning it into a service.
By mid-October we had our MVP live, and within 24h we had sold our first AI generated portraits.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
Our MVP was ridiculously simple. It was a static HTML page with an upload form and a Stripe button. The first week we did the training of the orders manually as all our efforts went into marketing instead of development.
As the days went by, we spent time automating the process, and finally, we landed a product that had an entirely automated end-to-end flow.
A large chunk of our time went into finding the right styles to sell for the various subjects we had (man, woman, cat, dog, …). Customer feedback has been very valuable in tuning our offering to contain a set of styles everyone was happy with.
Describe the process of launching the business.
After a week we had our first ‘viral’ Reel, gathering 30k views in a couple of hours
The initial launch of our website happened on Facebook. I told my Facebook friends about our journey and linked to the website. That post (unexpectedly) took off and was the source of our first paying customers.
After acquiring our first paying customers , it was time to dive into marketing. As a developer, the thought of doing marketing still sends shivers down my spine, but in the end, it wasn’t that bad. We launched our Tiktok and Instagram and started creating content. After a week we had our first ‘viral’ Reel, gathering 30k views in a couple of hours – apparently, people on Instagram like dogs.
The business has been bootstrapped entirely, so we used our funds to finance it. This made us extra cautious when creating ad campaigns, as it was our own money we were burning up. Fortunately, the results of our campaigns were worth it!
For the first time, I didn’t spend my entire free time developing the product and instead worked on my marketing skills – and it paid off!
About a month after the website’s launch, I created the Imagined with AI-app and uploaded it to the App Store.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Building an app and enabling in-app purchases was the next challenge. I spent a Saturday morning building our app and submitted it to the App Store the same day. By Monday we had our first in-app purchases rolling in.
We also found our first B2B partner that wanted to resell AI generated images to put on their personalized photo products. This helped accelerate our sales as they had their marketing machine.
Bringing existing customers back has been a challenge since these AI images are something people buy one time and then forget. Upselling new tunes at a 50% discount to existing customers has been a large revenue driver and helped us in increasing the average customer spend (eg. their partner also wants to try it).
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, the business is fully automated and still provides a steady revenue stream. Our margins currently sit at around 40%.
We’ve just launched a more niche app targeting dog lovers, AI Puppy. Since we notice the hype surrounding AI generated profile pics/avatars is dying, we’re looking for new niches.
We see a big future in pet portraits, dog lovers have always been our largest customer base, so it makes sense to dive further into the pet niche.
On our website, we keep adding new styles and in the near future, we’ll expand with new kinds of animals. We’re also looking to add more apps for different kinds of animals (including cats!) and make them available in the Google Play Store too.
Finally, we’re expanding our AI business into fashion with Wardrobe AI. By using the same technology we’re able to generate photorealistic images of yourself wearing any kind of clothing.
After getting your AI-generated results, we’ll also look through our enormous database of products and find visually similar items that are available for purchase.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Even though 100 other tools are doing the same, none of them have your personal touch to them.
Creating these AI-based images requires a tremendous amount of computing power. This power comes from graphic cards or GPU’s for short. GPU pricing has been very unpredictable in the past months. We’ve seen price surges that we were not prepared for. Having a flexible system allowed us to react quickly and mitigate the problem in a matter of hours.
Secondly, cold emailing B2B service providers (eg. print on demand) has been wildly successful. People are eager to listen if you can provide value.
Lastly, Linkedin was an unexpected source of revenue. Changing profile pictures to a ‘professional Linkedin style’ photo helped gain our service visibility and had a kind of snowball effect.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Trello has been my go-to project management tool for almost 10 years. Its ease of use and clean UI is unmatched across other tools in my opinion – please don’t make me work in Jira
For communicating we use Slack, having seen the Microsoft side of things (looking at you, Teams), I think we’re staying here.
Laravel & Laravel Nova power our service on the back end. This is my go-to stack for whipping up a new product or service.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The book The lean startup by Eric Ries gave me some good insights.
Secondly, The 4 hour work week by Tim Ferris got me thinking…
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Try to set aside your imposter syndrome. Even though 100 other tools are doing the same, none of them have your personal touch to them.
Always keep being curious, dive into new tech, and don’t be scared of the unknown. Instead of fearing innovation (eg. AI) – think of ways to incorporate this in your workflow (or even your business).
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions, remarks, or comments, please drop a comment below!
Founder of Imagined with AI
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