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Lightricks: The Oldest Generative AI Unicorn

How to leverage AI for creator economy

The landscape of Generative AI (GenAI) changes almost every week. Just like with Imbue the other day. The company, focused on reasoning in AI, joined the unicorn family overnight after raising an insane $200 million Series B round.

In the breakneck race, let’s not forget about veterans: number 6 on our list is Lightricks, the oldest generative AI unicorn. Also, the first one on the list without a proprietary foundation model. A pure user of GenAI.

This is a part of Unicorn Chronicles series, so far we’ve covered #1 OpenAI, #2 Anthropic, #3 Inflection, #4 Hugging Face, #5 Cohere.

What is Lightricks, what do they build, and what is their $1.8 billion valuation based on? Let's explore:

  1. The starting point of Lightricks

  2. Product line and strategy

  3. Generative AI introduction and tech behind it

  4. Safety thoughts: accessible yet safe

  5. Financial situation

  6. How Lightricks makes money

  7. Bonus: All important links about the founders

The starting point of Lightricks

Lightricks was founded in 2013 by four Hebrew University (HU) Ph.D. students: Zeev Farbman, Nir Pochter, Yaron Inger, and Amit Goldstein, along with Itai Tsiddon, a former Supreme Court of Israel clerk who later transitioned to a board position.

Zeev Farbman, the Co-Founder & CEO of Lightricks, initially aimed for an academic career. He pursued computer science for his Bachelor's, Master's, and eventually his Ph.D. at HU. His research focus always revolved around computational photography, resulting in several peer-reviewed research papers in the field. Notably, one of his co-authored papers, titled "Edge-preserving decompositions for multi-scale tone and detail manipulation," garnered 1745 citations and was implemented in MATLAB as "tonemapfarbman." Alongside his studies, Zeev also gained experience working at Microsoft and Adobe.

Despite his promising academic path, Farbman decided to leave it and co-found Lightricks with Yaron Inger (CTO), Amit Goldstein (COO) – both alumni of the Israeli Intelligence Corps' elite 8200 unit, renowned for top-tier programmers selected through rigorous recruitment; Nir Pochter (CMO), and Itai Tsiddon – the sole founder outside Israel, focusing on capital, platform relations, and media outreach. Though no longer an employee, he remains on the board, aiding the CEO in corporate development.

It was 2013, two years before OpenAI, four years before the groundbreaking paper “Attention Is All You Need” introduced Transformers. Reflecting on their early days, the founders shared,

"We took two apartments in Nachlaot and started working. In the beginning, we built a tool for smoothing skin in facial pictures, and later a tooth-whitening tool. Our field is very practical, not just a marker and whiteboard, but there's also a great deal of algorithm writing involved in using a finger movement like that. For example, you have to know where the teeth and the lips are in a picture. It all happened from there."

Two months after founding a company, leveraging the popularity of social media, the team developed Facetune – an app to edit photos, retouch selfies, and add filters.

Product line and strategy

In the early days, the company’s target audience consisted of individuals enhancing the visual appeal of their social media content. As the demand for editing tools skyrocketed, Lightricks adapted to the evolving trends in the market. They were one of the few early ones to recognize the power content creation held. They made a point to serve creator community ever since. Within a short span, the startup powered a range of AI-powered tools including super popular apps like Videoleap, Filtertune, Beatleap, Artleap, Lightleap, and Boosted.

An interesting facet of Lightricks' strategy involved the cross-pollination of features from their extensive portfolio. They incorporated the "Animate" feature from Motionleap into Photoleap, enabling users to add motion to static images.

The company's other internally developed apps suggest a potential for further synergy. Lightricks' research and development efforts are transferable across their suite of applications, building an ecosystem that resonates with users, especially content creators. Lightricks has spared users the need to learn a new app layout each time AI capabilities advance – thoughtful!

According to the company's website, Lightricks' applications have been downloaded nearly 700 million times, boasting a user base exceeding 30 million monthly active users. Competitors like Lensa momentarily rose with AI-driven "magic avatars," but their lack of feature depth and sustained user engagement led to their decline.

Generative AI introduction and tech behind it

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