(Bloomberg) -- The parent company of Stable Diffusion, an artificial intelligence tool that makes digital art, has reached unicorn status after raising funds from some top names in venture capital.
Stability AI Ltd. raised $101 million in a seed round led by Coatue Management and Lightspeed Venture Partners, according to a statement reviewed by Bloomberg News.
The round values London-based Stability AI at around $1 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked to not be identified because the details are private. A representative for Stability AI declined to comment on the valuation.
Stable Diffusion is among a handful of upstart A.I. models with the potential to upend the visual arts, along with DALL-E 2. The way it works is people type in a description of an image -- say an astronaut riding a horse -- and the program spits out a realistic or surrealistic picture.
What sets Stable Diffusion apart from competitors is that its open-source software is available to the public. Users can build on its code to produce applications related to design, film, augmented reality, video games, advertising and even e-commerce. It also works on small devices.
Its web application DreamStudio has more than 1.5 million users and Stable Diffusion has more than 10 million daily users across all channels, according to Emad Mostaque, chief executive officer of Stability AI.
Practical uses range from designing applications in the metaverse to creating PowerPoint presentations, he said.
“Every creative company in the world is testing this out right now because it allows for instant creation of any image in any style, especially when fine-tuned,” Mostaque said in an interview. “There’s been this promise of interactive personalized content for many years. This is the first technology that can deliver it.”
Stability AI plans to use the funding to deploy custom versions of the model for users at a larger scale and to invest in more supercomputing power. It will also be hiring more people, with Mostaque saying he expects to grow to about 300 employees from 100 over the next year.
Coatue and Lightspeed have prior investments in the machine-learning and artificial intelligence spaces, with Lightspeed having backed video game maker Epic Games Inc. and Coatue investing in Scale AI Inc., a data platform.
“Stability AI’s commitment to open source is key – by giving the broader public the tools to create and innovate, open source will activate the momentum behind AI’s capabilities,” said Sri Viswanath, General Partner at Coatue, who will be joining the board as part of the deal.
Stability AI has the potential to take a lot of “inefficiency” out of content creation, according to Gaurav Gupta, a partner at Lightspeed. “It fundamentally empowers people to do more,” Gupta said in an interview. “Stability has done what many people thought would be impossible.”
“We are very excited to be supporting the democratization of AI,” said Aemish Shah, managing partner at General Global Capital and adviser to Stability AI. “Truly open architecture where the community will develop the foundation, sets Stability apart from its competitors.”
(UPdates with additional comment in final paragraph)
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