One of the hardest tasks of marketing is to create unique advertisements. Creativity is paramount to envisioning and delivering iconic, distinct product or service campaigns to the public. However, humans tend to focus their control around a limited, but reliable, set of parameters that they can adjust creatively to produce standout marketing content. Chris Lu and Paul Yacoubian realize that artificial intelligence can augment human creativity, instead of replacing it as some may fear. With this realization, the two created Copy.ai. Copy.ai leverages OpenAI’s Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3) artificial intelligence model to help marketers create more unique ad copy.
Frederick Daso: What’s the main bottleneck for creating general marketing materials?
Chris Lu: In a digital world, content -> exposure -> sales. The larger companies can write and publish content at such a high pace that they dominate SEO and other channels. For smaller businesses without the budget to hire a copywriter team and an in-house editor, the owner/founder typically writes the content themselves. Unless the entrepreneur is an experienced writer, coherently putting ideas onto paper is extremely hard and time-consuming.
Daso: How did you discover this problem in the entrepreneur community and its associated potential market opportunity?
Lu: Before Copy.ai, we launched a startup called Taglines.ai. At the time, we saw signs of entrepreneurs using it to brainstorm slogans and taglines for their business. When our customers started asking for longer-form copy, we realized the need must be quite large. However, only after launching Copy.ai did we understand that every small business and startup has a massive problem with content creation. Even professional copywriters would use our tools to help brainstorm marketing angles that they never considered. We realized that helping these founders create the initial version of their copy with AI gives them the ability to become an editor instead of a writer. This allows them to make much more content faster as it is easier to be an editor than a writer.
Daso: What drives the growth of the passion economy, especially in times like these with the pandemic?
Lu: We believe the pandemic helped people realize that they may not be spending their lives working on something meaningful. Even among my friend group, friends have started to look into other means of creating their own livelihood. As companies look to automate away more jobs, more people look into ways to become their own boss. On top of this, the barriers to entry and tooling for the passion economy is better than ever and improving at a tremendous pace. Shopify makes it easy to start an e-commerce store. Substack makes it easy to create a newsletter. No-code makes everyone a programmer and enables people without technical experience to build digital products that use to require a full stack developer. The combination of these trends is accelerating the growth of the passion economy.
Daso: Who are the primary end-users and decision-makers for using and purchasing Copy.ai, respectively? How have you designed your sales process and go-to-market strategy to sell to them?
Lu: Our product is currently bottoms-up, self-serve SaaS. As a result, customers hear about us through various channels (usually Twitter), they sign up for a free trial and convert without talking to us. Our customers are mostly small businesses and entrepreneurs. The founder/owner is usually both the end-user and decision-maker. Our go-to-market strategy has revolved around generating inbound interest by “Building in Public” on Twitter. Our goal is to teach and inspire more entrepreneurs and show people a path to starting their own company and a path to a better future.
Daso: What led you first to realize OpenAI’s artificial intelligence product’s, GPT-3, potential in enhancing creativity?
Lu: When GPT-2 was released over a year ago, my cofounder Paul and I spent many hours playing with it to test the limits. We found that 1 in 100 results were incredibly mind-blowing and creative, 1 in 20 would be reliable, and the rest of the results were non-sense/useless. However, we recognized that this technology would improve quickly and kept tabs on OpenAI. When GPT-3 was released, we knew it was immediately commercially viable and that its ability to generate diverse content was unprecedented. As a result, we immediately applied for access and began to experiment with various applications!
Daso: Most people tend to think of AI as replacing them, in a broader sense, akin to automation. How have you worked to shift this popular AI perspective, eliminating the human instead of augmenting them with Copy.ai?
Lu: We have a deeply held belief that AI will empower humans rather than replace humans. However, for this to be true, the AI will need to be both powerful and affordable. Our goal is to help each person harness this powerful technology to create a living for themselves. In some ways, we are in the business of taking ideas in people’s minds and turning them into reality. If someone has always wanted to start an online store, they should launch it within days, if not hours. We hope to lower the barriers of entrepreneurship, allowing people to use this AI to create rather than be replaced.
Daso: What led you to choose Paul Yacoubian as your cofounder? What does he bring to the table that no one else could in building Copy.ai?
Lu: Paul and I have worked together at the ESO Fund for the last five years. We have also been angel investing together for the previous three years. We’re both extremely passionate about entrepreneurship, and Paul is one of the most creative people I have ever met. Paul saw the future we hope to create over a year ago before GPT-3 was even released. He helps drive the vision and strategy of our company.
Daso: What have you learned from your time investing at ESO fund that’s helped you build Copy.ai?
Lu: At our time at ESO, we were fortunate to review and learn about hundreds of companies. This gave us tremendous insight into the various business models and strategies to start and grow companies. Our time at ESO helped provide us with perspective on the massive problems that humanity faces and gives us time to reflect on what we’re passionate about.