In the Wild West of generative AI, an unlikely cowboy arrives. After closing, LimeWire, once known for music piracy, moved into content creation last year under new owners. To expand, it acquired BlueWillow, a popular generative AI image creation platform that competes with Midjourney and Stable Diffusion.
BlueWillow was founded earlier this year, but with interest in generative AI high, Discord a popular platform for creatives to use these tools, and its main service free, it took off. BlueWillow claims to be the second-largest AI image-generating community on Discord (Midjourney is the first) with 2.5 million members and 500 million+ images.
BlueWillow will remain on Discord and be integrated into LimeWire’s website’s paid and advertising-based free creator service tiers. It will also anchor LiveWire’s future media services.
The acquisition will not include BlueWillow employees, but financial terms are unknown. In an interview, Ritankar Das, the company’s founder and CEO, said that the BlueWillow team is advising LimeWire on the platform during a transitional period, but they plan to leave en masse to work on a stealth AI venture.
LimeWire’s deal highlights its ongoing efforts to grow its user base and revenue. After its relaunch, the startup raised $17.5 million through token sales from Arrington Capital (run by Mike Arrington, the founder and former editor of this site), Kraken, Crypto.com Capital, CMCC Global, Hivemind, Deadmau5, and others to build an NFT marketplace for music creators. Sources say it was worth $60 million earlier this year.
After NFTs lost popularity, LiveWire founders Paul and Julian Zehetmayr built a platform to create and distribute content, calling NFTs “more of a sideline” rather than LimeWire’s main business.
LimeWire needed more tools for its core business. The company hired engineers to build subscription and other creative features, but it used third-party integrations for AI-based image generation. After acquiring BlueWillow, LimeWire can offer its own image generation tools and expand to video and audio generation.
While BlueWillow expands its tech stack, its user base will grow: In an interview, Julian Zehetmayr said LiveWire has “thousands” of smaller creators in its long tail and 100 “bigger creators” using its platform.
Like Midjourney, BlueWillow was bootstrapped and funded by the founder. Das, a wunderkind, graduated from Berkeley at 18 with a double degree in bioengineering and chemical biology in three years, then studied at Oxford and Cambridge and founded a health tech startup that CirrusDx acquired in 2022.
Das said he built BlueWillow to learn how generative AI tools worked and could be built, not to make money.
“What we saw was that a lot of people were developing generative AI models for images,” he said, wanting to join the tech “Cambrian explosion”. While a few players have built their own Large Language Models to power services, Das and his team saw that there were actually dozens of LLMs out there, and if someone used a number of them together, that would accelerate the time to build the basic service and let its engineers focus on building better user interfaces and other front end parts to make using BlueWillow a piecec.
He said “making it really easy for users” meant BlueWillow building its own “weights” and customizations to improve image making, depending on what it was used to illustrate and for whom. We focused on building what would work best for architects and advertisers, who have different tastes.
Das and his team might not have been able to scale and build the next phase of BlueWillow because compute power is expensive. When LimeWire called, it seemed easy to sell up since there were no immediate plans to raise money.