Conversation with Midjourney founder: How an 11-person team is changing the world, creating products used by millions

Author | Founder Blockingrk

Original Title: Conversation with Midjourney Founder: Pictures Are Just The First Step, AI Will Completely Change Learning, Creativity, And Organization

Midjourney is a magical company. Eleven people are changing the world and creating great products. It is destined to become a good story in the early years of Pre AGI.

“I never thought of having a company. I want to have a home.”

At the Wisdom Source Conference, we spoke to Midjourney founder David Holz.

MidJourney is currently the most popular image generation engine. In fierce competition with OpenAI’s DALL·E 2 and open-source model Stable Diffusion, it still maintains an absolute lead in the generation of multiple style effects.

Below is the full text of the conversation, edited by Founder Blockingrk.

01 Entrepreneurial Motivation, Liberating Human Imagination

Zhang Peng

In the past 20 years, I have met many domestic and foreign entrepreneurs. I found that they have something in common. They all have a strong driving force that drives them to explore and create “something out of nothing”.

I want to know, what was your motivation when you founded MidJourney? What did you crave at that moment?

David Holz

I never thought of starting a company. I just want a “home”.

In Midjourney, I hope to create things that I really care about and really want to bring to the world in the next 10 or 20 years.

I often think about various problems. Maybe I can’t solve every problem, but I can make some attempts to make everyone more capable of solving problems.

Therefore, I try to think about how to solve problems and how to create things. I think this can be summed up in three points. First, we must reflect on ourselves: what do we want? What is the problem?

Then we have to imagine: where is our direction forward? What are the possibilities?

Finally, we must coordinate with each other, cooperate with others, and jointly achieve what we imagine.

I think there is a great opportunity to combine these three parts in artificial intelligence and create important infrastructure that makes us better at solving this problem. To some extent, artificial intelligence should help us reflect on ourselves, better imagine the future direction, and help us find each other and cooperate better.

We can do these things together and integrate them into some kind of single framework. I think this will change the way we create things and solve problems. This is the big thing I want to do.

I think sometimes (we do) image generation may be confusing, but in many ways, image generation is an accepted concept. Midjourney has become a collection of super imaginations, and millions of people are exploring the possibilities of this space together.

In the next few years, there will be opportunities for more visual and artistic exploration, which may exceed the sum of all previous explorations in history.

This does not solve all the problems we face, but I think it is a test, an experiment. If we can complete this exploration in the visual field, then we can also do it in other things. I think all the things that require us to explore and think together can be solved in a similar way.

So when I think about how to start tackling this problem, we have a lot of ideas and prototypes, but breakthroughs in the AI field, especially in vision, suddenly appear. We realize that this is a unique opportunity to create something that others have never tried. This makes us want to try it.

We think that maybe soon all of this will come together to form something very special. It’s just the beginning now.


So, (image generation) is just the first step, and is your ultimate goal to liberate human imagination. Is this the goal that attracts you to create Midjourney?

David Holz

I really like things with imagination. I also hope that there will be more creativity in the world.

It’s so interesting to see crazy ideas every day.

02 Continuous Entrepreneurship Experience, How to Start a Business Better


Many people first got to know you not through Midjourney, but through Leap Motion (David’s previous startup).

I strongly feel that these two projects may have some connection for you, whether it’s in terms of driving force or mentality. I’m not sure if I understand this correctly. But my question is, does your experience at Leap Motion help you in starting Midjourney?

David Holz

In many ways, I learned a lot from Leap Motion, like how to build a large research team, how to solve problems that no one has solved before, and how to think deeply about how people should interact with technology.

It’s not just about speed, cost, and scale, but about how we should collaborate and move forward together. This is very important, and it is one of the core ideas of Leap Motion.

There are some similarities between the two, like Leap Motion, it grew rapidly and captured everyone’s imagination. I think Midjourney is similar.

But I think there are also some truly different aspects between the two. In Leap Motion, we spent a lot of time building the early ecosystem.

In Silicon Valley, there was a belief that you should build an ecosystem first, like the iPhone. But I think what we learned together is that maybe you should first build a really good product that people love. Then, when you have this product, you can start building the ecosystem.

For many entrepreneurs, building an ecosystem early on may distract their attention, and I am one of them. Therefore, one of the important things that Midjourney does differently is to focus on building something that everyone can really use.

I used to often judge my ability by asking myself, “Can I do it myself?” My father was a surgeon, and he could do it. We have nimble hands.

But now I’m thinking more about whether truck drivers would like to use Midjourney. There are many truck drivers playing Midjourney, which is so cool to me. It means we’re doing better.

03 Rethinking Knowledge, Historical Knowledge Becomes the Power to Create


This is interesting. We usually say that ideas are cheap, show me the code. But now, it seems that ideas are the only important thing.

If you can express your ideas through a series of excellent prompts, AI can help you achieve them. So, is the definition of learning and creating changing? What do you think?

David Holz

I think an interesting thing is that when you give people more time to create, they become more interested in learning itself.

For example, there is a popular art style in the United States called Art Deco. I never cared what this art was until one day when I could create this style of art through a command, I suddenly became very interested in it and wanted to know more about its history.

I think this is an interesting point. When history becomes something that you can immediately use and make it easier for you to create, we become more interested in history.

If the user interface is good enough to make users feel that AI is an extension of our thinking. AI is like a part of our body and mind, and AI is also closely related to history to a certain extent, and we will also be closely linked to history. This is so interesting.

When we ask users what they want most, the first or second response is usually that they want to learn materials. They not only want to learn how to use tools, but also want to learn about art, history, camera lenses, light, and want to understand and master all the knowledge and concepts available for creation.

Previously, knowledge was just a history of the past, but now knowledge has become a force for creation.

Knowledge can play a greater role immediately in the present, and people are eager to gain more knowledge. This is so cool.

04 Facing Panic and Open Thinking Ability

Zhang Peng

In China, your users come from many different backgrounds and may have different levels of artistic creative ability. Users like me are still trying to make better pictures, but I hear that many painters and designers are worried that they will be replaced by AI.

What can Midjourney do to ensure that everyone can be assisted by AI instead of feeling confused or marginalized?

David Holz

For people who have not yet started their art journey, Midjourney provides a unique opportunity for them. You will start to think: What do I like? What is my aesthetic? What do I think is beautiful? Professional artists may take decades to achieve this, but now anyone can do it. We found that people deeply reflect, almost like art therapy, thinking about their lives, the challenges they face, the good or bad things that may happen, which is very meaningful.

I think most people who use it have these personal experiences, and it is not competitive or commercial. We found that most people use it just for their own entertainment. They don’t even share the images they generate.

But in the professional field, it becomes an amplifier that enhances your creativity, and now you can make comics, movies, or video games.

If you are an ordinary person who is thinking about beauty for the first time in your life, then artists may now be thinking about how to create stories for the entire world and universe. Something they couldn’t do before.

So it expands everyone’s creativity boundaries. Ordinary people have more ability, and professionals have more ability. It’s sometimes hard to realize this because the user interfaces are all simple now. But they can become more complex, powerful, and have many functions that will appear later.

05 AIGC’s charm is the charm of art


Perhaps AI is not just used to process a picture, it can help people deal with more complex work. Because in the past, when we talked about creativity, there were many factors involved. Do you have the desire to create? What kind of ideas do you want to create? You also need the ability to act and execute it to make it a reality.

But sometimes, if you can unleash your creative desire, great ideas, and complex things, AI can help you. This may be the power that AI can provide to people, not just images. Right?

David Holz

This is a very personal process that requires reflection, and at first we didn’t know.

At first, I looked at these (generated) images and didn’t understand what they were trying to do.

Someone created a picture of a dog in heaven.

I asked him why he made a picture of a dog in heaven. He said it was because his dog had just passed away.

I felt sad. He said it made him feel better.

People use it almost like art therapy. They think about things, reflect on their lives, and try to figure out who they are. I think this is very personal and very important, something that most people in human history have not had the opportunity to do. Only a very few people have had the opportunity to do this.

I think this is very beautiful and that it allows everyone to do this.

Zhang Peng

Yes, Midjourney is not just a tool in our business or workflow, it has become a new element in our lives.

06 11 Legends, More Will Appear in the Next Five Years

Zhang Peng

The reason why Midjourney is so wonderful is because it delivers magical technology to 10 million people. And I know your team has only 20 people, 11 people just a few months ago. You don’t have a sales team or a marketing team, and some of them are students.

I wonder, is this a new paradigm for organizational forms for AI-era startups?

David Holz

I think it will be in the future.

We are indeed one of the earlier ones (to adopt this type of organizational form). We also have some advantages, such as I have a lot of experience in building teams, my reputation is good, I can get a lot of computing power, and we started doing it very early.

Some ordinary startups may not have these advantages.

But I think in a few years, as people learn how to build research teams, as computing power becomes less of a constraint, as people learn how to build good AI products, I think we will see many such companies. We may be the first to do this, but in 5 years, this may be a very common form.

07 General vs. Vertical, What Will MJ Become in the AGI Era?

Zhang Peng

Are you concerned that what Midjourney is doing today will one day be overshadowed by the capabilities of AGI? What will happen?

What is the future of vertical products like Midjourney?

David Holz

I don’t know. It’s a big mystery.

One way is that we may work with other labs where we make the eyes, they make the ears, we make different parts and then put them together. That might happen.

We create the imagination, they make the language part, and then we put them together. So we will study this together.

There is also a possibility that there are these AGIs that are almost good at everything, but there are also these specialized parts. There are still a lot of professionals in the world.

I also think that there may be a lot of human-machine interface issues, not just about making beautiful pictures, but about helping a person explore who they are and what they want.

This is not an AGI problem, but more about how to interact with people.

The best user interface, if it is only language, AGI may ask us questions. But in fact, the user interface is not just language. It will show you many pictures and try to understand people in different ways. This will be a new art, a new understanding of human theory, and AI will try to help them figure out what they want.

We haven’t thought of these yet. AGI can do anything, but I also think that in most cases, like the future, there may still be a lot of specialization.

Community Power, Exploring AI Copilot Together

Zhang Peng

Do you think Midjourney will always be a vertical product, or can it become some kind of general product?

You have said that your mission is to solve the problem of human consciousness imagination, not just about pictures.

David Holz

There are some interesting things we’re doing with the community, how to explore a large space together.

We’re trying to create something like that, and in the next year or two, Midjourney might become a place for almost all visual exploration in the world, so I think there’s something very interesting.

Even if we have never done anything else, if we are just a place for all visual exploration in the world, I think this is a business, but I think visual exploration will apply to other fields no matter what we do.

Trying to create a super-mind team of millions of people to solve problems together is very interesting. I don’t think any AGI can replace millions of people, but I think AI may be involved, and there may be millions of people and millions of AIs working together, but I think there will be many agents and many participants, I think everyone’s views are different, which helps to understand the problem.

Zhang Peng

Many people we call AI practitioners are very worried that their products will be replaced by new technologies.

Do you have the same concern, that one day what Midjourney is doing today will be replaced by the capabilities of developing AGI?

What is the future of vertical products like Midjourney?

David Holz

Finding something valuable or worth solving, staying focused while keeping an open mind is one aspect of solving this problem.

On the other hand, the AGI technologies or products created will still live together with us in the same society, we can use AI to constantly create new things, and we can define how AI should collaborate with us in this society to create.

That’s what we’re doing, exploring and creating together.

Now, in some ways, the visual approach is very primitive, but in other ways, it may be the best way to test because you can see everything.

You can really see it. And if we use poetry to do this, I think it will be equally interesting, but a bit difficult to understand. Or if we use engines or any other science to do this, you cannot become a scientist, we cannot find a million scientists, but it is easy to find a million people to make pictures.

So, here we need to consider more about what the mind of the AI+human society should be like. Currently, in most cases, humans use AI to create, but I think in the future, AI can think and create together with humans, which will be very interesting. Perhaps at some point, we may not even be able to tell whether an idea comes from a human or from AI.

09 The Weakness of Human Nature is Being Too Competitive

Zhang Peng

Of course, there is a lot of attention and concern about AI safety and competition at all levels. At the same time, there are still challenges to expanding and improving current large models. How do you view the future development of the AI field?

How do you balance different perspectives, even the interests of different governments?

David Holz

First, I think a weakness of human nature may be being too competitive.

The reality is that there are many opportunities and challenges in this world, and it can even be said that there are as many opportunities as there are problems and challenges. We face so many opportunities that sometimes we don’t even need to compete to get them.

So for me, I don’t think about who I am competing with. There are so many things to do in this world, and I only try to create things that I think are beautiful and amazing.

When I was in China, I found that everyone was very united and worked together. From a certain perspective, this way of working is similar to the principle of artificial intelligence.

Because it is also a very community-based thing. It learns from us and then feeds the abilities it has learned back to us. This is a very community-based and collaborative way of working.

I think competition is not always a good thing, and sometimes even saying “I want to be the best in a certain direction” goes against the essence of the technology itself to some extent.

In addition, we can also learn a lot from Eastern culture. Where I am, people worry about whether technology and AI are enough to make people feel trusted. But on the other hand, everyone hopes that this world can be more intelligent, so that we can help create and solve more problems.

When I was in China, people thought you were cool because of the creative geeky things you did, and they wanted to be cool like you too.

Now that everyone knows how powerful AI is, we can work together to provide infrastructure capabilities for everyone and build our living environment.

10 A Miraculous Future in 10 Years


Final question, if we look at the digital world of the next 10 years, what changes do you think are inevitable in our human world today?

David Holz

I think that in ten years, one person’s creativity may be more powerful than that of a group of people today, so when they come together, they will be able to do things that we cannot imagine now.

These forces will create a beautiful world.

Everyone’s hopeful imagination of the future will connect us all to some extent, making us no longer afraid of the future, but more excited for its arrival.

A magical future is definitely waiting for us ahead, (I hope) it is full of beauty, so we can achieve that beautiful world with such thoughts. Of course, there are also things that I cannot fully understand and think of, but (for the future in 10 years) I think this is the feeling.


I agree with your ideas.

There are indeed many good things waiting for us in the future, and at the same time, as we move forward, we also need to consider how to prevent bad things from happening. It was very rewarding to chat with you today, thank you very much for sharing!

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