Runway AI Inc., one of the two companies behind the artificial intelligence art generator Stable Duffision, announced Monday that it raised $50 million in fresh funds led by Felicis to continue building the next generation of AI tools for art.

The Series C funding round brings the startup’s valuation to $500 million, according to Forbes, and was joined by existing investors including Amplify Partners, Coatue, Compound, and Lux Capital alongside new investor Madrona.

This funding comes on the heels of the increasing popularity of AI text-to-image generators such as OpenAI’s Dall-E 2, which are capable of taking colorful descriptions from the text and generating vivid, surreal and weird graphics, and AI chatbots such as ChatGPT.

Runway provided the foundational research for Stable Diffusion and collaborated with Stability AI, another startup that is better known for its work on the AI text-to-image generator. Stable Diffusion is an open-source AI model and has been used by more than 10 million people since its public launch in September.

These AI tools, especially image generators, have captured the imaginations of users and artists alike and the technology that underlies them has practical implications for more than just the rapid creation of images from a few words.

Runway was founded in 2018 and since then has launched a suite of over 30 AI tools for individuals and enterprise users that include text-to-image, image-to-image, replace background, green screen, erase-and-replace and more that can operate on still images or video. One of Runway’s products is a full-featured video editor that provides basic to advanced post-processing right within a browser, with AI-enabled features including flawless video effects, formatting, color correction and more.

The company also allows users to train their own AI models on a series of images, which makes it easier for them to get the AI to produce images that match their expectations from text prompt more readily.

“As content needs continue to skyrocket, creators will become overwhelmed by the volume of rote tasks their jobs require,” said Cristóbal Valenzuela, Runway chief executive and co-founder. “Runway is pushing the boundaries of creativity and enabling creators to meet these demands and enhance their craft.”

At the same time, Valenzuela added that Runway’s tools can enable enterprises to take advantage of advances in AI to save time and money for multimedia production. Although many of the startup’s customers are individuals, it also has a number of enterprise customers including CBS’s “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and its tools were used for video effects production in the movie “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

“Powered by proprietary cutting-edge AI research, Runway empowers individuals and leading creative teams all over the world to create multimedia content in magical ways and collaborate over a browser in 4K definition,” said Aydin Senkut, founder and managing partner at Felicis.

With the new funding, the company intends to double down on its content creation tools and make multimedia production more accessible. It will use the funds to further broaden and develop its own generative AI capabilities, particularly around audiovisual applications, and hire more top talent in engineering and research. The company also is looking to incorporate an in-house creative agency.

Image: Stable Diffusion AI-generated, prompt “silicon angle in a futuristic city”

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