Chris co-founded CopyAI, an AI writing assistant which generates new content from scratch in a matter of seconds. The business reached $90k MRR in just 8 months and raised a $2.9M seed round from Craft Ventures and Sequoia.
Hi Chris! Who are you and what are you currently working on?
Hi, I’m Chris Lu and I am a co-founder of CopyAI. CopyAI is an artificial intelligence writing assistant which generates new content from scratch in a matter of seconds. I am the current CTO of the company. As a founder, our role changes month to month. Currently, we are focused on hiring, but our job is now changing to learn how to effectively manage people. Our business model is a standard per-seat subscription. As a result, we are a SaaS company.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Paul, my cofounder, and I worked together for the last 5 years. During our time at our last company, we kept working on side projects that we felt were important to us. None of them worked until CopyAI. We’ve been fascinated by entrepreneurship and helping people find their passion in business. We realized that being creative is a muscle and requires a lot of work. When we saw what the latest AI algorithms like GPT-3 can do, we knew that they would be able to help lower the barriers of entrepreneurship.
One earlier idea we tried was called ConceptHunt where we helped founders discover their next startup idea. It was a daily interactive newsletter for brainstorming. We would send a few fictitious business names and you would have to send us the business model back. Unfortunately, it didn’t go anywhere.
We launched other ideas using GPT-3. Simplify.so did text condensing, we built a slack bot that was never released and we made taglines.ai to help businesses come up with their slogans.
How did you go from idea to product?
The last idea we had got early traction, generating 700 sign-ups in a couple of days.
We used no/low-code tools to build out an MVP as soon as possible. It took about 2 weeks to build, another 2 weeks to polish, and then we launched CopyAI to the world. We mainly used Webflow and Firebase. We launched it on Twitter which drove a lot of our initial traffic and got us a few thousand users. When users started converting, we knew we had something.
We then decided the initial idea could be extended to other copywriting use cases and started building several features to help entrepreneurs with their writing projects.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
Our goal is to inspire more entrepreneurs. That means being very transparent about our journey. As a result, Twitter and the Building in Public movement has been our best channel to date. We’re fortunate to have a lot of word of mouth which has been our top of the funnel in attracting users.
How are you doing today and what are your goals for the future?
Today, the business just crossed $90k in MRR. We’ve hired 5 people over the last few weeks and a few more will be starting soon. Our goal is to distribute this AI to the world.
Our product can now generate text for blog posts, e-commerce products, headlines, and much more based on user-provided word inputs.
We’re looking to build out additional tools that will help lower the barriers to entrepreneurship.
We raised a $2.9 million seed round from VCs such as Craft Ventures, Sequoia, and Atelier Ventures to accomplish our mission faster than we would otherwise be able to.
Since starting Copy AI, what have been your main lessons?
Startups seem to be about momentum. Once you get it started, you need to keep it up. Being fully open and transparent has given us a platform to promote our company and create fans who are a part of our journey.
Being authentic and focusing on a big problem seems to be the best way to gain momentum and keep it up.
What were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?
Neither Paul nor I had any experience running or managing a company. Earlier on, it meant we weren’t as focused as we should have been. Today, we’re learning how to hire and onboard employees. Most of our mistakes cost time and momentum, but time is also one of the biggest advantages we have.
What tools & resources do you recommend?
I am personally a huge fan of Ben Horowitz’s books: The Hard Things About Hard Things and What You Do Is Who You Are. Both of them are inspirational for running a company and they make a lot more sense now that we are growing.
We are very active on Twitter and our community there has been able to share the most useful pieces of advice/articles when we need it most.