As headlines about artificial intelligence continue to dominate news feeds and anxieties abound about what world will be wrought by the continued advancement and adoption of AI technologies, it is helpful to peek behind the curtain to witness the creation of value by generative AI.
Ecomtent (a portmanteau of ecommerce and content) is a rising generative AI startup based in Canada that seeks to empower small businesses and individual entrepreneurs engaged in ecommerce. "We are laser-focused on our niche, which is helping ecommerce sellers create highly-converting product listings," says Max Sinclair, Ecomtent's co-founder and CEO. Max sat down with DIGITIMES for a discussion about his company's approach to the new frontier of generative AI tech and to share his optimism about where the current will carry us.
Max and co-founder Timur Luguev met at a tech accelerator. Max has a business background, having previously worked for Amazon on their launch of Amazon Singapore. Timur, a PhD in AI and a Fulbright Scholar, brings deep expertise in AI research and development to the team.
Along with a small staff of prompt engineers and developers, they designed Ecomtent to be able to create beautiful lifestyle images of their customers' products. Say, for example, you are an ecommerce seller selling a cooler. You simply upload an image of your cooler into Ecomtent's tool, and depending on your prompt, the AI will generate images of your cooler in use at a family backyard barbecue, or next to some friends sitting on a blanket on a sunny beach, or beside a camping tent in the woods with a mountain vista in the background – or on the surface of Mars. The possibilities are endless and the image quality is best-in-class, and that is Ecomtent's, and generative AI's, real value.
The company's customer base is growing every day – 74 new customers came on board the day Max spoke with DIGITIMES. Max pointed out that this growth has been entirely organic, as Ecomtent had not yet allocated any budget to marketing. Instead, it is focused on adding new features and perfecting performance. The company pays close attention to how its tool is used. "We've learned a lot from our customers," said Max. "Most of the use cases from our customers, like 80% of the images created and the prompts given, are trying to put humans in lifestyle images" with their products. "So we've really focused on smart ways to keep people looking like people, hands looking like hands, removing deformations, which is, you know, one of the early issues" with AI image generation.
In order to scale with the influx of new users, Ecomtent works with Amazon Web Services (AWS) on the backend of its platform, so that hundreds of customers can use Ecomtent's tools and features simultaneously. Its latest feature is a toggle for precise vs. creative AI modeling functionality. Features such as these add greater value for end users, who will find themselves impressed and inspired by both the accuracy of the scenes they design and the creativity of ones they hadn't even imagined.
In conversation with DIGITIMES, Max revealed an exciting roadmap for future developments. They plan to expand their tool's capabilities to generate infographics with blank spaces in images for effective bullet points to improve conversion rates, as well as optimized text.
The conversation also touched upon the challenges of entering new markets, particularly in Asia. "You can't just cut and paste what works in Europe and America and paste it onto Asia and expect it to work," he said. Max emphasized the need for cultural adaptation and understanding local preferences. Drawing from his experience launching Amazon Singapore, he stressed the importance of tailoring strategies to cater to unique market dynamics and cultural differences. Ecomtent's AI tool is built on a Large Language Model that has been trained on a vast array of textual information, and so works with nearly every common language. "Everything we do is in natural language," said Max.
Addressing the topic of image customization, Max mentioned Ecomtent's ability to represent diverse racial types and ethnicities in images. The tool provides users with the flexibility to showcase products being used by people from different backgrounds, fostering a sense of connection and empathy. "It does that very well," Max says. "That's a good strength of the tool. You can show customers people who look like them, in different places, with the same product."
It is clear that Ecomtent views AI as a boon to industry and business, but the changing technological landscape does not come without challenges. For now, the technology may seem novel, but as Max sees it, "we're very aware that this technology [AI] is coming. I think what people find amazing now will be very standard in six months or a year. I think customers' understandings and expectations are really going to shift. I'm aware that shift is coming, and what we will continue to do is focus on our niche, which is generating content for ecommerce sellers. We will make sure that we're the best in that area and continue to be, so when the AI hype fades and the shine kind of falls off, our product will still be very good."
While many people believe that advances in artificial intelligence will cause major economic distress among working people as capital shifts towards improved efficiencies that preclude human labor, Max has a more hopeful view of the future. "My view is that the world is going to move to a place where solo entrepreneurship is a lot more common. AI tools definitely democratize how you can run a business," said Max, noting how he and his team have made strategic use of tools like Amazon Code Whisperer and ChatGPT for certain time-intensive business operations. "I think that's the way the world is going to go." The tools needed to run a business "are a lot more accessible than they might have been even a year or two ago. You can really scale yourself a lot further."
Ecomtent, with its niche market of ecommerce sellers, is positioned to do well in the world of growing solo entrepreneurship that Max envisions, powered by AI tools like his. As the old saying goes, "during a gold rush, sell shovels."