Who is David Holz, the CEO who is leading Midjourney to lead the generative AI business

He doesn’t like being referred to as CEO because that word, ensures, it is “very commercial” and the project they are working on with their colleagues does not quite fit such a label. However, that is the role played by David Holz at Midjourney, the popular laboratory that has created a program of the same name capable of generating spectacular images from text. Holz serves as its CEO, his founder and one of the most prominent names after signing.

And with all that, not much is known about him. Business ironies, since Midjourney is a tool that has achieved global fame even in beta, with millions of usersand grabbing loud headlines and the occasional controversy, Holz is a manager with a discreet profile. not lavish in the networks, nor do details about his life abound. Almost neither the images, many of them associated with his previous stage as co-founder and CTO from startup Leap Motion.

More than profiles or detailed biographical accounts, what abounds about Holz are news about his role in LeapMotion, a startup he launched in 2010 with Michael Buckwalkd and quickly gained popularity thanks to its gesture control and augmented reality devices. That and —already over the last few months— his personal reflections about how artificial intelligence can leave its mark on the world of art and the economy or its fit with copyright.

From gutting gadgets to creating wind tunnels

Yes, some biographical brushstrokes are known that help to trace his profile, vital and above all professional, some collected in the LinkedIn account with his name. Holz grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in a seaside community of large houses and a neighborhood where it was easier to meet elderly neighbors than young families with children their own age.

His father, David, is a dentist with a keen interest in science, a passion he shares with his mother, who as a child tried to build a rocket that ended up leaving a huge 2.5 meter crater in the ground. Without too many options to play with friends, Holz decided to follow that trail of garage experimentation and dedicated himself to gutting any electrical appliance that fell into his hands.

“I accumulated that supply of electrical material from the people of my town. Someone would break their computer and give it to me,” commented to Science Popular in 2013, a few years after embarking on Leap Motion. With such an electronic “loot”, Holz then dedicated himself to examining in detail each of the components that arrived at his desk and imagining what new applications he could give them.

With eight years to that obsession for disassemble devices it began to be replaced by another much more profitable one: riding them. “I was pretty good at building paper airplanes, I verified experimentally which ones were good and why,” he says. His voracious curiosity was not satisfied with trying new sheets, folds and designs, so he ended up improvising a wind tunnel in the garage of house, made with plexiglass, cardboard and large fans and weights.

That wasn’t enough either.

Throughout the following years Holz would continue experimenting with wind tunnels, he wanted to start a home experiment to test the theory of special relativity after reading ‘A Brief History of Time’, by Stephen Hawking, and already in high school he learned to use design software to build 3D models of the things he wanted to make. To the recount his childhood a Popular Science Holz recalled his interest in science and mathematics and how he began to ask questions in school that put his teachers in more than one embarrassment.

His steps would end up leading him to the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and that of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC) to study Mathematics and Physics and later embark on a Ph.D. in Applied mathematics. There, inside UNC, he recalls, he finally found “giant wind tunnels and a huge swimming pool so people could understand the math of waves.”

To fill out his resume, satisfy his curiosity, or both, he began canvassing different research teams. And she did not do badly. Holz ended up dealing with two prestigious institutions: the Langley Research Center, from NASA, where he studied laser radars, among other issues; and the Max Planck Institute of Floridawith a project in a different field, that of neuroscience.

And the leap to the business arena arrived


Sample of the evolution in the capacities of Midjourney.

They might be exciting areas, but Holz concluded that he was spreading his attention too thin and it was time to make a move, and drastically: he left UNC to jump into the game. business world. The idea of ​​developing a new way of interacting with computers, a different one, based on gestures, had been in his head for some years now.

The result would be LeapMotion, a company that Holz and Michael Buckwald launched with the purpose of creating something similar to a ‘Star Trek’ Holodeck. The machinery started in 2008 and two years later the company was already a reality that, over time, did not do badly at all: its gestural control systems and virtual reality captured the interest of the media… and it opened the portfolio of the investors and the big companies in the sector, including Apple, which in a matter of just five years tried to take over the startup on two occasions.

In 2019 the company was taken over by UltraHaptics, a British company focused on developing virtual interfaces with haptic feedback, in exchange, according to slipped at the time The Wall Street Journalfrom about 30 million dollarswell below the maximum valuation that Leap Motion had reached in 2013, when there was talk of 306 million.

In LinkedIn profile His name shows that Holz was linked to the company, today called Ultraleap, until 2021. As of the summer of that year, he presents himself as the founder of Midjourney, the laboratory that has become famous for its artificial intelligence tool capable of generating images. based on written instructions. The engine was in a closed testing phase for months, until in July 2022 it made the leap to another step, that of public beta.

Since then its fame has been increasing, as well as that of other resources rooted in AI, such as ChatGPTo Stable Diffusion. Its latest assault on the headlines came a few days ago, with the launch of Midjourney V5, a more powerful version of the generative AI engine whose results – astonishing and more realistic than V4 – have already begun to circulate on the networks.

In September 2022, during an interview given to ForbesHolz assured that his creation was already enjoyed “millions” of users.

“Our Discord exceeds two million. It is the largest active Discord server by far now,” the businessman celebrated. Not everything is congratulations or eloquent headlines. Although Holz defends that Midjourney wants to “expand the imaginative capacity of the human species”, he has already seen with a delicate controversy along with other generative AIs: the use they make from the previous work of human artists, a resource they draw on for their own images.

“There’s no way to get a hundred million images and know where they came from. It would be nice if they had embedded metadata about the copyright owner or something. But that doesn’t exist. there is no record. There’s no way to find an image on the Internet, automatically trace it back to its owner, and do something to authenticate it.” recognized in september Holz to Forbes.

And even went a little further when asked how the data set. “It’s a lot of Internet research. We use the open data sets that are published and we train with it. I would say it’s something that 100 percent of people do. We weren’t picky. Science is evolving very quickly in terms of the amount of data you actually need, versus the quality of the model. It’ll take a few years to figure it out, and by then we may have models that we train on next to nothing.”

Cover image: Society for Science

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Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a freelance writer working on news website. He contributes to Our Blog and more. Wise also works in higher ed sustainability and previously in stream restoration. He loves running, trees and hanging out with her family.

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