Character.AI, a16z-powered chatbot startup, surpasses 1.7 million installs in first week

Character.AI, a16z-powered chatbot startup, surpasses 1.7 million installs in first week

Image credits: Character.AI

Demand for AI via consumer mobile apps has increased, with OpenAIs market-leading ChatGPT mobile app surpassing half a million downloads in its first six days. Now, another AI app is touting its launch success, as the a16z-backed Character.AI app claims to have garnered over 1.7 million new installs in less than a week on the market. The AI ​​app maker, which announced a whopping $150 million in Series A funding earlier this year, valuing its business at $1 billion, offers customizable AI companions with distinct personalities, as well as the ability for users to create their own characters.

While there are a number of these AI character generators available in app stores today, the interest in Character.AI has a lot to do with its founders. The Palo Alto-based startup was created by Noam Shazeer and Daniel De Freitas, artificial intelligence experts who previously led a team of Google researchers who created LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), a language model that helps enhance conversational AI experiences.

At Google, founders had grown frustrated with the company’s hesitation to roll out AI chatbots to other researchers and the general public, including through integrations with other Google products, such as Assistant, the Wall Street Journal reported. Believing AI would revolutionize search and other areas, the two eventually agreed to leave Google in late 2021, despite CEO Sundar Pichai’s pleas to stay and continue their work on LaMDA. That same November, Shazeer and De Freitas founded Character Technologies, now home to Character.AI.

The mobile version of the chatbot AI platform was launched globally for iOS and Android users on May 23, where it was particularly well received on Google Play. In the first 48 hours, the app had more than 700,000 Android installs, surpassing, for example, top entertainment apps such as Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video. This trend continues in the days following the launch, the company confirmed to TechCrunch, thanks to installations in large Android markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Brazil. The US is also a leading market for Android downloads, the company said.

Image credits: Character.AI

Interest in the mobile app was also heightened by the popularity of the web experience that preceded it. Prior to the apps’ launch, the Character.AI web app was exceeding 200 million visits per month, Character.AI claims, and users spent an average of 29 minutes per visit, a figure the company says eclipses ChatGPT by 300 percent .

Additionally, Character.AI reports that users engage quickly after their first use. For example, the company noted this month that once users send their first message to a character, their engagement rates soar to more than 2 hours of average time on the platform. To date, users have created more than 10 million custom AI characters, the company added.

The team, still just 30 strong, has been particularly busy this month, having launched its premium c.ai+ service, which offers a number of similar benefits to ChatGPT Plus, such as faster response times, access during off-peak peak usage and early access to new features. It also announced a strategic partnership with Google Cloud for building and training its AI models. The deal will see the startup use Google Clouds tensor processing units to train and infer large language models (LLMs) faster and more efficiently, he said.

While some startups massage the reported download figures to make them sound better than they are, it seems the Character.AIs numbers are likely accurate. We asked data.ai, a third-party app intelligence provider, to compare the numbers of Character.AIs with their own estimates, and data.ai provided figures that actually showed that the apps had more downloads. (The apps are so new that third-party estimates may not be accurate right now, but if anything, these third-party metrics confirm that there is initial consumer demand.)

However, while ChatGPT proved to be able to hang around after its launch, today it still ranks third in the ranking of the best free apps in the US. Demand for Character.AI seems to have decreased slightly since launch. At the time of writing, the iOS app ranks 13th in the Entertainment category in the US App Stores. On iOS in the US, the app was #4 overall for the first two days, but has since dropped to #89 overall. On Android in the US, it peaked at number 5 on May 27, but dropped to number 27 as of today, data.ai told us.

When asked if Character.AI was wasting some of its massive change on marketing spend to generate its initial installs, the company says it wasn’t. The app launched without a dedicated marketing budget and 99% of its downloads were organic, the startup said.



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