MindStudio by YouAI Makes it Easy to Build AI-Powered Enterprise Apps

YouAI's MindStudio AI Builder

What convinced an entrepreneur to shift his focus away from the Creator Economy and invest in artificial intelligence? Dmitry Shapiro, like many of his peers, has witnessed the transforming effect of AI on the world. It’s thanks to the proliferation of large language models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s PaLM, Facebook’s LLaMA, and Anthropic’s Claude. That inspired him and co-founder Sean Thielen to launch MindStudio, a developer platform empowering anyone to create useful AI-powered apps.

In our conversation, Shapiro delved into his latest startup and his preference for AI over creators. Additionally, he provided a walkthrough of the MindStudio developer platform, explained the company’s enterprise-centric focus, and shared valuable insights into OpenAI and its GPT Store.

Pivoting Away From the Creator Economy

Until a year ago, Shapiro and Thielen were actively constructing Koji, an app marketplace tailored for creators. While the company shared resemblances with Linktree and other “link in bio” providers, its primary focus was facilitating users in monetizing their work by establishing connections between third-party developers and creators.

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Koji seemed to perform well and actively took steps to differentiate itself from its peers, remaining confident even when Instagram enhanced profile links in 2023.

So what changed?

Shapiro explained to me that it involved a combination of factors. Firstly, macroeconomic forces are to blame. He emphasizes, “especially the drying up of venture capital for late-stage companies, and certainly late-stage companies in the Creator Economy.”

Secondly, Shapiro and Thielen believed that generative AI would “radically disrupt the supply and demand equation of content production.” This implies that more people would be capable of producing “incredible content because of generative AI — like orders of magnitude more.” Moreover, Shapiro asserts that this ultimately leads to the collapse of the marketplace, forcing out middle-class creators and leaving only celebrities and “every other programmatically-created thing.”

All of this led Shapiro and his team to pivot, launching a new entity called YouAI before ultimately selling Koji to Linktree. The inaugural release, MindStudio, marks a significant step in its innovative journey, one in which it finds itself in an increasingly crowded space.

MindStudio: The AI Application Layer

“People should not go and talk directly to models,” Shapiro tells me. He believes people shouldn’t communicate with AI using DOS-like interfaces, stating, “A bunch of us nerds used it and you had to learn…all of these commands.” However, the masses only embraced computer use with the birth of Microsoft Windows. This was the genesis for MindStudio.

“We believe that any kind of model — language, image, video, code, whatever — should be backend services that are abstracted from end users by what we call the application layer,” Shapiro explains.

He continued, “What is ChatGPT? [It’s] this little product that you can chat with, but the real money for OpenAI comes from people using their APIs, their cloud services, exactly like all the other cloud services from AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, etc…So we said, let’s build the application layer, and that’s what MindStudio is. [It’s] the application layer of AI…it’s like the operating system for AI. You can call it that for sure.”

“We make it possible and quite easy for normal people, non-technical people, business users to show up and watch a YouTube tutorial and very rapidly build any kind of an application powered by AI.”

Shapiro joins a league pursuing an AI operating system, a formidable challenge. Yet, if accomplished, it could open the doors to an estimated $4.4 trillion market.

YouAI’s strategy is gaining traction. Shapiro reveals that 23,000 developers joined in December. MindStudio boasts 62,000 registered users, with 86 percent coming organically. Notably, the business plan boasts 280 paying customers, surpassing OpenAI’s 260 on its corporate plan. Moreover, 14,000 AI-powered apps have been built through the platform, including instances where developers have created multiple AIs.

How MindStudio Works

In our discussion, Shapiro walked me through the intricate development process required for crafting an AI-powered app. The experience drew parallels to Yahoo Pipes, though Shapiro likened it more to Zapier. Here, you visually link various components to generate multi-step workflows.

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MindStudio supports integrations with many popular LLMs, including ones from OpenAI, Anthropic, Google, and Meta. However, you need not use any of these. On-premise and proprietary models are also compatible.

Determining the best LLM for my needs raises questions. Is it clear how ChatGPT differs from Anthropic’s Claude, Google’s PaLM, and other models? While MindStudio provides an explainer, Shapiro assures that enhanced education on the distinctions is on the horizon.

Developers can upload their own PDFs, CSVs, Word docs, Excel files, or anything text-based to MindStudio. The platform will parse and convert the documents into vector embeddings, allowing you to use the query data function to designate it as a data source.

Craft apps for any environment effortlessly. MindStudio empowers developers to seamlessly integrate their programs with third-party providers like AirTable, Calendly, Google Calendar. What’s more, it also enables calls to Stable Diffusion for tasks such as image generation, accessing YouTube videos, reporting stock and financial news, and more. Many of these tie-ins are powered through MindStudio’s partnership with Zapier.

No ‘One-Model-Fits-All’ Approach

The true beneficiaries of an AI operating system? Businesses. Shapiro highlights that enterprises aren’t limiting themselves to one model. Instead, they need to utilize, or are already using, multiple models. Moreover, according to him, the optimal experience doesn’t involve directly plugging into a single model or a specific set of models. It’s about adopting a more comprehensive approach.

YouAI aims to provide businesses with flexibility in AI implementation by remaining LLM-agnostic. It recognizes the limitations of a “one-model-fits-all” approach. Enterprises seek freedom in building custom apps, and MindStudio steps in, providing the needed flexibility to avoid constraints imposed by AI providers.

Enterprise Selling Without a Sales Team

Similar to the commercialization of IT, Shapiro shares that he’s experiencing increased inbound interest, courtesy of the groundswell generated by MindStudio within enterprises. “We didn’t sell it to them. They discovered it, started using it, and contacted us for support. That’s how we know.”

Given the lack of an enterprise sales team, YouAI employs creative outreach strategies. While MindStudio doesn’t demand technical expertise for building an AI app, certain advanced capabilities may benefit from specialist involvement. This runs counter to OpenAI, where launching a GPT requires no coding. Nonetheless, YouAI introduced its certified developer training program, offering valuable education to builders. This approach mirrors the way independent contractors assist with Salesforce installations within businesses.

“There are a bunch of companies coming to us saying, ‘Could you recommend somebody? We don’t have anybody that knows MindStudio. Can’t you recommend some people who can help us go and use it, and build it, and train our people?’,” Shapiro reveals.

The first cohort of ten developers graduated from YouAI’s full-immersion training program on Saturday.

I’m also told that MindStudio proponents have launched agencies dedicated to building AIs for companies, similar to how firms went and built Webflow websites for businesses.

“It’s like an AI duct tape,” Shapiro reasons. “Once you learn how to use duct tape, you realize ‘Oh my God, I can fix so many things. I can do so much amazing stuff!’ And that’s what you can do with [MindStudio]. Once you learn how to use it, you’re like ‘Oh, I can help some HR. I can help with some project management. I can help with some analysis…and it feels like a magic wand.”

Even so, the company acknowledges it’s behind on education.

MindStudio vs. the GPT Store

OpenAI, recognized as the Gen AI market leader, took center stage in our discussion. Shapiro was forthright in addressing the comparisons between his company and the creator of ChatGPT.

In January, OpenAI introduced its app marketplace for paying subscribers, proudly announcing the creation of 3 million GPTs. However, Shapiro, unimpressed, likens these packaged GPTs to Microsoft Paint, highlighting that MindStudio is more akin to the sophistication of Photoshop.

“You don’t need any training to use Microsoft Paint because Microsoft Paint doesn’t do very much. What can you do with GPTs,” he declares. “You can give them a name, give them a prompt, [and] can upload a few files of data. That’s it. You can’t do multi-step workflows…call a bunch of third-party APIs, then depending on what they come back, route them to different services, meaning you can’t do any logic. You can’t do any of this stuff.”

On one hand, YouAI is a partner of OpenAI. But on the other, it doesn’t believe GPT can be enterprise-grade applications. “It’s not a serious tool for enterprises,” Shapiro says.

OpenAI Falling Short of AGI Mission

He further shares that the GPT Store falls short of OpenAI’s mission, drawing a metaphor where the company, aspiring to reach Mars, finds itself taking an unintended detour to the moon. While expressing admiration for OpenAI CEO Sam Altman as a visionary, Shapiro emphasizes that the company’s primary mission is to achieve artificial general intelligence (AGI), not merely ChatGPT.

“The goal is to send people to Mars, and all of a sudden they did a test and sent some people to the moon. People said, ‘Oh my God, moon travel! Amazing!’ and now everybody wants moon travel. Then Google shows up and says ‘Oh, we got moon travel too, and now everybody’s in moon travel. This is the new space.”

“But they weren’t trying to go to the moon. These people want to go to Mars. they don’t want to build a business going to the moon. That’s lame. There’s a lot of competition. There’s very little differentiation. the average end user can’t tell the difference between GPT-4 and Claude in Mistral.”

Ultimately, when everything is considered, the co-founder of MindStudio doesn’t foresee the GPT Store having a long-term presence and bets that OpenAI will go back to its original goal.

Advice to App Builders

As our interview wrapped up, I inquired with Shapiro about his advice for companies apprehensive about AI risks and how developers should build apps. He admits big companies are asking questions, but it’s not stopping development.

“First, don’t be scared of anything [in MindStudio],” he instructs. “This is just another web service you’ve built. Like, you built the website and there’s some information you put on your website publicly. And there’s some information you might have put on your website, but it’s only available to certain groups of people and you’re able to manage authorization there and give the right groups of people the information they need. So this works similarly.”

Shapiro continues to say data uploaded onto his platform are turned into vector embeddings, with its raw form not stored at all, thereby preventing unauthorized access. Finally, according to LLM Terms of Service, OpenAI, Anthropic, Mistral, Meta, etc will not use the data for training purposes — as long as you trust the cloud.

He also reiterates that developers need not be technical. Instead, you need to understand syntax: “Are you good with words? Can you state things clearly, understand disambiguation and realize what things might be confusing?”

“Can you write out instructions to help the AI figure out what the hell it is you’re trying to get it to do? If you can do that, then congratulations, you’re a developer now.”

And for those pondering AI applications, his guidance is simple: observe the world, identify challenges in your surroundings, and let those insights guide your AI ventures.

Editor's Note: Selected excerpts from my interview with Dmitry Shapiro discussing MindStudio are highlighted in the January 19 edition of my LinkedIn newsletter, "The AI Economy." Don't miss out — subscribe here for timely notifications upon publication.

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