Bootstrapping an AI startup, year in review

Martyn Garcia
3 min readDec 30, 2023
Cover image for end of year article

2023 was a seminal year in AI. In retrospect my company and I benefited immensely from these developments. I wanted to write them down to give others insight in how they might benefit from it.

This year we have:

  • participated in 5 hackathons in Q4, placing in 4 of them and receiving over $50k in prizes
  • released 10 new open source projects
  • published 12 open weight LLMs and hundreds of Stable Diffusion LoRas
  • released multiple new apps
  • started writing articles and building online presence
  • I gained 50 lbs(a personal health goal, I was underweight)

Things that worked:

  • Breaking the year into quarters, and the quarters into days.
  • Using LLMs as much as possible for any problem I encounter and to generally improve my thoughts/plans.
  • High-level quarterly focus for the company. Typically the categories are “health, finances, product, online presence”, and each of these is broken down into particulars. These are judged at the end of the quarter in a retrospective.
  • Intentionally optimizing for velocity of releases. This means improving coding speed with LLMs, automating pipelines for generating models, buying faster hardware. The ability to create something in a 2–4 hour chunk of time that gets released is emergent.

Releases

Sites/apps we’ve published this year:

  • 255labs.xyz — A site detailing our product and consulting services.
  • gptactionhub.com — add actions to your GPTs. Afinalist in the backdrop build hackathon.
  • aitrainsyou.com — An education site that placed in two different hackathons, both the Okta hackathon 2023(3rd) and the DSW 24 hour hackathon(2nd).
  • echorealms.xyz — An experiment in interactive story telling using generated content
  • ntcai.xyz — A way to create sliders , LoRas that are trained on just text. We’ve automated this process and have created a new patreon with 44 members.
  • https://nearmonsters.com/ — A fun NFT project on the NEAR platform

GPT stands for ‘Greatest Possible Thought’

How have you used AI to improve your life this year? How can it help you next year?

A very useful self-prompt. Share it with ChatGPTV and work through it.

Next steps

My bootstrapped AI startup, 255labs.xyz, is still below ramen profitable. But with good trading we still have some runway left. This year I hope to help people through consulting while also continuing to release — adding new modalities, platforms, and types of releases while expanding on what’s there. Building in nascent markets is exciting and fun. One area I want to explore is building useful GPTs with custom actions/tools once the OpenAI app store is released. I want to continue to push on releasing open source, and get some more traction on the things I’ve already created.

I think it’s important to stay flexible and continue to improve. We will push on our high level goals while leaving the exact actions of the day up to AI-assisted free will. As the intelligence of machines increases exponentially, so too will our decision making ability. Because of this it’s important to define direction yet stay flexible.

As for financing, considering the field we’re building in and timeline we’re on, taking on debt at any interest rate is likely a good idea to keep going.

A quick promotion — we also offer consulting. If you are interested in helping accelerate your startup or company with AI reach out to me on linkedin or twitter.

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