Not too long ago, a startup named The Grid created a lot of buzz by promising a new way to easily create beautiful websites. Supposedly The Grid would knock Wordpress and Drupal down from their pedestals and bring advanced features to people lacking web development skills.
The Grid raised nearly $5 million from investors as recently as March 2015, promising:
The Grid harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to take everything you throw at it — videos, images, text, urls and more — and automatically shape them into a custom website unique to you… This is not a website builder. This is your personal AI web developer. Its first masterpiece is the website you’re looking at right now. Its next one could be yours.
Wow! Talk about an AI revolution. Software developers must be worried, right? Pretty soon The Grid is going to put us all out of work!
The Grid is currently in beta, but it’s been a year since the last funding round, and some people have been granted access. Luckily, The Grid’s own section on Reddit provides us an inside look as to how things turned out:
I realize this is a huge undertaking that we are on the bleeding edge of, but after all of the buildup and how great all of their promotional material looked I was incredibly bummed when I actually got my hands on the product.
Yeah… now we know why roll out has been pushed back further and further, slower and slower. The sites the Grid is putting out are quite disappointing. It’s a bummer.
Severely underwhelmed so far — not sure what I was hoping for but the tool is not only timid, it doesn’t perform basic web editing tasks well. After rendering a basic website with minimal content and styling — it loads slowly and the CSS is buggy.
All startups must carefully manage expectations, especially those working in cutting edge areas like AI. The Grid promised what is so obviously an impossibility — that an AI could replace web developers — and used this lie to raise millions of dollars. Anything less than a scientific breakthrough would be bound to disappoint their initial users, which is the very group that a new company must please the most. They will be the biggest boosters, refer new customers, and spread the word. Creating a lot of hype and then releasing a buggy, underwhelming product pleases no one.
With all of the hype surrounding AI right now, The Grid should be a lesson for startups in what not to do.
Because what is the The Grid really? Essentially a glorified Wordpress that easily integrates with social media and e-commerce, that auto-resizes for various screen sizes, and provides beautiful design automatically. Or at least this is the end goal, if they can work out all the bugs. It isn’t going to replace software developers, and it isn’t going to allow you to build tech startups without an engineering team. Comparing the product to The Grid’s promises, it becomes clear that the founders should brush up on business ethics.
Let’s hope that as more AI startups get funded, they won’t all be full of empty promises, or investors will stop putting money into their dreams.