OpenVoice creator MyShell gets $11M to build out crypto-AI platform

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Is a generative AI platform where users can create their own text-based chatbots and “AI girlfriends” worth more than $16 million? Investors in MyShell seem to think so, as the company just announced a $11 million pre-series A round from Dragonfly, Delphi Ventures, Bankless Ventures, Maven11 Capital, Nascent, Nomad Capital, OKX Ventures, following its $5.6 million pre-seed last year, bringing its total fundraise to $16.6 million to date.

With creators in Singapore and Tokyo, MyShell emerged from stealth last year, and is perhaps best known for its AI character and user-generated bot creation platform as well as its open-source voice cloning model OpenVoice, unveiled at the start of 2024. The platform is accessible on the web though users can also interact with MyShell’s chatbots on Discord and Telegram.

Users can choose to chat in text, audio, or even animated video with bots created by MyShell’s developers, or by other users, or to make their own bot and choose the underlying AI model that powers its interactions.

In a video call interview with VentureBeat, MyShell CEO and co-founder Ethan Sun said, “the idea of starting MyShell is that we want to really push forward the open developments on various AI foundation models.”

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Right now, MyShell supports integration with OpenAI’s GPT-3.5/4 through its API (so the user doesn’t pay OpenAI, MyShell does) and its own MyShell LLM or “ShellLLM,” which the company says was trained using “massive private data from novel, movies, anime and TV shows to make the roleplay experience more human like.”

In a way, MyShell is similar to Character AI or even OpenAI’s GPT Builder and GPT Store, providing an easy natural language path to building AI chatbots with unique and distinct “personalities,” identities, response styles, and subjects of expertise, as well as a way for chatbot makers to share their chatbots with the world, and users to access and interact with them.

A crypto play under the hood

Unlike other AI bot creation platforms, MyShell also issues its own blockchain-based cryptocurrencies that users can acquire: the Shell Coin and $SHELL token for which it can be exchanged, both of which the platform will ultimately accept as a way to access premium features and reward the creators of its user-generated AI bots.

To create a bot or AI character on MyShell, you sign up for the platform at and click the “Workshop” tab and follow the instructions, filling out forms and fields to make your custom AI-powered chatbot. MyShell offers its tokens as rewards to incentivize more creators of new chatbots,.

Sun said that MyShell will also offer its own form of incentives to creators whose bots receive the most engagement in the form of additional tokens — taking a page out of OpenAI’s GPT Store, which also promised a revenue sharing program for builders of custom GPTs in the first quarter of this year, but which has yet to deliver on that plan.

MyShell plans to generate revenue from three main sources: charging creators real, fiat currency for promoting their MyShell-made chatbots on its primary landing pages; charging subscriptions to consumers for heavy usage; and charging fees to users who wish to invest their own tokens in popular AI chatbots.

AI girlfriends, copyrighted characters, and productivity apps

So far, the company has promoted the creation of “AI girlfriends” and even hosts many user-generated chatbots based on copyrighted pop culture characters such as Walter White from Breaking Bad and Rick Sanchez from Rick & Morty that can chat with users in text, animated video, and voice.

In fact, the first MyShell AI chatbot made by the company’s founders was called “Samantha,” designed for the chat application Telegram, and which MyShell says is “paying tribute to the AI assistant Samantha from the 2013 movie Her.”

Asked about its focus on AI girlfriends or partners and the fact that such a promotion may read to many users as sexist or dehumanizing, Sun told VentureBeat that “character is just one subset of all the generic AI applications” that users can access and build, and noted that the company offers NSFW toggles to users to allow what content they feel comfortable interacting with on the platform.

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On its web app, MyShell also highlights user-generated chatbots for translation, psychotherapy, logo design, resume critiquing and writing, coding, fortune telling and tarot reading, and many more.

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Already, MyShell counts more than a million registered users and 50,000 “creators” — people who build AI bots with its platform.

With the new funding round, the company intends to “add resources into the development of its open-source foundational model; empower AI creators; foster a truly democratic AI creator platform; and further support the open-source community,” according to a press release sent to VentureBeat under embargo.

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