Even if you can’t draw, Dashtoon aims to empower anybody with a tale to tell to become a comic book artist. It gives aspiring comic book creators access to a publishing platform that updates viewers with new daily episodes and generative A.I. tools.
Dashtoon commissioned about thirty comics to launch the Dashtoon Comic Reader platform. Nearly 1,000 additional episodes will be added each month after that. It began to generate income in October and is projected to generate $15,000 in revenue in the first month to reach $100,000 per month in the following two to three months. The startup offers one free episode of each comic every day to consumers under a freemium business model.
The San Francisco and London-based firm said today that it had received $5 million in initial funding, with angel investors leading the charge and Matrix Partners India and Stellaris Venture Partners participating.
In December 2022, Sanidhya Narain, Lalith Gudipati, and Soumyadeep Mukherjee created Dashtoon. Narain and Gudipati worked on expanding the India-based audio content platform in the U.S. as members of Pocket FM’s founding team before Dashtoon. Mukherjee has a history in deep tech, having founded Morphle Labs, which creates robotics for cancer diagnostics.
Narain claims to TechCrunch that when he and Gudipati were employees at Pocket FM, the seed for Dashtoon was sown. They experimented with marketing, promoting Pocket FM’s serialized audio material on Facebook and other platforms with comic strips. To their surprise, the campaigns were relatively successful.
“I chose to spend some time in Korea to understand how the ecosystem works because we knew at the time that there was latent demand from U.S. consumers to read digital comics,” says Narain. “I realized that creating comics requires extremely high skill levels, and creating a creator ecosystem in a new location would take a significant amount of time and money.”
With the introduction of DALL-E 2, this was altered, and text-to-image A.I. models advanced between travel and stability. A.I. likewise transformed the field of AI-generated art. Narain and Gudipati determined that the moment was right to develop a platform that would use AI to produce comics of high caliber. As CTO, Mukherjee joined Dashtoon to build its AI Creation Suite, which the business claims allows anybody to create digital comics based on their narrative ideas. After that, they may use Dashtoon Comic Reader to distribute and make money off of them.
Dashtoon is aimed at established writer communities that wish to create comics from their writings but lack the necessary drawing or lettering talents. A creative must first upload their storyboard to utilize Dashtoon Studio. Next, users select characters from Dashtoon’s character library for every panel, or they may upload pictures by uploading sketches and photos. According to the owners of the firm, this cuts down on the amount of time needed to develop each episode from 40 to 50 hours to just 5 to 6 hours. This increases the likelihood that Dashtoon will become a hit because episodes may now be released daily. In the future, Dashtoon intends to include tools that let writers use AI to develop dialogue and storyboards, reducing the time needed to produce an episode to less than an hour.
According to Narain, creativity is still used by Dashtoon Studio, even though it employs AI to create storyboards and dialogue. “Consider generative AI as an agent that can perform labor-intensive tasks or offer you a range of options, but humans will still need to perform the actual creative work.” Storytellers and character designers continue to create content before training characters in Dashtoon Studio to utilize various emotions and stances.
While generative A.I. is included in more artistic programs, such as Canva and Google’s Product Studio, many people—especially artists—are still dubious of A.I. art. The founding team’s most significant concern, according to Narain, was that readers wouldn’t find AI-generated content enjoyable, but thus far, feedback has been positive.
He claims that Dashtoon avoids this by giving creators total control over the final result. “Most of the A.I. products are basic wrappers, and the content they produce is very mechanical in nature, which means the creator has minimal control over the final output,” he adds. Although many comic book fans are aware that humans are unable to produce new episodes every day, he claims that there is a shift in consumer behavior whereby they do desire daily releases (like binge-watching Netflix) and are OK with material supplied by artificial intelligence (A.I.) as long as it is entertaining.
The fact that a lot of AI-generated content is based on stolen intellectual property from other artists is another critique. For instance, artists who claimed that Stability AI, Midjourney, and DeviantArt had improperly utilized their original artwork filed lawsuits against the firms. According to Narain, Dashtoon takes many precautions to avoid copyright infringement. One uses intellectual property (I.P.), such as digital art, hand-drawn characters, and photographs, to seed its internal character collection. Additionally, stories must belong to Dashtoon or its author as intellectual property. In the future, the firm may train its foundation models by collaborating with data suppliers who abide by copyright laws.
Other digital comic distribution outlets include Webtoon and Marvel Unlimited. Dashtoon sets itself apart, according to Narain, with its episode release schedule and content collection. It also aims to differentiate itself by creating a community of homegrown creators.
According to Narain, “the disruption of content distribution defined the last decade in the content industry.” “And the disruption of content creation will define the next decade.” He says that Dashtoon offers an alternative to the labor-intensive, conventional approaches of creating and distributing comics, which require authors to hire an artist or learn how to make the artwork themselves before listing their work on Amazon and other online retailers.
Dashtoon will first concentrate on producing long-form drama, fantasy, and romantic material. It then intends to branch into additional fiction, non-fiction, and short-form illustrated content categories as more authors join the platform. Before establishing a community of authors who publish first on the forum, Dashtoon intends to collaborate with established writers to transform their stories into digital comics and graphic novels for Dashtoon Comic Reader.
Principal of Stellaris Venture Partners Naman Lahoty made the following statement regarding the investment: “Thanks to new content formats like short-form videos, audio OTT, podcasts, and casual games, mobile phone content consumption has grown from an average of 45 minutes per day in 2011 to 4 hours per day in 2021.” “In the future, we believe webcomics will become the next big thing,” he continued. “Dashtoon is positioned to spearhead the charge as leaders in this field, with the founder having the ideal combination of experience and skills in content creation, technology, and worldwide user acquisition needed to establish this enterprise.”