Why We Invested in Runway: The Next-Generation Content Creation Suite

Don't miss our IA40 Spotlight Episode of Founded & Funded with RunwayML Co-Founder Cristóbal Valenzuela
Cristóbal Valenzuela, 2022 Runway, IA Summit, generative AI

Today we are thrilled to announce Madrona’s investment in Runway’s $50M Series C round alongside new lead investor, Felicis Ventures, and existing investors Amplify, Coatue, Compound, and Lux Capital.

Runway is building the next-generation creative suite that empowers creators to express their vision at a greater speed than ever before. We are in the process of a massive shift from software applications to Intelligent Applications, a substantial portion of which will be created on top of AI models. The Runway team is thoughtfully leveraging this technology and pushing the boundaries with ML research to improve speed, efficiency, and collaboration for creative professionals.

Madrona first got to know Co-founder and CEO Cristóbal (Cris) Valenzuela and the Runway team over a year ago. Runway was selected for the first Intelligent Application Top 40, an industry ranking of the top applications using AI, compiled by Madrona, Pitchbook, and Goldman Sachs. The company, not surprisingly, made the list this year as well. We were thrilled to have Cris speak at the IA40 Summit this fall in Seattle and have him join our colleague Ishani Ummat for a lively discussion on our Founded & Funded podcast. We have enjoyed meeting members of the Runway team over the past year and are thrilled to bring our expertise around AI/ML and LLM/AI models to help them continue their product development efforts and execute their go-to-market strategy. We are very excited to be part of the journey ahead.

Cris presenting at the IA Summit
Cris Valenzuela presenting at Madrona’s IA Summit in November 2022 in Seattle.

Runway puts the human creator at the center. Cris and the team at Runway believe most content used to tell stories will evolve from being manually created to being created with the assistance of AI, enabling human artists to create innovative content an order of magnitude faster and more easily than ever before. We have a deep conviction in this bold future as well, and we believe Runway will lead the way in the transition. Runway is starting this transformation with content editing and offering multimodal content generation tools for a wide set of creative work. We believe that over time Runway will make high-end content editing easy enough to enable a new generation of information workers and online creators to produce professional-grade content.

Madrona has been fortunate to partner with AI and intelligent application companies for many years, including Amperity, Clari, Deepgram, Highspot, Lexion, OctoML, SeekOut, and more. For this next generation of intelligent application companies, we look for technically remarkable, user-obsessed teams with special access to data, incredible UX, a philosophy to accelerate versus replace human creativity, and a strong brand. Runway exemplifies each of these attributes and more, positioning the team to build an iconic generative content creation company. We have been blown away by the team’s vision, the pace at which they innovate and ship new features, and the way they authentically engage customers and users with their product, brand, and communications. We have been looking closely at the new ecosystem foundation models are creating and believe Runway is building one of the most exciting intelligent applications companies in the world that may be making the future happen faster than anyone.

Runway’s product vision starts with deep empathy for creative professionals. Not one of the creative professionals we interviewed during our research into the space told us they love their current tools. Instead, the market for professional creative tools is filled with expensive, complex, and hard-to-use legacy applications. Cris and the Runway team spotted the opportunity to apply state-of-the-art AI models far earlier than such concepts were in vogue, creating a radically simpler experience integrating natural language UI and generative AI. Consider the example of “rotoscoping,” a masking technique for separating subjects in a video from their background. This is a common technique that in legacy tools requires the frontline editor to follow intricate frame-by-frame rotoscoping steps. Runway makes it easy to select the subject and define the rotoscoping mask so an editor can spend more time choosing the effects to apply on top of that rotoscoping in order to tell the best possible story. The Runway team is continuing to deliver on this value proposition by fine-tuning performance on core aspects of editing experiences to accelerate manual workflows. Collaboration features, plus toolchain and asset management integrations, let teams pool their creative energy with Runway and make it a no-brainer to adopt.

Runway combines that deep customer empathy with remarkable execution. As an example, in just the past few months, Runway launched 30 new AI-powered “Magic Tools,” such as Green Screen, Inpainting, and frame interpolation, that let creatives edit videos more than 10x faster.

This pace of innovation is enabled by remarkable technical depth and a track record of building and shipping over the last 4+ years. The Runway team recognizes that research is a crucial engine in their mission to advance generative AI and develop accessible, controllable, content-creation tools. They are laser-focused on applying research to product development and therefore broaden access to AI-backed experiences for users. Stable Diffusion was jointly developed by research from Runway. The team prioritizes dedicating resources to fuel their broader research and product ambition. Runway’s application of deep learning techniques for audiovisual content could forever change art, creativity, and design tools, so the company recognizes its responsibility to conduct this research with high integrity. Human-in-the-loop (assisted) and efficiency are two research principles that govern Runway’s work. Runway is laying the foundation of important paradigm shifts giving rise to new applications and business use cases.

Runway has proven “hair on fire” customer demand with customers from the teams at CBS, New Balance, and Publicis — Evan Halleck, director and editor of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” even used Runway when working on the film. Customers are eagerly coming to Runway to use the product, in many cases finding it themselves through word of mouth and social media. Runway’s strong brand positions it as a sought-after product for video creation and more.

We could not be more excited to partner with Cris, the entire team at Runway, and the tremendous investor syndicate to build the next generation of creativity tools and an industry-defining intelligent application company.

Related Insights

    Introducing the 2022 Intelligent Applications Top 40
    Intelligent Applications 40 winners 2022
    Foundation Models: The future isn’t happening fast enough — Better tooling will make it happen faster
    RunwayML Co-Founder Cristobal Valenzuela on the Intersection of Art and Technology

Related Insights

    Introducing the 2022 Intelligent Applications Top 40
    Intelligent Applications 40 winners 2022
    Foundation Models: The future isn’t happening fast enough — Better tooling will make it happen faster
    RunwayML Co-Founder Cristobal Valenzuela on the Intersection of Art and Technology