David Holz | Biography, Midjourney Founder & CEO





David Holz is an American entrepreneur, best known as the founder and CEO of Midjourney, the most popular AI image generation app in the world.

Prior to Midjourney, Holz co-founded Leap Motion, a company that created a new paradigm of user interfaces based on hand motions and video capture. Here's an old video of him talking about Leap Motion. Holz sold Leap Motion to Ultrahaptics in 2019.

Early Life

David Holz grew up in south Florida, Fort Lauderdale. His dad was a dentist who had a dental office on a sailboat, and would sail around to Caribbean to get to his patients.

He cites his early interest in computers stemming from the fact his dad had one for work. In addition, his neighborhood was mostly old people, so he spent a lot of time alone.

He started coding in Scheme, but wasn't truly motivated until he realized he could hack the game Star Wars Jedi Knight Dark Forces II to shoot rockets out of his character's hands.


Holtz attended The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating with a dual degree in math and physics.

He wanted to continue to study both in grad school however was forced to pick one. He chose applied math, which he thought of as a middle ground.

While working on his PhD in applied math, he also worked at the nearby NASA Langley and the Max Planck Institute. He became overwhelmed by the amount of projects he had taken on and decided to focus on one thing he really cared about.

He decided that thing would be his first startup, Leap Motion.

Leap Motion

The idea for Leap Motion came to Holz when he was in middle school. He attempted 3D modeling, and was surprised at how difficult it was to do on computers. He thought the problem was in the human-computer interface.

At the end of high school, he started designing algorithms to track hands, as a method of 3D modeling.

Holz came up with the idea during a typing class, where he was told he could do whatever he wanted if he could write 60 words per second with a sheet of paper over his hands. He succeeded. And thus, began learning how to 3D model.

Leap motion was developed before touchscreen computing became popularized by Apple, and later with Windows tablets.

Holz thought of Leap Motion as the right product at the wrong time. He realized he should have released it after the smartphone (touchscreen computing) revolution.

In essence, he thinks that Leap Motion should have been the successor of touchscreen, or an addition to it.

Leap Motion didn't work very well with Windows applications, which also played a role its in failure as a business.

With all the tech giants out there, Holz believes we're quite limited as to the potential of hand-motion computing and VR. Rather than 10 companies competing to build the best VR headset, we have 1-2 companies building generic models.


After Leap Motion, Holz started wondering about what the future would look like, and what people would need in this uncertain future.

He came up for 3 pillars for what he thought would be the most important: reflection, imagination, and coordination.

He began to create Midjourney in early 2022. It helped that he was living in San Francisco - the world's biggest AI hub. Holz attended regular parties with AI enthusiasts, where they'd discuss the latest paper on the diffusion model and how different it feels.

Thinking Differently

Midjourney's runaway success is largely based on Holz's personal philosophy.

His approach to the app has always been rooted in discovering the true nature of the product, rather than imposing his own opinions on it.

Some other areas where he thinks and acts differently from the crowd:

  • He doesn't think of Midjourney as a chatbot. He thinks of it has a vessel, a vehicle for the mind.
  • He's never done explicit marketing activites. Midjourney has grown through word of mouth and social media virality.
  • He didn't do any press releases, but instead announced every new version and major update in the Midjourney Discord server.

Midway through your journey

One of Holz's team members suggested branding the model with a robot symbol.

Holz—ever the humanist, responded "No, way", and went with a simple boat design instead.

The implication is that you're midway through a journey. The bot is a vehicle between users and the world they want to see.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Holz decided prompts would begin by typing /imagine.

Midjourney's Development

Midjourney V1 was in the works for 9 months before it's official release.

They used Discord internally to test their product.

After doing a user test in Discord, they discovered people enjoyed interacting with the Midjourney bot in Discord.

Holz decided they should go all in on using the Discord platform for their app.

Many people told him he was crazy for doing everything on Discord (instead of a traditional web or mobile app). In typical Holz fashion, he responded: "People like it, and nothing else matters".

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Citation Information

  • Article Title: David Holz Biography
  • Author: Yubin Ma
  • Website Name: aituts.com
  • Url: https://aituts.com/david-holz
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: AiTuts
  • Last Updated: March 21, 2023
  • Original Published Date: March 1, 2023

David Holz Quotes

  • I don’t think I really motivated to use computers until I learned that if I programmed the right sort of series of incantations, I could hack Jedi Knight Dark Forces to give me special force powers where I could shoot rockets out of my hands. So it actually came from reprogramming video games, which weirdly was the first time I became motivated to actually use the skills that I had.
  • [on growing up]: I was probably more of a scientist than I was an engineer or programmer. I was much more interested in science and doing experiments and exploring.
  • I want to focus on one thing that I care about.
  • You have to reflect about who you are, what you want. You have to imagine what could be. And you have to coordinate to get there. And so I was actually working on projects for all three with a team.

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