We might have some of the most amazing cameras in our phones, but we never seem to capture the right moment. Either because of camera lag or speed of life, we are left forever frustrated by the images we never got. When we discovered Shutta in the cramped and crowded alleyways of the 2015 Techcrunch Disrupt, it was almost love at first sight, for a few reasons : One, the app sits somewhere between photo and video, it has one of the smartest and easiest user interface we have experienced and third, it solves a problem we have all experienced . Never miss again the “decisive moment“. To top it all, the team behind it is one of the friendliest and down to earth crew we have met. We sat down with founder and CEO James Shimell to learn more.
A little about yourself. What is your background?
I grew up in London when the city started to go crazy about everything IT; I was in my early teens around the time of the dot-com bubble. From a young age, I felt comfortable using everything from desktop publishing to music and video production software, and I always had a project on the go. I would develop magazines with friends, build websites for PC and the mobile web (WAP), and program video games or develop VOIP software using Macromedia Director. In the software industry, it is rare to find programmers with an eye for design or designers with a head for programming. I was lucky enough to enrol at a college that offered both graphic design and computer science.
I love to travel and, after stints in South America and South East Asia, I moved to Spain to work for a start-up software company. Growing with the company over the next five years, I ultimately took on the role of IT Director. During this period, at a Festival of Colours in Tarifa, Spain, the idea for Shutta was born. Trying to take photos at the event, I kept missing the best moments, so I decided to capture it on video, with the aim of getting the right frame later. I couldn’t find any app that would readily allow me to do so, and I decided then that I would build it myself.
Shutta was released in January 2014, which coincided with my move to Vietnam, where I am heading up a software development house, a sister company to that of the startup in Spain. Shutta remained in silent BETA while I focused on fine-tuning based on users’ feedback, until May 2015 when we launched the app at Tech Crunch Disrupt NY 2015.
In a few words, what is Shutta and what does it solve.
We’ve all come across the problem of trying to shoot the perfect moment and missing it by a fraction of a second, maybe due to the lag of the camera or simply because life moves by too fast. This is the problem Shutta solves.
Shutta allows you to pull stills from any video taken with or stored on your iPhone – any footage synced from a GoPro or drone camera can also be accessed – and save your favourite moments as photos. These can then be downloaded, emailed, sent by SMS, and shared on the integrated social network or on Twitter and Facebook. In a nutshell, Shutta removes the need to decide between shooting video or taking photos, allowing users to have their visual cake and eat it.
How many active users does Shutta have overall? In which countries?
We are still very small, we have about 7000 users in 80 countries. When I released the first version of Shutta in January 2014, I was focused solely on attracting enough users to thoroughly test and refine the tool and social network, there was no focus on growth whatsoever.
Today, we have very clear ideas about how to market Shutta and, so far, they seem to work. Since the public launch at TechCrunch Disrupt New York a month ago, our daily download rate has trebled and is approaching 150 a day. The US, Canada and Europe represent the largest percentage of users, but we are seeing the fastest growth in non-English speaking countries, so localized marketing will start in the next week or so. All this gives me great confidence that we will be able to grow at a comparable, if not faster, pace to similar Photo and Video apps.
Who is your target user?
There is action in every aspect of our lives, even in the little every day activities, and our marketing is aimed at showing that Shutta captures both the extreme and the ordinary in our lives perfectly.
The appeal to skaters, surfers and other action sports athletes is obvious, but the app is also very popular with parents and pet owners, who no longer struggle to capture cute antics; yogis and golfers checking their posture and technique; and there is, of course, also a healthy number of selfie fans amongst the Shutta user base. As far as we are concerned, every active social media user is a target Shutta user.
How many Shuttas have users created to date? Any surprises?
We can only see Shuttas that have been publicly posted to the app, currently about a thousand odd. This number is now growing at a similar rate to our user growth, and we can further see that there are many more Shuttas created solely to download, email or send by text message.
What has probably surprised me the most, is the diversity of users and a number of situations that I hadn’t even considered when I started developing the app. I personally love to skate or go to a good party, and maybe I had imagined the app to appeal the most to people that share those interests. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that Shutta would also attract wildlife photographers, parents, pet owners, young kids, and so on. At the moment we are holding a Best Photo competition, with a GoPro Hero4 Black as the grand prize, and the quality of entries is amazing and only getting better. I can’t wait to see what else our users have in store.
How is Shutta founded? How many employees?
I developed Shutta as a private project, it is privately funded and I am the sole developer. Barbara Ximenez has joined Shutta, and she is involved with investor interest, the formal incorporation of the company, marketing plans, strategic alliances, etc.
How do you plan to monetize Shutta?
For now, our focus is purely on growing the user base of Shutta. The tool itself is great and works really well, but what will give Shutta longevity is the communities that are built around it. Further down the line, I imagine that we will be looking at monetizing the app in some form or other through brands that fit those communities.
Any fear that a phone manufacturer might integrate a similar feature? What would be your reaction?
I firmly believe that pictures taken from a video can be breathtaking, especially with the high-quality videos that iPhone 6 and GoPro deliver, and every smartphone user should be able to access to a tool like Shutta. In a way, I would be very much in favour of manufacturers including this functionality on their devices, and, of course, I’d love to speak to them about it!
Beyond the functionality that enables any person to generate professionally timed photos though, Shutta is also a social network for sharing those amazing photos, which is a market manufacturers are less likely to pursue.
Your company is based in Vietnam, but you are originally from Spain. Can you tell us why you decided to move?
I had fallen in love with the drive of the Vietnamese people on several visits to the country. Vietnam’s population is young, dynamic, and wildly ambitious, and the country is heavily investing in IT and IT education. I made a strong argument to my then employer that we should set up a software development house there and to my great surprise they agreed.
What would you like to create for Shutta users that technology does not yet allow you to build?
At the moment the quality of images that camera phones deliver is amazing, and it will continue to get better. One thing I can’t wait to give users, is the ability to zoom by 50-100x with impeccable quality. Another is that the iPhone 6 captures video at 240 frames per second, which is outstanding, but, what if users could capture at 5,000 frames a second? You would be able to capture a moving bullet. The technology will get there, and Shutta will be there to give users the software to catch it.
The Shutta app is currently available on the App Store.
Author: Paul Melcher
Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.