There are not a lot of true pure Photo:Tech companies that have found a successful business model around the creation and distribution of photography online at a large-scale thanks to an intelligent use of technology. Shutterstock, obviously, comes to mind, along with newly acquired Fotolia.
However, both are extensions of an older business model, that of stock photo agencies. Their primary limitation to massive growth is their need to store a massive repository of pre-formatted images that might never be licensed. Enter the on-demand market.
Instead of building an offer and waiting for a demand, the On-Demand market seeks specific image requests from photo buyers and propagates it to its vast network of contributors ( via its mobile app) who shoot and submit accordingly. The results are highly focused and authentic photos that alway find a buyer.
One of the most successful companies in this space, Foap, has recently raised an additional $2.3 million in seed funding and pushing hard into becoming the market leader. We sat down and spoke with co-founder and ceo David Los :
In a few words, what is Foap ?
Foap is a photo marketplace where you can license your everyday life photos to be used by brands and agencies across the globe.
What made you decide to launch it ?
I noticed two trends that became one big opportunity in my eyes and I couldn’t stop thinking on how to build upon it :
- The fast growing penetration of camera capable smartphone devices , which has created a high growth in the interest for photography, making us all better photographers.
- 10 years ago, brands were inviting you to their homes, “their websites” and they were communicating to you with their rules and their language ( i.e : “traditional stock photos”). Today, with the fast growing social media landscape, brands are visiting your online in your living room on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and they need to speak your language or they will be ignored. This means they need to use real and authentic images that are similar to what your friends are posting. The scene has changed, the demand has changed and this is a trend that will continue.
Can you tell us how it is funded ?
We have raised around $5 million and are now aiming for our Series A round.
How big is the team currently?
We are 23 Foapers.
Foap is both in demand-first and mobile first stock image marketplace. Which one do you see evolving the most and why ?
In the end, everything is about delivering the right image to the right photo buyer in the fastest , most accurate way possible – I think you need to use a combination of tools in order to maximise the experience for the photo buyers. Both our marketplaces are progressing very well and are complementing each other strongly.
What do you think is the number one appeal for brands to post missions ?
By running Foap Missions, you are saving time as you get tailored photos adapted to your specific needs at a given moment – photos that would otherwise be hard to find in other places. All in all, Foap Missions creates photo assets, engagement and branding among users from all over the world – this is very attractive for brands.
Where do brands typically use a Foap image ? In social media, on their website, in print ?
Most of our customers are using the images in social media, but also on their websites – print is not that common in today’s online world 😉
What have been the most interesting sells up to now ?
The interesting thing is not always the photos, as we sell everyday life photos, but to see the reaction of Foapers who have been recognized by big brands. Imagine the feeling of having Candy Crush selecting your photo and recognizing your work among 75 000 000 people! People get very happy when they see their photos along famous brands!
Do you see a pattern in the type of images sold the most ?
We are selling all kind of photos, but photos which include emotions, or photos with pets tend to sell better than others.
The demand first app space where buyers post request is getting crowded . What is the competitive advantage of Foap ?
Many brands try out several options before they decide to Foap their images. What they see defacto is a very active and passionate community who delivers quality photos that remain authentic and real – we have managed to create a good balance here. Then of course we have invested a lot in the legal aspect and have worked workflows directly with brands and agencies – which is certainly one of the reasons why Foap is the only one working with the brand and agencies the way we do.
Since you are based in Sweden, what is your international reach today ? Where do you see the most potential for growth ? Europe, Asia or the US ?
While 70% of our users are from US, we are growing fast in South America. As for now, the US is our primary market that we will continue to develop.
What will be a sure sign of success ?
When we sell one image more per second than Shutterstock. They are currently selling 4 images per second 😉
What is your marketing strategy to reach the millions of amateurs shooters out there that could use your platform.?
To sell even more. The more we sell, the happier the community. We have never done any type of marketing.
One of your competitor, EyeEm, has decided to leave the stock sales of images to Getty instead of doing it themselves. Why did you feel it was better to control the whole process?
I see strong potential in growth going our own way – we have a clear road map of why and where we want to go – and we simply believe in it and that it will change the way marketers are searching for photos. This means that we really want to invest in our own marketplace. That said, I am not saying it’s wrong to cooperate – we might even open up for selective and strategic partnerships in near future.
Can you give us some insight on numbers : how many users ? How many buyers ? How many sells per month ? How many images/video uploaded ? How fast is the company growing ?
We have 500,000 active users and adding about 130,000 approved photos every month. We are also growing fast on the customer side – check out our mission section, or upload some photos to find out 😉
Foap will be truly successful when it reaches a critical mass of users/buyers. Where to you situate the tipping point ?
The snowball effect, typical for marketplaces like Foap is taking on faster and faster – 2015 will be a very interesting year for us.
What are some upcoming features that we can expect to see in the near future ?
We just launched our new website, and will launch a completely new app during Q1 2015.
What keeps you up at night ?
To see something grow from notes, to PDF’s, to a real company, to be able to pass all hinders/roadblocks that all start-ups face, and finally adding real value to people…keeps me alive and up at night!
What would you like to add to Foap today that can’t be done because of technology restrictions?
Most things are possible technology wise but there is one important thing (specially for images that should be used in marketing) that is hard to solve with pure technology: categorization of emotions.
Photo by Stiftelsen
Photo by svenhoffmann1968
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.