Back when Foursquare was just another fledgling startup in New York, before taking location-based social networking by storm, another geo-tagging app was brewing down under.
Conceived midway through 2009, photo-sharing app Snapr is the brainchild of Rowan Wernham and Edward Talbot.
Despite a few tough months transitioning from paid jobs to full-time entrepreneurs, the pair have done a stellar job of it – if attention from the likes of Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, The New York Observer and The Next Web is anything to go by.
Snapr was the only business from the southern hemisphere to be selected to participate in the SXSWi Biz-Spark Accelerator competition for startups; produced a Facebook app for Tourism NZ; and won an NZTE tender to launch a showcase product around the Rugby World Cup – photo-sharing game Capture the Flag, which had brands including Moa Beer, 42 Below and BurgerFuel involved.
And it’s early days yet. Wernham says the company is keeping busy with plenty of development jobs for brands with a view to making more scalable self-service tools further down the track.
Who did you take inspiration from?
We started the company when Foursquare was just starting to appear, and was only available to people in New York. It was starting to become clear that internet-enabled mobile devices were going to make a whole new type of gaming possible – it was going to happen in the real world, and it was going to involve making connections between real people.
We were also excited about the idea of collective broadcasting – what could happen if everyone’s photos could be pulled into a single channel and used as a real-time way to see what was going on in the world, and as a way for people to connect with other people who were nearby.
That idea has been the main focus of Snapr so far, but I think the gaming idea will be a big part of our future direction.
What's happening in the digital/mobile photo space right now?
To put it bluntly – the space has gone bananas in the last year. Instagram hit the jackpot by combining an online community with an app that had free photo FX. They are possibly one of the fastest growing social networks ever and picked up over 10 million users in their first year.
Other companies like Color raised excessive amounts of money (US$41 million) and had interesting ideas but didn't hit the mark. Path and Picplz raised big stacks of cash too, and for a while it seemed like there was a new photosharing app coming out on a weekly basis.
It’s been a bit frustrating for us because we were into this space a good year before it exploded. But it’s also fair to say that it’s our first company and we have had a very steep learning curve.
We are in a better position now to really innovate and we think there is a lot of room for us to carve a niche in this space.
The photosharing space is very crowded at the moment and we are focusing more on building our platform. We are selling that into brands who are building products that include social photosharing, and people who want to build their own photosharing apps and communities.
What about monetising?
We think user-generated content is going to be a big part of the future of advertising. The power of social media is that rather than brands trying to sell things to people, it’s now people who are going to promote products and lifestyles they enjoy to each other.
Brands are still going to want to be part of that process and to find ways to facilitate it. We are very much oriented towards building the tools that brands need to create and manage campaigns that involve mobile photos. There is a huge market out there and we are seeing a lot of interest.
If you’re a local business there is no better endorsement than photos taken on your premises where people are enjoying themselves, or responding well to what you are selling. As we build up the amount of location-based content on Snapr we will look at ways to help businesses showcase photos from their location and use these for promotion, and as a way to engage with their customer base.
Right now our business model is about selling white label usage of our API to brands, and licensing our technology.
Games aren't games without players – how do you reel them in? Aren’t there elements of manipulation?
No consumer product can be a success without some sort of hook. There needs to be a very clear reward for participation- whether that’s something fun, something compulsive, something useful, or something very blatant such as giving away prizes.
It’s also important for products to work on an emotional level – to satisfy some sort of underlying human desire.
We are very excited about the potential for 'real world gaming' and its potential to create new ways for our real lives and virtual lives to intersect. But trying to create completely new behaviours is never easy. It’s much simpler to find things that fit into existing patterns, or better yet, find a gap where technology can solve a current problem in new ways.