We collect a lot of stuff online — photos, videos, location check-ins, likes, tweets and other thoughts. But many times those things are scattered all over disparate websites or social networks or, more often than not, stay stored in our phones. So how do you build a repository of the stuff you like — or “curate” — and maintain the context in which you collected them? The guys behind Kullect have a cool idea.
Kullect (pronounced like “collect”) is what they call a “social memory” app. It’s a place where you start collections of things you like, whether that’s your favorite lunch spots, pictures of cute cats, inspirational quotes, memes or videos. What you curate is a reflection of you
This might sound like Facebook or a blog, but Kullect is meant to be simpler. No need to mess with complicated privacy settings, nor does it require learning blogging software. Kullect is meant to be an easy, mobile-first experience that anyone can use to build their digital collections while keeping the time and place of where you found it.
“People generate a lot of content, but not all of it gets shared and there’s not a great outlet for it,” said Sasank Reddy, CEO and co-founder of Kullect. “With Facebook you might end up spamming your friends, on Twitter stuff disappears. And maybe you don’t want to start a blog.”
I’m not ready to post a full review of Kullect, but I think they’re onto something here. You can upload photos, for instance, that you might not necessarily want on Facebook, but that you really want to save somewhere that’s accessible online, say, your favorite mac and cheese dishes at restaurants, and that you can continually add to. I already have bookmarked restaurants I like on Yelp and favorite dishes on Foodspotting, but the idea behind Kullect is that everything you like is accessible in one place, not across different apps or services. Plus, I can personalize my collection of mac and cheese dishes and other people can comment on them — it’s a little more fluid than the way other single-topic services are organized.
Kullect was started by Reddy and Jeff Mascia, who is COO, in 2010. The app grew out of graduate-level research on mobile sensor networks they were doing together at UCLA.
They’ve since moved to San Francisco and plopped their four-man team into a co-working space in the city’s South of Market district. They’re funded purely out of their own pocket with some help from family and friends and they still have a long ways to go — they have a couple thousand users of their app, and in their own words, a lot of polishing to do. But one of the things I liked about talking to them is that right now they offer great insight into what it’s like developing a social, photo, and discovery-oriented mobile app right now.
Here’s what I learned:
Mobile first, of course, but the web still matters. Mobile devices are the primary way people will curate or start their collections, but that’s not where the story ends. With Kullect, each collection uploaded has a webpage associated with it, and soon there will also be Kullect widgets to display those collections on other websites like Tumblr and Facebook.
“Mobile is the input, but the web is important for viewing it,” Reddy said.
Filters on photo apps aren’t a bonus anymore, they’re required. “People have come to expect filters as kind of a standard thing,” said Mascia.
There’s also somewhat of a standard emerging in the basic kind of filters users want, said Reddy. “We know people want the filter where the dark elements come out, and the one where they look vintage-y,” he said. “It’s not rocket science, just a matter of figuring out how to do that.”
The Kullect team isn’t a group of photography experts, so they set about sort of reverse-engineering the filters they wanted by taking a picture, apply effects in Photoshop and figuring out how to translate that look into lines of code. And thanks to iOS 5’s API for image transformation, they have some extra help.
Building an Android app can be tough on bootstrapped startups. Not because of the actual development phase as much as the testing process. Funded by family, friends and themselves, “We can’t afford enough Android phones to test, but we do our best,” said Mascia. “We try to use our friends’ phones.” But that’s still a relatively limited amount of Android phones they have access to. An equally cheap but much more difficult option? “We contemplated going to a Sprint store,” they joked. They didn’t, but they’re not the only mobile developers who’ve contemplated desperate measures to see if their app works on Android’s largely fragmented platform.
Despite that, Reddy and Mascia are not ignoring Android for fear of not having a product to offer a huge segment of mobile phone customers. But they do have some advice: Don’t try to take your iPhone app and make a replica with Android.
“It’s not the same,” noted Reddy. Make a version of your app that takes advantage of each OS’s features. And of course, “You need to have someone that uses Android — as in, make sure your developer is actually using the OS.”
Helping people find stuff they like is how you keep users coming back. It might sound simple, but getting discoverability right is hard. You see services like Pinterest and Twitter who get this right and their users stick around. “The discoverability side is where we’re going — helping people find stuff they care about, and figuring out what people like and suggest more interesting stuff to them,” said Mascia. As a place for people to express their creativity and their interests, Kullect won’t do well if users can’t find new things to follow or learn. Getting that right will determine the fate of their app — and so many like it.