Blog Post

Former Yobongo team to launch mobile-first photobook service for Mixbook

In March, social discovery app Yobongo announced that it was shutting down and joining photo book creation company Mixbook. Six months later, the team is ready to pull back the curtain (a little bit, at least) on what it’s been up to since the acquisition.

On Friday, Mixbook is set to announce that it’s planning to launch a new mobile-first photobook creation app, called Mosaic, developed by the six-person former Yobongo team.

“A lot of companies make acquisitions and you never hear about the [startup] again. We wanted to be sure that we bucked that trend,” said Caleb Elston, co-founder and former CEO of Yobongo (see disclosure below).

Instead of traditional photobook creation services that tend to be used for major life events (such as weddings, birth announcements, etc.) and usually require a significant commitment of time and effort, Elston said Mosaic is meant for more spontaneous, casual events and can assemble photobooks quickly.  It’s also built for a consumer who is now constantly snapping pictures with the smartphone camera that’s almost always in her hand.

“Mosaic is a re-think of the photobook experience,” Elston said.

Through the app, users will be able to select images from the camera roll on their phone (including those taken from apps like Instagram) and then arrange them to create a photobook. After previewing the book from the app, they can then order a high-quality printed version. For now, the app doesn’t have an easy way for people to crowdsource or share images for one photobook, but Caleb said it’s a problem they’re thinking about.  (Apple’s (s AAPL) iOS 6 will also take care of this problem.)

As of today, people can start signing up for the app (the first 100 GigaOM readers can click this link to get earlier access to it) and Elston said they’ll soon start giving people access in waves. Because the company plans to produce a physical product, he said they wanted to roll out the product more slowly so that they can gauge and ultimately meet demand, especially so that they’re ready for the holidays.

Given all the photos we take – and usually just store – on our phones, a mobile-first photobook could make sense for weekends away with friends or other events that people want to remember but aren’t as significant as major life cycle moments. We have plenty of ways to share collections of images with friends and family, but usually they just end up as one more album on Facebook (s FB) or Flickr (s yhoo) that we look at a few times but rarely revisit.

A few iPad apps let people assemble virtual photobooks on their tablets and Animoto lets people quickly create video slideshows, set to music, that combine images and video, but Mosaic wants to distinguish itself as a virtual-to-physical photobook service.

I’m interested in the idea and like the concept of being able to give our mobile snaps a more permanent, tactile home, but given how much of our lives are virtual, I wonder if consumers will feel the need to preserve moments with a tangible photobook. When asked why Mosaic isn’t currently letting consumers create shareable digital photobooks, he said they wanted to focus, but added that they expect to build from this first version over time.

“This is the first step of thinking about what this is going to be on mobile,” he said. “We expect it to be a long path to get to other devices and platforms.”

Disclosure: True Ventures was an investor in Yobongo and is the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.