Thanks to serious advances in smartphone camera quality, it’s increasingly possible to take a saleable shot on your handset — and European startups know it.
Last year we saw Sweden’s Foap try to take on the stock photo industry with users’ iPhone(s aapl) snaps, and this week we have two more significant moves in the space: on Tuesday Finland’s Scoopshot announced $1.2 million in funding from stock photographer Yuri Arcurs, and on Wednesday Germany’s EyeEm revealed a fresh $6 million round from Earlybird Venture Capital and existing investors Wellington Partners and Passion Capital.
Eyeing up EyeEm
We’ve covered EyeEm a few times – the Berlin outfit profited greatly out of Instagram’s terms-and-conditions debacle last December, and is now gaining a million users a month (it’s got around 10 million today). What’s particularly intriguing about EyeEm, though, is its use of smart tagging technology to classify photos. This technology mashes up a wide variety of sources, from location to contemporary weather and events data, to intelligently tag photos without the need for user input – for example, based on a photo’s location metadata, EyeEm may be able to tell that it was taken on a sunny day at a certain artist’s concert.
This approach makes EyeEm’s photos searchable according to several criteria, which makes it a heck of a lot easier to file and find them in a stock photography database. The company is finally being explicit about this aim – it’s a major stated driver behind the fresh investment, and the marketplace should launch later this year.
As EyeEm CEO Florian Meissner told me:
“Our core technology automatically categorises images, and we do that to create rich search. We really want to build the next level of social search for the community and also potentially business clients… The mobile photography community worldwide is looking for a platform beyond social networks to take photography to the next level, and we want to become this player.”
The key there is the community. EyeEm started out as a regular, Instagram-style photo-sharing community and added its stock photo ambitions afterwards. Meissner reckons this solves the chicken-and-egg problem that rival mobile stock photo operations face – the supply side is fully taken care of.
Can Scoopshot get the scoop?
Scoopshot only has 283,000 photographers in its community, although all those people are consciously in it for the sale. On the demand side, Scoopshot CEO Niko Ruokosuo told me around 100 media organizations are currently signed up to use that community’s photos.
Here’s how it works: using Scoopshot’s iPhone, Android(s goog), Windows Phone(s msft) or Symbian(s nok) apps, users can either list photos on the marketplace that they deem newsworthy, or they can receive location-based assignments for photos or videos from those media organizations. This can be hyper-local, country-based or even international – the media company says what it wants, and Scoopshot’s users scramble to respond.
Now, both Foap and EyeEm also offer photo missions, mainly for brands – an area that Scoopshot is now preparing to enter thanks to its fresh cash injection. However, according to Ruokosuo, Scoopshot has patented authentication technology on the back end to verify the photos that are coming in, and the company also has instant payment and rights management mechanisms that its rivals lack:
“Nobody has the features that we do to do this correctly… and the way we keep track of our users – we can send assignments that are location-based and immediate – provides results more effectively than anybody else can do.”
Again, this technology sounds interesting – Foap also came up against the issue of photo verification and ditched the idea of using a small team of reviewers in favor of letting community members review each other’s submissions. Automating the process (albeit with a few journalists keeping an eye on things, as Scoopshot has) sounds like a smart move, if it works.
So there you have it: several players all trying to disrupt the stock photo industry in subtly different ways. I’d say EyeEm’s approach looks the most scalable if you’re looking at classic stock photography usage – wading through a massive database to find something suitable – but Scoopshot’s on-demand approach has an appeal of its own. Perhaps there are multiple viable niches to be occupied in this emerging scene.