Barely a month or two after launching the Y Combinator-backed photo-sharing service Popset, the team realized they were solving the wrong problem. Users weren’t struggling to share their photos with groups; they needed tools to help them organize and manage their photo libraries across a variety of platforms and services. So the company decided to change its course, and today it’s announcing what it has in store: Loom, a cloud storage and syncing service that’s like a better alternative to iCloud.
“People were requesting features and giving us feedback that caught our attention,” explains Popset and now Loom co-founder Jan Senderek. After interviewing hundreds of users over a month’s time, the founders had a better idea of what its user base wanted. People told the team of their awful routines for managing photos – backing them from iPhones to external hard drives, having to sync them through iTunes, how quickly the photos ate up precious disk space on their portable devices and MacBook SSD drives, and so on.
“There are so many thing that are wrong, and it’s kind of obvious how to solve that – by simply putting everything in the cloud and making it accessible to you on all your devices,” says Senderek.
That, of course, is the promise of Apple’s iCloud. But it doesn’t seem to work as well as it should.
In recent months, Apple users and developers have become increasingly frustrated with iCloud, which has proved to be difficult, buggy, and confusing to end users.
“People don’t really understand iCloud. They don’t understand what Photostream is or how it works,” Senderek explains. “It actually makes the problem worse.” Photostream, which saves the last 1,000 photos on your device, appears like a separate album, which also confuses some users.
The team, which also includes co-founders Philipp Wein and Daniel Wagner, realized they had a choice to make. They could either double-down on Popset or respond to the problems users wanted fixed with a whole new product.
They chose the latter.
Popset users were notified at the beginning of this month that the service would be closing in June, and were offered a downloadable .zip file of the photos they had shared.
The new product, Loom, puts all your photos and videos in the cloud, allowing you to empty your Camera Roll and reclaim lost disk space. Designed to replace the native Photos app, Loom instead uses smart technology to intelligently cache photos and videos based on the size of the device that you’re using. In other words, if you’re snapping high-def photos with your 16 GB iPhone 5, you don’t really need the full resolution version of those photos in order to enjoy them on the small screen, or share them with others.
Loom also works even when it doesn’t have a network connection – like Apple’s own Photos app does. It will just sync everything you do while offline once the device is connected again. And it will support some of Popset’s old feature set around album creation and sharing.
Also like iCloud, media stored in Loom will be available on all your devices. A developer API will be available, too.
Initially, the service will work on iPhone, iPad, Mac and web, but the plan is to bring the technology to Android as well, where it will be able to more deeply integrate with the operating system. In addition, photos and videos are only the beginning – the long-term plan is to support other file types including documents, music, audio, TV and movies.
Though Loom is offering something that solves a problem for many, if it goes the freemium route as it’s now intending to do, it will be up against several services with competitive pricing in terms of photo sync and storage. Facebook, Google, Flickr and even Shutterfly are offering photo upload (even automatic upload) and hosting, either entirely free or with large enough free tiers to make their services the better option for those watching their budget.
But Loom also has another interesting idea for making money – if users ever wanted to download their entire photo archive, Loom could send them either a link to download, or as an additional paid option, send them an external hard drive filled with their media.
Pricing details, however, are not yet available.
Loom is opening up its private beta in about a month. TechCrunch readers who sign up here will be able to get into the first batch which is limited to 1,000 users.
The San Francisco-based startup, now a team of eight, had already raised additional funding for Loom shortly after Popset’s launch. An additional seed round is also closing soon.
Gifs, man! They’re trending harder than Jennifer Lawrence right now, but that doesn’t mean that finding them is the easiest thing in the world. That’s why Giphy, a startup that launched out of betaworks last month, is rolling out new tools to build out its library of awesome, high-quality gifs.
See, Giphy is a gif search engine. It lets you search by keyword for any gif you could possibly want, and then saves load time and keeps things snappy by only playing the gif once you hover over one of the results. But sourcing the gifs you want is just the first step in organizing the community, which is the true goal behind Giphy.
That said, the startup is today rolling out private artist accounts, which will bake attribution right into the gifs they create. The team has been looking for some of the most prominent gif creators and artists out there, and has chosen twelve to give private artists accounts.
As it stands now, there are hundreds of thousands of gifs floating around the internet. Most of them end up on a tumblr somewhere, while others are created and shared through dozens of other platforms. But when you come upon a great gif, perhaps on #Whatshouldwecallme, do you ever think about the dude that created said gif? Probably not, but you should.
It would be like not thinking of Rhianna every time you heard the song “Umbrella.”
“What we’re seeing in the beginning of organizing the community,” said founder Jace Cooke. “We want to give these folks a home and connect them to publishers and brands. This will give them a following in a way that will help them monetize their work.”
But artists profiles are only the first step in organizing the gif community. Giphy is also building out an API, which will be open in the next couple weeks. This lays the groundwork for Giphy to be used in other interesting applications as the gif craze heats up. According to betaworks, the Giphy API has received much more demand than the company has decided yet to meet, as they’re figuring out the best way to roll out access to the platform.
The third and final goal at the moment is for Giphy to create stronger relationships with publishers who are using gifs for their content. Giphy has an automatic embed code for each gif, which publishers can use on their own sites. It’s simple, but these relationships are crucial in elevating gif artists on a pedestal where they can reach brands and monetize their work.
As it stands now, private artists accounts are being rationed out at Giphy’s discretion.
But what about the competition? Well, Giphy doesn’t have much competition outside of the wide world of tumblr gifs. But even with the newfound focus on creation (re: artists accounts), Giphy doesn’t see much of a threat in Vine or Cinemagram or any of the other user-generated gif makers.
“There’s a nice social component to services like Vine and Instagram, but the validity of image on Instagram is pretty limited outside of a circle of friends,” said Cooke. It’s pretty rare for a Vine or Cinemagram to surpass being valid to friends and be an interesting piece of media in their own right.”
That said, Giphy will continue to focus on high-level gif creation that provides content that’s accessible to a large majority of people on the internet, as opposed to needing social context.
Expect big things from this one, guys. Gifs aren’t going anywhere soon, and Giphy has made itself the portal.
TeamSnap, a company that provides tools for managing sports teams, has today announced that it is acquiring Weplay, a social networking site for athletes, parents and coaches to help facilitate coordination for events, games, practices, etc.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Trinity Ventures-backed startup, Teamsnap, is an online tool aimed at making practice scheduling, conditioning sessions, team rosters, payment plans, etc for all amateur sports. It tracks everything from parents’ payments for big tournaments all the way to who’s bringing the sliced oranges.
So far, the company has raised a total of $4.3 million, including its latest round in February for $2.75 million.
According to the release, Weplay had raised even more, a total of $15 million since its launch in 2008. The service acts as a social network with similar functionality to Teamsnap, wherein parents, coaches, and kids can coordinate practices, games, etc. for sports teams.
Teamsnap claims that it will take over Weplay’s “customer base and technology” in the acquisition, though it’s unclear if the Weplay team will migrate over to Teamsnap or if this is the end of their Weplay chapter. It’s also unclear if Weplay will be rolled into Teamsnap or stand alone as its own product.
We’ve reached out for clarification, but haven’t heard back yet.
The release states that Weplay has over 2.25 million customers which will migrate over to the Teamsnap platform. The acquisition should bring Teamsnap’s total userbase to 5 million users in 195 countries.
The deal makes sense considering just how similar the two platforms are. There are a growing number of services like this out there, and not one has risen to the top as a dominating force. Perhaps some consolidation will help Teamsnap reach that peak.
How many crowdfunding platforms is evidence of a crowdfunding bubble? Well, when an organisation feels the need to launch a directory to list and detail all of the crowdfunding options in a single market it’s perhaps a sign that exuberance for crowdsourced financing is running a little high. Nesta, a U.K. charity focused on promoting national innovation, has launched just such a directory, detailing the U.K.’s crowdfunding landscape — and all, by its count, 31 current crowdfunding platforms up and running and begging for money on your behalf.
The CrowdingIn directory certainly looks like a useful resource if you’re trying to figure out how best to get your next project funded, with the ability to filter by model and sector/area of interest. So, for example, if you’re looking for an equity investment model in the arts-creative sector then using the directory quickly narrows down those 31 platforms to just one. Or if you’re looking for a donation model in the same sector you’ll find there are four options to choose from. The rewards model is generally more populous, with two pages of results to sift through. But as a signposting service it’s still doing some useful legwork.
The directory also summarises what each crowdfunding platform offers, details their conditions of use and links through to each website. Add to that, Nesta has put together a crowdfunding how-to guide. So far, so handy. But at the same time, 31 crowdfunding platforms does feel like an awful lot of local players for a single market. Consolidation feels inevitably and probably necessary. Or, as my colleague Steve O’Hear jokily puts it, how many crowdfunding platforms does it take to get a lightbulb funded? Not 31 surely…
Of course there is variation in the crowdfunding platform offerings, with levels of specialism — including some very niche offerings, such as SolarSchools: a platform for U.K. schools to raise money to buy solar panels to fund clean energy. That’s not the place to go to fund your next great business idea, clearly. But there is also still plenty of crossover, especially for the rewards model in creative sectors — which is really where the whole crowdfunding phenomenon kicked off.
Also worth flagging that the UK Crowdfunding Association, a self-regulating trade body for the sector, counts about half the number listed on Nesta’s directory among its membership — so there may be some useful cross-referencing to be done there. The Association does also include some platforms that aren’t apparently on Nesta’s list. So, depending on how you count it, the U.K. appears to have (even) more than 31 crowdfunding platforms…
MavenSay, a social recommendation app, just got a surge of unplanned downloads coming from Indonesia, and its founders are moving quickly to include Southeast Asia in its expansion plans as a result.
The company’s Toronto-based co-founder, Jesse Dallal, said the two-month old app got 100,000 downloads over the past fortnight. It has a total of 130,000 downloads so far, and the sudden surge was tracked back to a power user based in Indonesia. They’re not sure which one it is, but the source of traffic points to the country, he said.
The way the app works is similar to Pinterest, in that users follow other users’ recommendations. These could cover places they’ve eaten or music they’re listening to, for example. For its launch, MavenSay roped in what it called “influencers”—featured brands to follow such as Momofuku and Refinery29.
The Indonesian user that triggered the downloads isn’t a celebrity that MavenSay had canvassed, but was clearly influential enough over his or her social network to move the downloads, said Dallal.
“It’s been an unanticipated consequence of our [social] strategy,” he said, referring to the way things get viral on these recommendation platforms where people reblog items from influencers.
“We’ve reached out to influencers in North America, but we’re also going to reach out to influencers in Asia now. We’re thinking of coming out there and talking to users to understand what the differences in culture and usage might be,” he said.
MavenSay has seven people, including its three co-founders Dallal, Mike Wagman and Bryan Friedman. The small company can’t be expected to have concrete plans for Asia yet, but seeding interest in one of the world’s fastest-growing, mobile-hungry countries may pay off eventually.
According to mobiThinking, Indonesia has 260 million mobile subscribers, although those with data connections make up just 47.6 million, or 18 percent of that.
And Indonesians have been quick to embrace social networking sites, with fierce loyalties once something sticks. Aged social network Friendster started to pivot towards Asia around 2008, when it realised that 90 percent of its user base was coming from the region. While it was, by that time, lagging behind Facebook globally, some markets like Indonesia stayed loyal to Friendster.
MavenSay has raised funding of $890,000 so far.