Chute knows you're tired of hearing about yet another photo-sharing or photo-syncing app. So, although it dwells in the photo sphere, thankfully Chute is taking a different approach. The recent Y Combinator grad set out to become the go-to service that app developers and content producers turn to for managing and enhancing photos in their app or on their website. You can think of Chute as a Twilio for photos, or if you're into cloud-inspired taxonomy, as an Images-as-a-Service startup.
While photos are Chute's bread and butter, the startup has also begun to see demand for functionality that extends beyond the photo field. Not surprisingly, there are more than a few businesses and app developers looking for some help in capturing, managing, and displaying their media files. NBCNews.com, Taylormade and L.A. Live, for example, have already tapped Chute to do just that. So, to help expand its scope and begin scaling, the startup announced today that it has taken on $2.7 million in seed funding from a handful of top investors.
Freestyle Capital led Chute's first raise, with participation from Battery Ventures, USVP and a handful of strategic investors, including Salesforce.com, Joe Fernandez and Binh Tran (the CEO and CTO of Klout respectively), as well as Zen Payroll CEO Joshua Reeves.
So what is it about Chute that attracted investors? Well, for starters, brands and publishers are beginning to look for better ways to incorporate user-generated media into their sites, apps, and social channels in an effort to build a more engaged audience. Chute co-founder Ranvir Gujral tells us that the startup's key value proposition is its ability to simplify and manage this process for publishers and media companies.
By giving developers and online publishers a cloud-based backend for image uploading, processing, moderating, API integrations and user authentication, brands no longer have to “re-invent the wheel” in every case where they want to capture and leverage user-generated media (like photos).
Chute remains in beta as the startup continues to test and tweak its model with its current customers. While the startup wants its service to remain usable for companies of all shapes and types, the co-founder says that the team sees more direct application and appeal to media companies. It's current customers coming as validation for this hypothesis.
In an effort to help it expand outreach to media companies, Chute applied for (and was recently accepted into) Turner Broadcasting's new startup accelerator program, Media Camp. To which, one might ask, why would a startup that has already graduated from one accelerator, landed some big-name customers, and raised a seed round to go back through an accelerator program?
The Chute co-founder responded to this by saying that the team thinks this gives them the best of both worlds. Chute will use its new capital to focus on expanding its team, by hiring developers and increasing its sales staff, while joining Turner's accelerator provides them with media-specific business development opportunities. Backed by one of the larger media entities in the country, Gujral hopes that the media startup-focused accelerator will allow Chute to leverage its industry contacts to bring its APIs to big media.
Of course, the other obstacle for a business like Chute is that, when trying to do business with the enterprise, larger organizations don't just want naked (even if clean) APIs - they want a packaged solution, support, service and infrastructure built around APIs. The startup has already developed what is essentially its own user-generated content management system and a developer site that provides access to various infrastructural components that developers need to build out the front or backend of their apps.
But, going forward, Chute will have to work to add additional, scalable functionality and support to its existing product set if it hopes to continue to land those big media fish.