One of the startup ideas that I’ve been hearing about for years is the social photo album — a service that doesn’t just let you share photos with your friends, but also create albums with them. Adam Ludwin and Devon Gundry have seen a lot of those startups, too, but they’re trying to crack the problem with their new startup Albumatic.
Ludwin (a principal at RRE Ventures, where he led the seed round in Twitter-acquired social video startup Vine) told me that when he and Gundry (a musician who also started a social media company with actor Rainn Wilson) first started thinking about the app, they realized there were a bunch of other products that never got significant consumer traction — the most high-profile flameout was probably Color. And they decided that the key factor was location.
At this point, you might be feeling a bit skeptical, but stay with me. (Even Ludwin admitted, “When we realized that we were building a social local mobile app, we thought, ‘Are there any more clichés that we can pull out?'”) Albumatic isn’t about sharing photos with your friends later on, nor is it about randomly connecting with people nearby. Instead, it allows you to create and capture events with friends in the moment.
So for example, if you’re at a party, you can create an album for party photos on Albumatic, and if there are Albumatic users nearby who you’ve friended in the app, they’ll get a notification, allowing them to join the album and add photos (since they’re probably at the same event). Albumatic friends who are further away can “watch” the album and get notified when new photos get added. It effectively turns a photo album into a real-time event, and at the end you’ve got a nice record of the party. Ludwin described his approach as, “fun and done.”
One of the challenges facing any app like this is making sure there are enough users and enough content that early users don’t feel like they’re just sharing photos into a void. Ludwin argued that even if you have only one other friend on Albumatic, it should be worthwhile, because you suddenly have access to all these photos that they’ve taken and albums that they’ve joined. One of the most important goals, he added, was to make sure the app could be used regularly at casual events: “Do not build a weddings app. As soon as you go down that road, you’ve failed.”
In the early testing, Ludwin said he’s noticed that during the week, people tend to use Albumatic as a way to share photos with their friends from solo outings. Then when the weekend starts, it’s “game on” and you start to have more group albums.
I tried out the app last night. Since it was a Wednesday, it was definitely solo mode — I shared photos from my dinner in one album, while browsing photos of the Albumatic team as it prepared for launch. Even so, it was actually pretty fun, and I’m looking to trying it out more heavily this weekend. (It helped that Ludwin and Gundry kept liking and commenting on my photos — keep it up guys!)
As for the business model, Ludwin said there’s nothing concrete right now, but he noted that there are opportunities for additional premium services around things like photo quality and storage. He was also adamant that the Albumatic app will always be free and that it will never run ads.
By the way, Ludwin said he plans to remain at RRE while also working on Albumatic: “Should be a busy time! But fun.”
You can download the Albumatic app here.