Cooliris Continues Push Into China and Russia, Shaking Hands With Tencent and Yandex

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Photo-sharing startup Cooliris is continuing its push into two of the world’s biggest Internet markets, China and Russia.

The Kleiner Perkins-backed company has just partnered with Tencent in China to pull images from Tencent’s microblogging platform, Weibo, into Cooliris’ mobile apps.

On top of that, it is also expanding its relationship with Yandex, the Google of Russia, to pull images from Yandex’s search engine and its cloud storage product, Disk, into Cooliris.

Financial terms of the two deals were not disclosed.

Cooliris made its name in 2008 with a browser add-on called PicLens, which would stretch a set of photos over a sphere or display them as a wall you could virtually walk across. It used to make its money through ads embedded in the “photo wall” it rendered in browsers, but since it transitioned to a mobile app strategy in 2012, freemium add-ons will be the way forward, said CEO Soujanya Bhumkar.

The company plans to release premium features as part of a subscription plan later in the year, he said.

So it makes sense that it’s keen to push further into China and Russia. After its first move into China via a tie up with Renren, aka China’s “Facebook,” in December last year, it enjoyed a 30-fold traffic spike. Bhumkar added that the number of photos that users have interacted with — shared or expanded from the thumbnail view — has also gone up from 300 million to 550 million in the past six months.

“We’re expecting to hit new milestones for user growth with these new partnerships bringing us to international users,” he said.

About 60 percent of Cooliris’ 3 million iOS users are in the U.S., with Asia its next-largest market at 30 percent. The company is looking to push further into Asia rapidly by working with established names there, he said.

This is not its first partnership with Yandex, either. In February this year, it struck a deal with Yandex Fotki, Yandex’s photo hosting service. Yandex currently accounts for about 65 percent of Russia’s search market, and its Disk product rivals Dropbox, with about half of the several million files uploaded daily to Disk photos and graphics, according to Yandex.

Currently, Cooliris’ app already pulls content from Facebook, Evernote, Tumblr, Flickr, Google+ and Google Drive, Twitter and Microsoft’s SkyDrive. That combined pool gives it to date about a billion photos accessible within its app, more than double the 350 million it said were captured in the six months to February 2013.

For content providers, the benefit of feeding images to Cooliris is the potential of gaining an additional audience in the 3 million Cooliris users. And users are encouraged to share their photo streams with other users, or publish them on social networks, which could further increase visibility for the content.

Cooliris vice president of business development, Sebastian Blum, said Tencent hopes to bring Weibo’s content to international markets, and that the deal with Cooliris was part of that plan.

Although the company has pointed at an April release date for an Android version, its app currently remains iOS-only. It will release a web version in the future as well, said the spokesperson.

That’s a little strange, given that the company started from on the web before going mobile. But since July 2012, it has moved its focus almost entirely to its mobile product, and it looks like that’s where it’s going to park its resources for the foreseeable future.