Photo-sharing startup Albumatic is announcing a new direction today, and a new name to match — it’s now calling itself Koa.la.
Back in August, when I last wrote about Albumatic, the company was already pivoting away from being an event-focused photo app and towards a focus on sharing and collaborating on photo albums with friends, regardless of where they are and whether they’re at the same event.
However, co-founder Adam Ludwin (who previously led RRE Ventures’ investment in social video app Vine) told me that even then, the team was aware that there were plenty of “headwinds” that would make it difficult for a photo app to become a huge hit. In the week while they were waiting for Apple to approve the app, they decided to “hedge” by working on something new — a photo app that integrated with messaging company Kik, which recently launched a platform for “Cards” that integrate with its app.
Now Albumatic/Koa.la is shifting its entire focus to Kik, with the goal of building apps for other messaging platforms down the road. Ludwin said his team has already built three apps/Cards, the most popular of which is Costume Party, a game for sharing drawn-over photos within Kik. Costume Party apparently saw 1 million players in its first 22 hours, is now approaching 4 million players, and could grow to 10 million players by the end of the year, Ludwin said.
Basically, it sounds like the Koa.la team is hoping that messaging will become the next big social platform. He noted that Kik is already approaching 100 million users, so he argued, “If we ever run out of Kik users, we have bigger, more exciting problems.” He also argued that other messaging apps will have to follow Kik’s lead and become a platform if they “want to be more than a feature-based service.”
Meanwhile, Ludwin’s company will continue to support the Albumatic photo-sharing app, but the team will no longer be actively developing it.
“The Albumatic app is doing fine in terms of numbers,” he said. “The truth that everyone knows and no one wants to say is that if you’re a mobile app, you’re either growing very, very fast and you’re one of the three that matter, or you’re one of everyone else. Why overexert ourselves in such a highly saturated market when we had this wide open opportunity that we could really execute on?”
Behind the scenes, Ludwin said the Koa.la team (including new CTO Ryan Smith) has built a platform that will allow it to rapidly build a number of Kik apps and experiment with different approaches.
“We’re not trying to build Clash of Clans,” he added. “We’re not going to build really massive games because I don’t think that’s actually appropriate for a messaging concept. … They are much lighter by default than a native app.”