Toronto-based cloud photo storage, backup and management startup Shoebox has raised a $1.2 million seed round, the company told TechCrunch exclusively today. The round is led by Canada’s BDC Venture Capital, and includes local angel investor Mario Pozzuoli. Shoebox’s initial round of funding comes as it drops the “My” from its name (it launched as MyShoebox) and introduces some crucial new features via updates to its range of apps.
The updates include new ways to surface pictures from a user’s stored library of photos, bringing them to the attention of the people who took them but may have forgotten all about individual photos in their collection. Shoebox’s early efforts were focused on making sure that it could nail the backup and organization of huge photo collections, and it has done that, with users adding collections in the tens of thousands range to the cloud-based service. The startup also managed to get apps out on virtually every platform right from the start, which is no small feat. Now, however, it’s turning its attention to unlocking the value of those collections for their owners and creators.
“My favorite new feature is that the lock screen on Android becomes a rotating gallery of all your old photos,” Shoebox founder and CEO Steve Cosman explained in an interview. “We’ve been basically focusing on how to get people to actually […] come back and look at their old photos, how to get them to re-engage with photos they took eight years ago. Getting 20,000 photos is a lot easier than getting people to actually use their old photos.”
The focus on highlighting the value inherent in a user’s own collection is about building product loyalty and improving engagement and return use rates. Shoebox now offers auto-upload features that put it on par with services like those offered by Google and Dropbox for mobile photo backup, but Cosman thinks part of the key to standing apart from those offerings is making sure users can do something with those photos once they’re safely stored. That’s why it created ‘This day in history’ digest emails, and why it’s working with Google Chromecast.
“How do you make 10 years of photos interesting? Backing them up is very utilitarian and very important, but increasingly our focus is actually getting people into the app,” Cosman said. “Instragram and tons of others do something interesting with the last 20 photos you took, but how do you get people looking at the awesome stuff they took in 2006, or the last time you were in New York? […] We call it contextual rediscovery.”
That means using signals about where a person is and offering them up moments that remind them of that place, and performing other kinds of memory-based magic using photo metadata and information that smartphones gather all the time. Building these kinds of features is a lot easier with Android, Cosman admits, but they’re experimenting with Google’s mobile platform and also plan to bring what they can to iOS and other destinations as time and tech allow.
Shoebox may be facing increasing competition from companies like Dropbox, which launched Carousel earlier this month, but Cosman says they’re very happy with the revenue being generated by their current paid offering (unlimited web resolution backups are free, but full res will cost you a monthly subscription) and they’re focused on differentiating through features like the kind of discovery profiled above.