Cinemagram, a startup founded in Montreal that’s now moving to San Francisco, today announced an $8.5 million Series A round via AllThingsD. The investment comes from Menlo Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Real Ventures and Atlas, and stands as an exception to the decidedly reserved climate for follow-on capital after a startup’s seed round. So what’s Cinemagram’s secret?
The app is a cinemagraph generator. If you’re not familiar with the term, that’s basically a fancy GIF. The concept was popularized by Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, fashion photographers who created the dramatic moving images that feature areas of movement in otherwise static scenes. Cinemagraph was among the first to bring this concept to mobile devices via an Instagram-style app, though the concept was also being developed by a Toronto-based studio around the same time and hit the App Store later as Flixel (which raised its first funding in July, though the amount wasn’t released). I’ve spoken with both teams, who have different visions about what users are looking for in this category of product.
Cinemagram seems to be winning out, with its focus on in-stream animated previews, and its early-mover advantage (though rival Kinoptic actually predated both it and Flixel). The app recently claimed a rate of growth of around 100,000 new users per day according to AllThingsD, and though that has since dropped to the tens of thousands, growth remains steady. The app also shifted earlier this year from a paid to a freemium model, following the introduction of Flixel which debuted as a free app, and that has likely helped its continued adoption.
A big part of Cinemagram’s appeal to investors, besides its similarity to previous superstar Instagram, is that it manages to be a way for users to share video-like content without the hassle involved in video. Few mobile video apps have managed to capture widespread consumer attention for very long, and for good reason: making video, even mobile ones, is a time-consuming process that involves a lot more work than snapping a photo. With Cineamagram, users get a product that is nearly as visually interesting as video, but also much easier to produce and consume – load times and bandwidth requirements are way below what you’d get with full mobile video. And refinements to the product, including frequent updates to help with image stabilization, mean that users can come on board quite easily and make their own “cines” (what Cinemagram calls its GIF-like images) quickly.
Cinemagram’s plans for the funding reportedly involve building out its backend to handle additional scale, according to co-founder Temo Chalasani speaking to AllThingsD. In a phone interview I conducted with Chalasani, he said that the company is actively and aggressively hiring new talent as well.
“We have some of the highest engagement in mobile social apps, and they saw what kind of a team we had and how we were able to make products and they invested in that,” Chalasani added, discussing how this round came together. “It was actually an extended, gradual process where we worked with our investors and they saw what we were capable of, rather than any one thing.”
The company behind Cinemagram, Factyle, raised $150,000 in seed funding from Real Ventures, and raised an additional $1 million convertible note during this past summer from the same investors who participated in this round. Menlo’s Shervin Pishevar also joins the Cinemagram board as part of the funding arrangement.