Storytree, the 500 Startups-backed company originally focused on capturing and sharing family memoirs online and via mobile, is today announcing a new application called SimplePrints. Inspired by Storytree’s previous efforts in preserving memorable moments, the new app allows you to build photo books using your iPhone photos or those stored online.
The company soft-launched its latest iOS application a few months ago to begin a quiet, but not private, beta test of this concept, designed to make creating photo books faster, easier, and more affordable.
Although there are several photo-album building tools out there, SimplePrints is most similar to another new application called Mosaic, the photo-book app built by the former Yobongo team, acquired by Mixbook in March. In fact, Storytree co-founder Matt Sullivan shares some of the same ideas Mosaic does – namely, that making photo books has for too long been a cumbersome and time-consuming process.
“If you look at the existing players out there, like Shutterfly, we constantly hear people telling us ‘I spent weekends building this book. It’s great when I have it, but it’s such a painful process to get there,'” Sullivan explains.
The company originally experimented with the idea of print by integrating the Sincerely plug-in into Storytree, which lets users print postcards from the app to mail to family and friends. Users then began asking if they could print their whole “story tree,” which prompted the team to consider the photo book space.
The company decided to launch the new product on mobile for simplicity’s sake. “For us, it seemed like a no-brainer because most of our users have their pictures on their phones, and even getting your pictures from your phone to your computer is an added step,” Sullivan says. “And the other interesting thing is that a lot of time spent creating a book is spent selecting the photos you want to use. People have thousands of photos on their camera roll.”
Sullivan says that going through all those photos on a PC, such as with Shutterfly and the like, can be a major project. “But with the mobile app, you can do that in pieces…you can spend five minutes here and there selecting them,” he adds.
To make the process even simpler, SimplePrints also allows users to skip dealing with the camera roll altogether, allowing users to print photos from Facebook or Instagram. An option to print an entire Facebook album is under way. And for those who still need access to photos from their computers, a workaround has the app email you a URL where you’ll find a photo uploader.
The resulting books are a step down from Mosaic’s in terms of quality. They’re bound in soft covers – like a thick paper stock – while Mosaic’s books are hard cover (a thicker cardboard) with a unique design and box. That said, SimplePrints’ books are more affordable. (Mosaic’s books are $20 for 20 photos, but SimplePrints books are $9.95 for 20 photos.) Although Sullivan admits they may introduce a hardcover option in the future, he believes that by making the price point more reasonable, users will print books more often.
Going forward, the company plans to iterate on the design and features, which, so far, they’ve kept fairly basic on purpose. The more customization you add, the more complicated the app, Sullivan explains, echoing Mosaic’s beliefs here, too. He says the company is now thinking of building a new app from the ground up, which would tie together Storytree and SimplePrints into a new experience. And while Sullivan mentioned some interesting ideas involving a “digital bookshelf” of sorts, work on that app has not yet begun.
In addition to the seed funding from 500 Startups, Storytree raised an angel round of less than $500,000 this March using AngelList. Investors include The Designer Fund, Christina A. Brodbeck of YouTube’s founding team, Henry Parry-Okeden of Oakview Group, Orchestra founder Gentry Underwood, and a few others.
The SimplePrints app is a free download here in iTunes.