Snapguide, the crowdsourced, how-to app founded by a veteran from Yahoo Pipes and another from Google’s Chrome business, is not yet focused on generating revenue, but it’s quietly building up a platform with an eye to doing so very soon. Today, the startup is announcing two pieces of news that will help it get there: another funding injection of $3 million; and a redesign of its iPhone app to coincide with the release of Apple’s iOS 7.
The funding takes the total raised to date by Snapguide to $10 million, with the app first launching last year. Daniel Raffel, the ex-Yahoo co-founder, describes it as an inside round from existing investors (they include Atlas Venture, Index, SV Angel, CrunchFund (Disclaimer: Michael Arrington, founder of TC, runs CrunchFund) and Dave Morin’s Slow Ventures), and when it finally closes could “potentially be a bit more.”
The new investment plays directly into how Snapguide is now shifting gears. Up to now, the mainstay at the company has been designers and engineers — at one point earlier this year, Raffel said the staff consisted of 3 designers and six engineers, and no one else. For Raffel and co-founder Steve Krulewitz, starting out has been very methodical, with the main focus being building a beautiful product that people will want to use both to express themselves and to learn something new.
The resulting app, built as a mobile-first experience, is very visual, very easy to use and also — for those among us who are more of the window shopping variety — actually very fun to browse and lose yourself in.
Today’s iPhone update takes that even further, with bigger images, much faster loading times and improved discovery. Specifically, using one of the new features in iOS 7, you can now search simultaneously for specific guides, specific users and guide requests (the latter is a feature Snapguide launched in July this year to encourage more engagement on the platform). This was a hustle for Snapguide, Raffel says: “We started the project four weeks ago and submitted last week. This was a fast turnaround and we’re really proud of it.” The same updates will be rolled out on iPad and web in due course.
With very little marketing (save for press coverage and some key promoting slots from Apple on the App Store, including during last week’s iPhone 5s and 5c reveal), Snapguide has picked up over 2 million uniques each month, with a further “tens of millions” visiting the website. Not eHow.com numbers, to be sure, but achieved by way of a dedicated group and an app that now become the building blocks for stage two of Snapguide’s growth.
“We have built a corpus that will be strong and that can be monetized,” Raffel says. “What we’re going to be focused on now is continuing to grow that corpus.”
Raffel says one of the key purposes of raising the extra funding will be to some expertise in sales and marketing. They are already interviewing people now, he says, and new staff will be expected to hit the ground running. “As soon as we have people in the marketing role, that’s when we will begin in earnest,” he says.
As for what that new commercial focus may entail, this is still to be made specific but there are a number of areas where Snapguide can go.
For starters, not unlike another mobile-first, visually engaging social site by the name of Instagram, there are already a number of brands already informally on Snapguide. They include Build.com, Real Simple, Kate Spade New York, Steve Madden and publications such as BARE Magazine — plus many more. These would be obvious first ports of call for more formal partnerships to produce content and promote it through Snapguide’s discovery algorithm.
There is also the idea of using the quality content that Snapguide’s community of individuals is producing: that could see Snapguide offering a guide marketplace, and maybe even a place where people could sell the very things they’ve shown you how to make. Or it could see Snapguide working with guide producers to help promote brands.
Raffel notes that what Snapguide has amassed is “highly structured data” that could potentially be a strong basis for helping advertisers target their promotions in better ways. And there will likely be a feature added soon for contests among Snapguide’s users — another place where sponsorship could easily sit.
And while mobile remains the core of the experience, there are more features coming to its web presence, too: soon users will be able to upload guides there as well.
“Do I think that we can make money against Snapguide? Yes, it’s just a question of timing,” says Raffel.
What’s perhaps most interesting is that with a service like Snapguide’s you are already stepping into the realm of creating products and transactions with people — however free they may be. In a world where we have seen a lot of backlash when consumer-focused social media sites — very non-commercial in their ethos — have started to turn on the revenue-generating machine, that could be a very useful quality when it will come down to monetizing that content, and Snapguide growing up.