(US) Portland-based PICR, a start-up which attempted to ‘Airbnb photography’, said it failed because the ‘two-sided’ marketplace is difficult to adapt to professional photography.
Vitaliy Rizhkov, founder of PICR, explained his system didn’t offer the personal experience clients want from a professional photographer, and industry supply and demand vastly varied across locations. However, Australian start-up Snappr – which secured $500,000 in investment funding – may yet prove Rizhkov wrong.
‘When we first figured out what issues photographers face in their industry, we believed that we could help solve those issues by creating a two-sided platform. The Airbnb model,’ Rizhkov said in a frank blog post. ‘It would be a tool set for photographers on one side, and a marketplace for clients on the other. It sounds simple, right? It was not.’
PICR’s co-founder saw an endless supply of amateur photographers and semi-professionals sign up ready for work – but failing to pick it up. The start-up reported it had 20,000 eager photographers on board ahead of its launch in January.
‘Most creative people don’t understand business and marketing and this is not a negative,’ he said. ‘They are wired differently and that allows their creative talents to surpass others.’
But talent doesn’t out through an impersonal platform.
‘We learned that clients rarely book photographers without getting to know them, and in some cases like wedding or family photos, without meeting with them,’ he said. ‘It’s these meetings that usually convert into a booking. What works for a business like Airbnb did not work for the photography industry.’
Rizhkov thinks there’s no simple way to Airbnb photography. Two-sided platforms, like Airbnb and Uber, have struck gold through simplicity. But a direct service-to-client marketplace for photography hasn’t taken off – yet.
Another stalled attempt – Kodakit – was rolled up the flag pole in Singapore earlier this year prior to a launch in 148 countries in the following months. No one is saluting.
Here in Australia Snappr, a start-up with a different approach but similar name, has recently emerged with a stack of investors.
One of those investors, as revealed by The Australian, is Aussie test cricket captain, Steve Smith. Smith’s company, Devereux Promotions, made the largest contribution to Snappr.
The cricketer said he’s interested in start-ups and actively searches for opportunities to become involved in companies he thinks may be successful.
The local company has been described by The Australian as the Uber for photography – after clients have a Snappr shoot, they rate the photographer.
Snappr’s founder, Matt Schiller, a graduate doctor, said that while prices start at $59 for 30 minutes – lower than the industry standard – the aim is to tap into a new photography market. Things like corporate events, family functions, portraits for dating websites and social media, where a professional shoot wouldn’t otherwise be considered.
Snappr has a strict vetting process for photographers, unlike PICR which pulled in as many as possible. The PICR photographers (and clients) struggled to understand simple pricing, from basic ‘packages’ through to ‘instant book’ options.
‘Perhaps the biggest reason we decided to change our strategy was we recognised that we didn’t have a very scalable model. Even if we achieved product market fit and a perfect supply and demand balance in Portland, we would still have to spend tremendous resources to get it in every city. And this would take a lot of time,’ he said.
Rizhkov, who isn’t a professional photographer but liaised with many, believes success comes down to ‘excellent marketing and business skills’. High prices are commanded not by talent, he says, but by building a brand that works within a marketplace.
So PICR has ‘pivoted‘. Instead of Uber’ing photography, it will design an ‘all-in-one solution’ with three main points of focus.
This will consist of software which will handle website and portfolio management, communicating with clients, managing projects, transactions and marketing; education to teach its subscribers how to ‘take better pictures’ and ‘help you start your photography business from scratch’; and building a community, where photographers can discuss what works and share their knowledge.