For digital advertising agencies, finding stock photos for a campaign is pretty standard, but accessing the right images is not always simple. And then there is a seemingly endless amount of photos on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites, but you cannot simply lift them without the owner’s permission. London-based startup Lobster has decided to do something about it, creating a marketplace through which social-media users can license and sell their photos for a small fee (depending on the type and quality of content. Starts at $0.99 for an Instagram photo, $1.99 for Flickr, and $2.99 for an Instagram video), thus cashing in on cool content that they may have created and boosting their profile in the process.
The platform is pretty simple to use, as buyers type in their keyword and then begin filtering content down by relevance or date, by type (photo or video), by location, by resolution, or by the platform (Flickr or Instagram for now, but Lobster is adding DeviantArt, Vimeo, Twitter, Vine, and others in the coming months). Prices are listed on each piece of content, so there is little mystery in that regard. On the other side, users can simply connect their social-media accounts (log in once with their Instagram or Flickr on Lobster’s website), agree to license their content, and receive payment through PayPal when their content is used. Lobster says they generate revenue by keeping 25% of the price of the photo and they are also introducing a subscription service for agencies, while envisioning new business models around premium accounts.
The team behind Lobster began working on the project 2 years ago, opening their private beta in late 2013 and publicly launching for agencies in October 2014 on the stage at a TechCrunch event. During that time, a pair of experiences, which included getting into the Wayra UK accelerator and pitching at TechCrunch Battlefield Europe in London, gave the startup a solid bit of publicity and connections, which boosted their growth.
Lobster was funded by the founders, prior to obtaining to investment totalling $100,000 from Wayra UK, the London-based branch of a group of accelerators managed by Spanish telco giant Telefonica. It is worth noting that their participation in the program allowed the team to not only obtain funding and access office space, but to get Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas in the UK for two of the founders (the third founder lived in London already) as the team, having international experience, originates from Russia. The second, pre-seed round of around $150,000 Lobster was closed with a group of angel investors (including Russian firm SmartHub) in January, short after graduating from Wayra in December. This has given the company time and speed to implement a number of technological advances, released this week, and boost business development with some of the big names in media. Egorsheva says that they are planning to announce another funding round within the next few weeks, so we will be on the lookout for that.
The startup reports that they currently have 1,700 active users, but note the number of photos and videos in their database, a figure that currently stands at more than 290,000, is the metric that receives more of their focus.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” as they say, and that seems to be the case here, as startup co-founder and CEO Olga Egorsheva tells me that she was inspired to develop the platform as a result of challenges in her own marketing work in the corporate and startup world. She decided that it was illogical that millions of photos on social media were there, but not accessible to buy instead of boring and expensive traditional photostock. To bridge that gap, she teamed up with Maria Iontseva and Andrey Dmitriev and they moved to create their own marketplace.