Foap Launches in the U.S. and the UK to Turn Anyone’s Photos Into Cash

Swedish startup Foap is broadening its availability today, providing access to both its iPhone app and web-based marketplace to U.S.- and UK-based users. The startup’s expansion comes hot on the heels of its initial launch in the Nordic European countries less than a month ago, and given its early traction, should set the stage for some significant growth.

With Foap, anyone can upload their own photos (either shot on the phone or pre-existing snaps uploaded from a camera) for sale on the site’s marketplace, which organizes images based on tags and charges $10 per license for their use. Of that $10, half goes to a user and half to Foap, which is a fair deal in the world of online stock photography. Foap isn’t exactly stock photography, however, even though it’s aimed at the same kind of buyer; according to founders David Los and Alexandra Bylund, it’s meant to be a much more contextually based tool that helps businesses and ad agencies find unique assets for their products, using much more specific criteria than what’s currently available on sites like iStockphoto.

“I worked previously in a Swedish travel agency, and we bought five to ten photos a day from iStockphoto,” Bylund explained, describing why Foap provides a better alternative for agencies looking for media sources. “The problem was that even if they have a huge amount of pictures, it’s difficult to find a photo that’s natural, and that has faces customers will recognize as resembling themselves.” With Foap, a Swedish travel agency could look for images from Swedish users on vacation, which will make them that much more likely to resonate with their audience.

And for users, the value proposition is clear: Since you’ll be taking photos with your smartphone anyway, why not make it available to purchase? There’s no downside so long as you have the option to pick and choose what from your camera roll you share, and it’s basically found money, since otherwise most would never think to monetize their smartphone pics on their own.

“Everybody has a camera now, and that wasn’t the case a few years ago,” Los said. “Basically, you don’t need to be a professional photographer in order to snap great photos. Normal people snap amazing photos nowadays, and we want to utilize that and give an easy and fun platform with which to sell the photos almost friction-free.” Users are paid out through PayPal, too, which most who have smartphones and are savvy enough to find and sign up for Foap will likely have anyway, so getting paid out is fairly painless, and payouts happen in the same month for pictures bought prior to the 15th, and the next for ones purchased after.

Foap could potentially compete with other companies like the yet-to-launch Spread, or even with Flickr and 500px‘s photo sales and licensing options. But the startup isn’t targeting journalistic use yet, and it’s providing tools like assignments brands and companies can create to source specific materials from Foap users if they can’t find what they’re looking for, which in a future iteration will command a higher rate for photographers than normal.

The site is aimed at unlocking the inventory already stored on people’s phones, which should attract users so long as it can raise awareness about the product and get the millions of smartphone photographers already actively shooting on board. But Foap’s biggest challenge may lie in its ability to scale. Already, the startup has had around 12,000 downloads, with over 40,000 images uploaded by its users. Each image has to be approved by a human being before being made available, a step Foap takes to ensure quality. Once U.S. and UK users come on board, the workload of those approving the images could increase dramatically.

Bylund and Los say they are prepared, and plan to employ facial recognition tech and other automated strategies to steadily improve the rate at which it can approve images, minimizing the need for human interaction. As startups increasingly look to give smartphone users a way to earn cash for their photos, whether for brand or journalistic use, Foap will have to scale if it wants to compete with the big stock photography sites.

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