Foap, an app that lets users sell their iPhone photos, announced today that since it launched in June over 1.4 million images have been uploaded to the app, with almost one million of them approved for purchase by media agencies and anyone else looking for crowdsourced stock photography. BetaKit covered the Swedish startup earlier in the summer when it expanded its availability to the U.S and UK, and predicted it would be seeing significant growth given its early traction. In addition to the app’s growing photo database, the company also announced that it has added $500,000 in funding from Jade Global Investments.
Co-founder and former Tripl founder David Los attributes the company’s growth to a first-mover advantage in offering iPhone users an opportunity to monetize photos already stored on their phone, and a solid revenue model. “We were the absolute first offering iPhone users to make money on their iPhone photos, and I think the interest in photography has exploded totally, so we launched at the perfect time. But we also have a very clear revenue model and we add value for both the users and for the photo buyers who get a lot of fresh and natural content to use,” said Los in an interview.
It also announced that later next week it will be adding a new commission structure, so users who invite their friends to the community will earn 10 percent from those users’ sales for the following year, taken out of Foap’s cut rather than the photographer’s. It licences its photos out to buyers for a flat $10 and splits the profits 50/50 with the photographer who uploaded the photo. Although Los didn’t comment on the average earnings of users on the platform, he did say that the larger a collection and the wider the range of photos in their portfolio, the more successful the user.
Another issue the startup was facing when BetaKit last covered Foap last was being able to scale as it originally was requiring its staff to prescreen and approve every single photo uploaded before making it available for sale on the site. Since then, the company has switched to community rating model, so before being approved a photo needs to receive a 2.5 average rating from a minimum of five other Foap users.
“We got so many [photos], once we launched, in the beginning we had a team reviewing all the photos, and we still have them but they’re more or less reviewing all the photos in the background,” Los added. “But we realized because we got overloaded with photos that this would be impossible to manage with a human review team. At the same time we were getting emails from users asking why we were deciding if this photo is good or not for sale. So now the community is deciding whether your photo gets approved or not.”
The trend of enabling mobile photographers to sell their wares has only grown given the popularity and adoption of Instagram and citizen photojournalism. Startups like Instacanvas provide an opportunity for users to buy and sell their Instagram photos as printed canvass, and Spread, still in private beta, helps users sell their-on-the ground mobile photo coverage to news and media companies. There are also a number of stock photo companies, in addition to startups like 500px that provide photo sales and licensing options. Los said he believes Foap’s biggest differentiators are its new rating features, and the the earning potential it provides for photos that would otherwise just be sitting on a user’s smartphone.
The company gears its iPhone app, which to date has had 150,000 downloads, towards community building and photo discovery for users while recognizing its web portal as more of a place for buyers to find what they’re looking for. It will be looking to release an Android shortly, in addition to allowing buyers to post ‘photo-missions’, where they can request and build their own image libraries and offer additional incentives like gift cards. With its new commission structure and community approval features, Foap is positioning itself to ramp up growth and scale to meet the growing demand for its service.