“StoryMark Life” is a mobile and tablet applications company for lifestyle and business that’s redefining the way we capture and share experiences. Their flagship product is “StoryMark”; an (iOS & Android) app that enables users to add up to 30 seconds of voice and ambient sound to images with innovative compression technology, known as StoryMarks.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mrs. ‘McIntyre’ regarding her start-up company “StoryMark Life” and their flagship product “StoryMark”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “StoryMark Life” and “StoryMark” are all about?
StoryMark Life is a mobile and tablet applications company for lifestyle and business that’s redefining the way we capture and share experiences.
StoryMark is an (iOS & Android) app that enables users to add up to 30 seconds of voice and ambient sound to images with innovative compression technology, known as StoryMarks.
With StoryMark, you can give a new meaning to the old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.
2. When has “StoryMark Life” been founded? And what stage is “StoryMark Life” currently at?
Although the idea for StoryMark was created years ago, development actually began in January 2012.
We officially launched in May 2012 at three conferences that month: Mom 2.0 Summit in Miami, which is a community of women bloggers; Digital Summit in Atlanta, and Internet Week and AppNation in New York City.
3. What is “StoryMark”’s business model and how does it work?
We are currently offering StoryMark for free in both the iPhone app store and Android Market, and we plan to continue to offer the app for free.
In the near future, we will be offering some sellable content to assist users in making even more fun and creative StoryMarks.
We also have plans for some partnerships that will allow for additional income.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
All of the Co-Founders are family. My sister, Cathy Kalish handles Social Outreach, and her husband Jonathan Kalish is the CEO. They came up with the original idea in 1998.
They approached my husband, Dale McIntyre, who is the Developer & President in late 2011 with an idea that evolved into StoryMark.
I am the Social Media Director and handle all social media, including blogging.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
Releasing StoryMark as a mobile app has allowed us to keep the security of the users photos in their own hands.
The photos do not have to go to our servers to be created. Other apps require the user to upload to their network, allowing strangers to view personal photos of the user.
With StoryMark, the photos stay on the user’s phone and are not shared unless THEY choose to share them.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “StoryMark Life” achieved so far?
We launched with just our iOS product, but unlike several other startup apps, we did not want to forget to include the Android users.
We were able to have the Android version developed and in the Android Market within 30 days afterwards our iOS launch.
StoryMark marries the photo and the audio together into a single file, for convenience to store and share on your own computer.
This differentiates us from our competitors who keep those files separate and do not allow you to save onto your own computer.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “StoryMark”’s competitive advantage over them?
Two products in our competitive landscape include FotoBabble and QWiPS. Both are photo/audio sharing platforms but each has its own unique approach to the marketplace.
Soundcloud’s experimental StoryWheel app could become a competitor, but the success of that project could be a bigger threat to QWiPS given their positioning as a platform and API play.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
We are very fortunate that obstacles have been very minor. We have our own in-house developer who was able to create the app from just an idea.
We were also able to quickly secure family and friends to help finance this project.
Our only real obstacle lies in the mileage distance between the partners, since they live in different states, but fortunately, there are many technologies that can help with this issue today.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
People do not natively understand the power of adding audio to a photo but we have found that once we provide them with a few scenarios such as audio of your grandmother telling stories of her photos, they immediately see the endless list of uses for our app.
We have added several examples in our blog to show users the many different ways StoryMark can be used.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We are extremely passionate about our product and our vision of how it will evolve over the next few years.
Success to us is not about a billion dollars. It’s about helping people and families more effectively and emotionally document their lives while allowing our company thrive as well.
We understand that there will be bumps in the road to success but we are willing to use those as a guide to point us in the right direction, as opposed to seeing it as discouragement.
11. If “StoryMark” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We want to stay focused on helping people share their memories. We have a few ideas for different apps that will complement StoryMark very well.
The revenue from StoryMark could fund these projects that would otherwise take longer to come to fruition.
The iPad and it’s increased screen size is going to be our next focus in our development.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “StoryMark” based on?
In 1998 two of our co-founders Jonathan and Cathy Kalish, found a miniature picture frame that allowed you to record 10 seconds of voice to go with a passport size photo.
After digital photography came around, we waited for someone to make the digital equivalent to a talking photo but they never did. So we did.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
That your original idea can change on a dime. We came up with several different ideas before it evolved into StoryMark.
Our advice to new start-ups? Do your best, but be prepared to fail, and then start moving and creating again. Technology and ideas are always changing so you have to be flexible and figure out what works.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Hopefully not funding! But with that in mind, we have been self funded from the start which has made us very cost conscious.
We are always looking for inexpensive or free ways to market ourselves.
There are plenty of ways to do so, you just have to do your research.
We anticipate that obtaining funding will be a lengthy process, so we will continue to “bootstrap” until that opportunity arises.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
People can capture & save sharp, clean pictures plus the emotion of those pictures through sound. Some people have asked, “Why not video?” Most people use their smartphones now for video, which results in a shaky, dizzy experience.
Anyone who has ever tried texting or e-mailing video files that are too large knows that they are going to end up getting kicked back.
16. How did customers/users find out about you?
We started by presenting the app at Mom 2.0 Summit, which is a conference for women bloggers.
We expanded to Digital Summit in Atlanta and AppNation in NYC.
We released Press Releases at the launch of both the iOS and Android apps.
We have also started adding informative posts to our blog at least twice a week, and then notifying our followers on both Facebook and Twitter.
17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?
We started off thinking families would use this the most – taking pictures & recording voices of grandparents, children, etc.
We then realized that teenagers enjoyed being able to “one-up” each other through StoryMarks.
People have also let us know that they are now using it for vertical markets such as real estate, travel, restaurants, & even the medical field. It’s very open-ended.
18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
Being self funded, we have relied on Twitter, Facebook, and every social media avenue we could find to get the word out there.
We have found that blogging has increased our SEO tremendously so I have joined every blogging site I can find and post regularly.
It’s all about getting the name out there. Make it interesting and people want to find out more.
19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?
It’s extremely easy to use, which was one of our priorities. We call it “mom proof”, meaning if our own moms (who are not very smartphone savvy) could use it, then pretty much anyone could too.
We wanted to make a simple product that was easy to navigate so that people would continue to use the product. Generally if it’s difficult to figure out people move on.
20. How are you going to scale?
We realized that fortunately, there are many, many services out there to help startups such as us scale quickly.
From RackSpace to Amazon Web Services and many others, you can quickly procure servers, databases, and file storage.
Scaling for us actually turned out to be one of the least of our challenges.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
We have a tremendous amount of very creative users who are constantly giving us neat ideas.
One of the most asked for is the ability to reply to a StoryMark with your own message after one has been sent to you.
Teens use this to “one-up” each other, and businesses use this for responding to messages without losing the key photo or documentation.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We are absolutely going to internationalize. Our first step is to provide our app translated to as many languages as possible. To expand into areas we have translated for, we are planning a strategic series of press releases.
Supporting issues in multiple languages will be a challenge but there are services that can assist that we are currently assessing.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We personally have no idea how big we can get, but our goals are to grow monthly.
We have found that attending conferences to create relationships, strategic blogging, and word-of-mouth have been our most successful ways to gain users.
We are constantly looking for additional ways to promote the app, while staying on a bootstrap budget.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
On our “family and friends” bootstrap budget, we are not hiring any new employees but as we grow and obtain VC funding, we will absolutely be hiring new people into the company.
Currently, all work is being completed by our in-house developer. Applicants can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will certainly let the developing community know when we are at a place to expand our company.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
We have been self-funded from the start and are prepared to continue to be self-sustainable throughout the near future.
However, we are currently preparing and hoping for VC or Angel funding by early to mid 2013.
We would be very interested in speaking with any funding sources.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Stay the course, but never be afraid to change the course. Figure out what works for your company and do it.
There are so many free ways of marketing your product or company but you just have to take the time to find them and then work them.
It can be mentally exhausting but it’s absolutely worth it.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
StoryMark in a nutshell: It’s a basic, simple idea. You take a photo and add up to 30 seconds of audio. That’s enough time to tell a good story.
We wanted to keep the files a good size for email and texting. The file is about the same size as the original image from an iPhone and everyone is used to emailing those.
Once recorded, the app marries the audio and image, which can then be shared on social networks or saved to the user’s iPhone library.