We had an interesting chat with Mr. “Tiberiu Ciocirlie”, Community Manager – of the London – UK based start-up “PhotoAppeal”
Below is the interview we conducted with him:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
PhotoAppeal is a new service that encourages collaborations between photographers and charities, giving photographers the opportunity to use their images for good causes, and helping charities find the best image without spending on stock images.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
PhotoAppeal was recently launched on 28th October 2014. Before going live, the platform was fully tested over 2 months with help from two of our charity partners. During this time we resolved any performance issues and made small enhancements, the service now being fully functional.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
PhotoAppeal is a social business that harnesses the power of images to generate support and engagement for our client organisations. We work with clients to design and run digital strategies and campaigns that get target communities creating and contributing photos; and we have an online platform for campaign generation, storing, accessing and using those photos in furtherance of our clients’ objectives.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
PhotoAppeal is part of a bigger project, photofoundation – an online image bank that focuses entirely on charities, providing them with free stock-quality imagery for their campaigns.
photofoundation was founded in 2011 by Javier Garcia, and our growing team now comprises a community manager, a project manager, a graphic designer and a web developer.
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?
PhotoAppeal is unique in many aspects: we focus on charity and non-profit organisations, giving them the ability to request specific graphic material for their marketing collateral. Additionally, our photographic community contributes with great images, knowing that their work will be used for good causes.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
The launch of PhotoAppeal was quickly followed by a positive response from both charities and contributors. We were excited to see that, only two days after launch, we had received 8 different image requests from 6 charity partners, over 60 images were uploaded for the requests and 9 new charities signed up to photofoundation.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
We don’t have direct competitors as we are the only service that sources stock imagery for charities and non-profits. Our competitors would be Corbis, Shutterstock, Getty Images or other stock imagery sites, however these are not directly aimed towards charities and non-profits.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Our biggest obstacles were making people understand that we are all about good causes, and that our service is completely free for charities. Some thought it was ‘too good to be true’, but we managed to clarify this through SEO and several campaigns carried out across social media platforms.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
We are encouraging people to share their images as well as their stories, because we believe the two are more powerful together. We want to create connections between people and charities.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
PhotoAppeal will be successful because of its unique features and our aim to support good causes. We give everyone the chance to support good causes without having to donate money, instead by doing something they enjoy: taking photographs.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We want to expand to an international scale – so far we are supporting over 80 UK-based charities, but in future we want to make our service available globally.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
PhotoAppeal is a unique service, allowing charities to request imagery directly from the photographic community. Because of the lack of similar services we decided to focus on this concept, combining photography and good causes, to support charities and help them connect with users and image contributors.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
Through PhotoAppeal we have learned that effective collaborations can form between charities and contributors, who feel great knowing that their work helped good causes. This is why we let our contributors know every time a charity uses their images.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
We expect that high volumes of image requests and photos uploaded will pose the biggest challenge, since we verify content personally. We’re preparing for this already and anticipate that we may have to expand our team.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Our users are given the opportunity to support good causes by doing something they love. They can share their images for charities to use or they can buy images from our image bank, with 65% of the profit going to charity.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
Initially through Orange’s ‘Do Some Good’ volunteering app, which had great impact. We continue to raise our profile through social media and Flickr outreach, and our charity partners spread the word about us through their channels.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Our users have an interest in photography, in the charity sector or, in many cases, both. Most importantly, our users want to do good, and they can support causes through their photography work, or by buying images for their projects and personal use.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
We have received great contributions from Flickr, which is a great photography community. Apart from offering photographers a rewarding way to support good causes through their work, PhotoAppeal is a competition, where the charity decides on the winning image for their request. This image will be used in the charity’s campaign, generating good publicity for the photographer.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
We receive overwhelmingly positive feedback from our users, usually followed by new image uploads, which is great. Charities are thankful for the images shared and often promote us on their networks.
20. How are you going to scale?
PhotoAppeal already receives a lot of attention from both our users and charities. Each time a new charity registers, we expand our reach to their community as well. Our aim is to go global, we are considering a partnership with a stock image bank that would help us sell the images and raise funds for charity.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
That would be the ability to support charities on an international scale. We verify each registered charity individually, and for this reason we are only accepting charities from the United Kingdom for the moment.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
By finding the best process to verify the authenticity of charities abroad, we hope to expand internationally. We are glad to help, but we need to ensure our support goes to charity and other good causes.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We are aiming as high as possible, and we see ourselves as the ‘major image bank for charity’. Having a well-defined, and well-intentioned, purpose, we want to make people aware of what we do and encourage them to contribute through photography – either buying or sharing images.
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?
For the moment our team is well configured, but I would recommend keeping an eye on our blog www.photofoundation.org/blog. In the context of expanding our platform, new vacancies will be posted in the News section.
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 are open to partnerships and also planning to release charitable projects that would require external funding. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
To follow their instinct, find a niche and start from there. Technology surrounds us and we need to make the most out of it. We have been able to prove that technology can be successfully used for good causes, making it a great, reliable tool.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
It was a pleasure taking the interview and I am looking forward to review it on your website.