A Q&A with Olapic co-founder Jose de Cabo. The New York City–based company was founded in the Summer of 2009 and raised $1 million in Seed funding in late July. Investors include Bonobos, Warby Parker, Great Oaks Venture Capital, Brad Harrison Ventures, Columbia University’s Lang Fund, and Angels. The company was founded by de Cabo and fellow Spaniards Pau Sabria and Luis Sanz, who all met at Columbia University.
SUB: Please describe Olapic, and the value proposition you offer to publishers and brands.
de Cabo: Olapic is a photo crowdsourcing tool that allows brands and publishers to display photos from their fans that were, until now, interspersed on a variety of different photo sharing networks. What this means is that brands and publishers now have the ability to start public photo conversations with their most passionate followers directly on their site.
SUB: Who are your target users?
de Cabo: Our target users are young people sharing on Twitter and Instagram—age 18-24—as well as the slightly older middle-aged crowd—age 30-45.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
de Cabo: There are several photo aggregation platforms out there, most notably Flickr, Picasa, 500px, etc. that allow users to upload high quality photos to an isolated community. We’re attempting to challenge this traditional model by bringing online audiences to the brands rather than suggest brands must scramble to interact with their fans on a bunch of different networks.
SUB: What differentiates Olapic from the competition?
de Cabo: A lot of companies in this space seem to focus on putting out an API quickly and early on. In our experience we’ve seen that brands and publishers simply don’t have the resources or time to just integrate with an API. They need a solid, reliable platform to build on top of. We’re also focused on developing ways to foster meaningful relationships between brands and their audiences. That is, more than just displaying photos.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
de Cabo: The company was founded in Summer 2009, while we were still at school. We struggled in the wedding industry as an end-user app for a while. We didn’t actually start developing the current B2B product until end of 2010. At the beginning we raised very little money from friends and family, got an office and hired our first employee. We also already had our first customer and strong interest from other leads.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Olapic? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
de Cabo: Olapic was originally meant to be a way for brides and their grooms to collect photos from friends and guests at their wedding—as opposed to hiring an expensive wedding photographer and missing out on all of those great photos people are now taking on their smartphones. We quickly found that wedding photographers have a really tough job working with couples running around on their wedding day. Our first major client in publishing was the New York Daily News. They were essential in providing quality feedback and helping to shape Olapic into the platform it is today. Also—it makes me proud to say—they’re still a happy client.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? Is there a story behind it?
de Cabo: My co-founders and I, Pau and Luis, were driving back from a trip to Vegas with a group of friends. We were all taking pictures and tagging them. It was the first time we ever used the platform, so there were of course bugs and glitches here and there. But that didn’t matter. We were in love with the whole concept from the beginning and we were telling all of our friends about it. We kept imagining a wave of pictures being aggregated using the platform. ‘Ola’ means wave in Spanish—we’re all Spaniards—so we decided to call it Olapic, i.e. wave of pictures.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
de Cabo: Getting a company off the ground is much more than a chicken and egg problem. There’s many components that have to align: recruit the right people without having the means, get the right customers, struggle while you find product market fit, and keep the morale up while you do all those things.
SUB: You just raised $1 million in Seed funding. Why was this a good time to raise this round, and how do you plan to use the new funds?
de Cabo: The timing was right, especially with the rise of photo-sharing. At the moment we’re focused on building out an awesome, talented team that clicks and works really well together. Specifically, we’re searching for a front-end and back-end developer. Know anyone?
SUB: Do you plan to raise additional funds in the near future?
de Cabo: We think that the next round will be for growth purposes. So we won’t raise until we have found a scalable growth model from the sales point of view.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
de Cabo: Right now we’re using a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model. Each of our clients pays a monthly rate to use the platform.
SUB: What are your goals for Olapic over the next year or so?
de Cabo: We’d love to see Olapic become an even better platform for fostering strong, meaningful relationships between individuals and the organizations that they are most passionate about. Right now, the majority of our clients are using Olapic to engage with their already quite large and active online communities. I think it would be really neat if we could get to a place where any company can afford Olapic and use it as a tool to build an online following and make real world changes.
Olapic – www.olapic.com