In online marketing circles content is king, but entrepreneur Matt Chlodnicki argues that’s not strictly true. “Content that people like is king,” says the founder and CEO of photo contest platform Shuttout that identifies which photos people really like and helps even amateur photographers make more money from their passion.
Millions of photos are uploaded to the Internet every day, creating a more competitive environment for those looking to sell their work. At the same time social media has exploded with billions of ‘likes’ of photos. Last year there were 4.2 billion likes on Instagram every single day. Shuttout is tapping into this trend to gather data and add social value to people’s photos. In simple terms, if you can show that people have liked your photos you stand a better chance of selling them.
Two years ago Chlodnicki was an Uber driver in his native Poland. In 2014 a previous business he’d founded, Poland’s first e-book publishing house, had gone awry, leaving him having to start again and find a way of making a living.
An avid photographer, when he wasn’t on Uber duty Chlodnicki was sharing his images on social media, and that was when he had his eureka moment. “I’d just posted some photos on Facebook when I received a link to a photo contest from a member of my family telling me to join the contest,” he says.
After studying the proposition closely he concluded that he could come up with a better way of running photo contests that would attract and benefit other passionate amateur photographers.
He launched a simple crowdfunding campaign on the Polish platform PolakPotrafi.pl to establish proof of the initial concept, and was staggered when it reached 182% of the funding target.
Chlodnicki had his proof of concept and a prototype, but in 2015 he lacked the financial resources to develop it and market it properly. “That’s when I became an Uber driver to make a living while figuring out how to solve this problem and move forward,” he says. “In the beginning I was driving mostly in the evenings and nights and working on Shuttout during the day.”
In 2017 he decided to prepare for an equity crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs, while also reaching out to existing business contacts looking for smaller investors. It was during this time that he was introduced to investor Mariusz Muszyński from Tech Invest Group SA. “I drove to the meeting which was in between Uber rides and we talked for about 40 minutes,” says Chlodnicki.
The outcome was positive and Muszyński decided to invest £100,000 ($129,000) seed money, enabling Chlodnicki to build a dedicated team, and focus on developing the final version of Shuttout. It also meant that could give up his driving job. Muszyński remains the lead investor in Shuttout and has played a key role in the Seedrs campaign that was recently launched, with a target of £550,000 ($707,000) currently, and £521,000 already secured.
Launched just over a year ago, Shuttout has attracted over 101,000 registered users from more than 180 countries, and seen over 91,000 photos uploaded to the platform. More than 486,000 votes have been cast. The original idea was to build Shuttout as a platform for hosting photo contests, using social networks and money prizes. But Chlodnicki quickly noticed that the data from the photo contests provided valuable social proof that would help photographers looking to sell their photos do it more easily and efficiently.
Chlodnicki and his team of six are based in their native Poland but he has registered the company in the U.K. He says: “We chose the U.K. because there is better access to the global market, the regulatory system is much more pro-entrepreneurial than in Poland and we wanted to focus on the business and growth, not on bureaucracy.”
While the focus is currently on growth, revenue, generated from premium, paid, entries to its photos contests, around 11% of all entries, and from subscription accounts, has exceeded $23,000.
Chlodnicki’s aim is to reach 1.5 million users by the end of 2020 and more than 6 million in 2021, and ultimately to establish the biggest social photography gallery in the world.
“Our goal is to scale up the photo contest platform and build the content and data to monetize it using social proof,” he says. “The future is also in big data, so we are planning to develop an AI-driven algorithm that can use the data we have to tell you what chance your photo has to be liked.”