APP ILLUMINATION Shoto is a new app that allows friends to share their photos with the buddies that were there when they were taken, or the whole world if they chose to. The exciting thing about Shoto is it is simple to use and cross platform, making this app something of a brand new revolution in social networking picture collaboration. Here we chat with CEO of Shoto, Sachin Dev Duggal.
Smart Chimps: Here's some background on Shoto. It was launched officially on Halloween, 31 October this year. It is a cross platform private photo sharing app that automatically creates smart albums that unite all the photos taken together by a group of friends in a social network style of sharing.
SC: Tell us about Shoto and what it can do that is interesting and unique.
Sachin Dev Duggal: Shoto magically shares photos with the friends who you're with and all of this is done automatically. The three things that make Shoto stand out are firstly, we work out who was with you when you took your photographs and share them automatically without you needing to create an album, select photos and invite friends. When someone launches shoto, all of their photos are automatically organised intelligently into albums and backed up (at launch, shoto users have unlimited storage). shoto looks at the user's phonebook and matches these albums with those from friends that were also present in the same location at the same time. For example, if a group of friends all download shoto, they will instantly have access to each other's shared memories automatically, without any work.
Secondly, we let you control privacy using only three levels (me, friends with me, world) at an app, album or photo level. By making it effortlessly easy for users to control what others see, it removes the complexity of managing permissions and lists altogether. Users can choose from 'me' 'friends there' or 'world' through an easy to use circle gesture that can be set at an app, album or photo level. Privacy and control is instant in shoto, meaning that as the privacy setting are changed, photos appear or disappear from everyone else's phone magically and even retrospectively.
And thirdly, because we work out who is a friend and in what context, we also let you invite people who were not there to just see your photos effortlessly without needing to email them. For those moments where photos need to be shared with the people who weren't there but who care, shoto makes it easy to send an album with a note. When the album is shared, only the photos taken by the sender will show up, because shoto believes that the photos belong to the person who took them.SC: Why did you decide to develop Shoto? What inspired the idea and where and how did you begin working on it?
Sachin: Shoto was born when I, while gazing at Half Dome on a road trip to Yosemite, US asked my friends how they would all get each others' photos. The rigmarole that was involved in everyone getting each other's pictures from the trip was nothing short of confusing, complicated and just frustrating.
That's when I realised that even in 2012, with hundreds of photo sharing apps, it was still a complex picture-by-picture affair. The ultimate question: 'Why is it so hard to create smart albums that have the right photos from the right people?' still remained unanswered.
As the Shoto team formed and they did more homework, they realised that most people today are overwhelmed by their photos, find them painful to share, and sometimes even forget about photos that were taken! Coupled with the increasingly ever-so-frequent-precursor of 'please don't put this online' this clearly showed a gap for the 1.5 billion-plus pictures taken daily on a smartphone.
We believe sharing shouldn't be hard work and that doing this privately is the new way of being social.
We started work in January 2013 and spent the first few months just talking to users and understanding what they liked and disliked about the current sharing and organising process. In fact, we asked them a lot about how they related to their photos.
SC: During the development process, what barriers, difficulties or challenges did you run into and how did you work your way around them, or steam straight through them?
Sachin: Not having a product to show when doing customer development is hard, especially with consumers who don't necessarily have the time to conceptualise.Getting into a space known as photo sharing that's clustered, flustered and overtly crowded doesn't help in fund raising nor in messaging. It does, however, help that there is no leader in private sharing and that the leaders today are in photo broadcasting and journalism, a la Instragram. And that 1.2 billion photos are still left behind on a smartphone everyday. The next challenge is always the same for any young company, finding and hiring talent, which, in today's world of everyone wanting to either work in a big company or be a start up entrepreneur, is excruciatingly difficult.
As with everything you buckle down, home in on vision and keep pushing ahead.SC: You've chosen Android and iOS for Shoto. What do you think about developing for Windows Phone? Is it worth it?Sachin: As a young company we need to focus our resources on the largest audiences; naturally we will move pass Android and iOS when we have solved the problem there. We are also looking at wearable computer systems and screens and browser-based ideas that may give us a quick win on the multi dimensioned device war!SC: Marketing an app is a challenge to many developers; how are you planning on spreading the word about Shoto? (Ads/partnering/word of mouth?)
Sachin: At the moment through you 🙂 Only kidding! We are looking at a combination of a core group of early users that will help us get to product market fit and then we are working with Facebook on Sponsored Installs and a few others around this.
Finally, we are evaluating more strategic partnerships that would allow us active customer base access and them something unique to offer their users plus great (anonymous) access to insights about their user base as a whole. We don't ever give up customer data, as we don't actually know much about a user except his phone number!SC: Do you have further development plans for Shoto up your sleeve, or are you already working on your next project? Any clues?
Sachin: The upcoming app release only starts to touch on some of what we are working on. As we continue to build out the app, we are pushing the envelope on building a service that thinks like you do about your memories and moments, everything from search for 'photos from favourite restaurants last summer' to contextual reminiscing when you come back to somewhere you've been before that will be visible on any screen, even the ones that you wear on your nose.
SC: Thanks Sachin! Good luck with the launch!