“The problem is that creative professionals cannot find what they need on social media and, importantly, access those photos and videos in a legal way for their work” – CEO and co-founder, Olga Egorsheva
Do you think you might be able to make some money by selling your Instagram photos? Or maybe you run a website and want to make sure you have the right to post the images you like.
Either way, Lobster can help. The digital photo marketplace, which says it aims to become the Etsy for social media content, raised $151, 000 in an angel investment round last month. It had previously raised $235,000 in two rounds.
When Lobster CEO Olga Egorsheva was drafting prototypes for various startup projects, she had a problem finding interesting photos that were easy for her to use legally. So she teamed up with Andrey Dmitriev, a photographer, and Maria Iontseva, a user experience designer who (like the other two) is originally from Russia but (unlike them) lives in London, where the three of them based their company in 2013.
“The problem is that creative professionals cannot find what they need on social media and, importantly, access those photos and videos in a legal way for their work,” Egorsheva told Geektime.
Growing their stock
After joining the Wayra U.K. accelerator last year, Lobster increased its user-generated stock images from 3,000 photos to 100,000 photos and videos. Since December, that number has doubled to 200,000. Type in, say, “school” and you get 690 results, including a photo of a Hello Kitty figurine sitting on a chair and two girls in what look like prom dresses.
Lobster takes a 25 percent commission on all transactions and pays photographers 75 percent of all revenue, with the price per photo set at between 99 cents and $2.99, depending on content. The price per photo will be able to grow in the future, based on a photographer’s sales and the ratings of that photographer’s images and video or audio footage.
The startup plans to use its latest investment to double its content library again, to 400,000 items, by April. At that point, the startup plans to raise more money to get to 1 million users, up from just 200 in 2013 and 1,500 last month.
Over the next few months, it also plans to focus on a find-and-request feature that allows users to search multiple social media platforms for specific kinds of photos. With one click, they will be able to get automatically curated search results and ask permission to use the image, getting an answer within 24 hours.
Competitors include other image providers like Getty, iStockphoto, Shutterstock, Corbis and Dreamstime, but Lobster says it differs from those companies because it is not trying to change the user behavior of people who already post photographs to social media and photo-sharing sites like Instagram, Twitter and Flickr. Instead, Lobster benefits from the billions of images already available on those platforms, making it “easy for the users to start licensing this content and makes room for partnerships with social media,” said Egorsheva.
Lobster says it has a simpler selection and approval process than its competitors and offers unrestricted license for photo use. To sell photos or video or audio footage, social media users can either go to Lobster and register their Instagram or Flickr accounts and then post as normal, or just add the hashtag #ilobsterit to items people want to be viewed on Lobster. No app is needed.
The startup sees potential buyers as including ad agencies, bloggers and anyone running a website on platforms like Wix or Weebly or placing an ad on global marketplace Fiverr – all platforms with which Lobster says it seeks to integrate its service.
“We believe passionately in the power of social media content, which will scale dramatically in the next few years,” said Egorsheva. “By authorizing their social network accounts at Lobster, users contribute to creating a worldwide space where social media content is used ethically and everyone is rewarded.”