A picture is worth a thousand words. But for photographer and entrepreneur Ng Boon Chin, Co-founder, Ubersnap, a Singapore-based photo sharing website for shutterbugs, the words don’t come easy.
One night, he found himself thinking about how he could better express emotions or experiences through images. And then he had an epiphany — by adding sound to images, photographers can tell their stories better. In fact, in the right hands, he said, it can be a compelling storytelling medium.
Having officially incorporated in May 2012, and launched its beta version in March 2014, Ubersnap targets professional photographers who would like to share their images. However, the platform did not originally allow the current embedding of sound.
“Right from the start, we have always involved our users in building our product. We saw a very positive response to the prototype we built within a day for adding sound to photos, and decided that it had to be the next feature we released,” added Ng. He also said that even before building the product, he had gone out to talk to more than 50 photographers.
Since Ubersnap does not own an internal library or audio bank, users can use the in-app recorder to get creative. However, this does not seem to cause sort of copyright infringement, as the audio duration is seven seconds, which falls below the limit of 30 seconds for copyrighted material. Vine and Apple’s iTunes are two good examples. In Vine’s case, all clips run for a maximum of six seconds. Apple’s iTunes, on the other hand, plays 30 seconds of copyrighted music for preview purposes.
The startup has received investment from QuestVC under the i.JAM scheme, which is managed by the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore. Ng told e27, “I was impressed by what he (James Tan, Managing Partner, QuestVC) had achieved and how genuine he was in helping entrepreneurs. I also loved his portfolio; Carousell and Burpple are two products I really like.” (Sic)
Unlike Carousell and Burpple, who are both mobile-first startups, Ubersnap is entirely web-first. That has, of course, got to do with the fact that most of their users are not casual point-and-shoot camera users, and traditionally edit and share photos on their laptops or desktops.
“We are saying, ‘Let’s put this in the hands of the most creative photographers and storytellers we know and see what they can do with it'”, said Ng. However, this is no novelty idea. “Retention and referrals are two key metrics for any consumer startup. The idea has to be fundamentally compelling, then you can build the right habit loops to make the product sticky. As an example, we increased retention by over 3x by implementing email notifications that are relevant to each individual user,” he explained.
Does Ubersnap face competition from established photography sites such as Flickr and 500px? Ng said that no user has come up to him to ask what the difference is, which means that it is clear to these photographers that Ubersnap provides a different sort of service.