A startup called Kicksend has grown at over 30% for the last six months by helping customers share, print, and send their photos to whomever they want.
The company grossed $10,000 this March and launched itself to more than $150,000 of revenue this September.
Kicksend is pioneering in the "app commerce" category, providing customers with a fast and straightforward experience of purchasing photos through its app. We caught up with cofounder and CEO Pradeep Elankumaran to learn more about the company.
BUSINESS INSIDER: What's wrong with the current state of sharing pictures?
PRADEEP ELANKUMARAN: There are a lot more people taking photos than there used to be, thanks to the prevalence of cheaper smartphones with better and better cameras.
The majority of photo apps right now focus on sharing ephemeral photos or ones you take randomly that you don't care so much about, but they wind up providing a nice rush of endorphins when people like them on Facebook or Instagram. We focus on helping you do more with the other photos that you do care deeply about and usually don't share publicly – pictures of specific people, captured in places and moments of time that can't be easily reproduced. Kicksend's app helps you share and print those photos easily and privately with just the people you love.
BI: How does Kicksend work?
PE: Our roots are in helping non-technical people move large batches of large files around, which is an extremely frustrating experience. For most people, photos are an even more frustrating subset of this problem, since most of the time you would want to share photos with others and there's always anxiety and difficulty around both sharing them easily and having your recipients have a good experience without having to jump through hoops.
Kicksend builds apps that helps you easily select hundreds of photos, group them together as albums and send them instantly from your phone to any email or phone number. We also help you turn those albums into prints right from your smartphone, and integrate with the biggest retailers in the country for one-hour pickup – CVS, Target, Walgreens, Duane Reade, and announcing today, Walmart. In total, we print to over 19k stores nationwide. We also help you stay in touch better by sending these photos as prints to doorsteps of your family members anywhere in the US, Canada or Mexico.
The process is dead-simple in any of our apps. To share photos digitally, select photos, select recipients from your contact list, press '"Send." To order prints, select photos, choose a store nearby or enter addresses for home delivery, press 'Print.'
BI: How did you guys get your first investment?
PE: We got into Y Combinator in the summer of 2011, launched our web app, received $1.8 million by True Ventures and Digital Garage and switched our focus to photos after we realized the majority of our customers were (like us) sharing mostly photos. The first year (2011), it was just my co-founder Brendan Lim and I working together remotely. I was in California, he was in Atlanta. He would use up his airline miles that he had saved up and fly to California every two weeks so we could work in person. We whipped up an office in the second bedroom of my place and started coding up our first product – a Mac desktop app that helped non-technical people share files easily from their desktop. We were burning through all of our savings pretty fast and were asking everyone we knew to figure out how we could get investment. At the beginning, we knew nobody in the Valley so we had to build that network from scratch, one intro at a time.
After we launched our mobile apps, things started taking off thanks to the influx of new users who primarily took photos on smartphones rather than digital cameras. We added printing partners to start monetizing and now our app prints to over 80% of the retail locations that support printing in the USA. We're expanding our home delivery options internationally very soon, and are growing at a very fast clip.
BI: Talk about the work environment/culture at Kicksend.
PE: We're one of the few companies in the Valley that focuses on sustainable productivity. This essentially means that as much as possible, we try to keep a very clean separation between our work and personal lives. As a team, one of the things that we seek to actively avoid is burnout, which is actually a really really big problem when you work at high intensity over extended periods of time. Since we've been working on hard things for a long time now, we've developed a lot of low-touch processes that help prevent burnout, and work-life separation is one of them. This is not to say that we don't hang out and have fun together as a team, it's just that we don't do it to the exclusion of every other social interaction like most other companies do.
As such, we try to hire people who are stunningly good at what they do, so they actually focus and get things done in ten hours that may take others take three or four days to do. We work together as a tight team, ship faster than most other companies, and then go home to our families and significant others. As we like saying around here, "This is not your family, these are your colleagues. Your family is at home."
Culture-wise, we are obsessed with shipping beautiful, high quality product to overwhelmingly non-technical audiences. We spend a lot of time thinking about customer anxiety and what it takes to win the trust and admiration of our customers, who wind up using us to share and preserve some of the most important, emotionally resonant pieces of digital content they produce.
We're also all heavy foodies and spend a lot of time eating together. Lunch is a big deal. A lot happens over lunch.
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