Is Mobile Photo Sharing Still Broken? Kicksend Thinks So

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Elankumaran says the startup takes extra time to make its user interface understandable. For the iPhone app, building the send-photos screen alone took a month, he says. “And we are still iterating on it.”

The startup now has six employees, and has raised $1.8 million in seed funding from Y Combinator, SV Angel, Start Fund, Digital Garage, founder Jack Abraham, and True Ventures. Its user base is “under 100,000 but growing rapidly,” Elankumaran says.

Jon Callaghan, partner and co-founder at True Ventures, says the firm likes Kicksend because the team is “super creative and incredibly talented technically.” At True, Callaghan says, “we’re big believers in the importance of merging digital and the real world,” and he says Kicksend is “targeted at everyday users, so is really non-technical. The message is simple: keep in touch through photos.”

Sending files from the Kicksend Web app really couldn’t be simpler (well, maybe it could, but I don’t see how): you just select a photo or video, supply an e-mail address, and click “send.” The recipient gets an e-mail, which contains a link leading back to the Kicksend website, where they can download the files to their desktop. The mobile apps work pretty much the same way. If the recipient has the Kicksend app on their smartphone, the images will also show up there, where they can be saved to the device’s photo album.

As of last week, the iPhone version of the Kicksend app also includes a little red Walgreen’s button. One click sends your selected photos straight to the pharmacy chain’s online photo printing site, where you can select the print size and quantity, then pick up the finished images at the branch nearest you in about an hour. It’s the simplest way I know of to make prints from an iOS device, unless you happen to have an AirPrint-compatible photo printer at home. The Walgreen’s partnership is the first of several “integrations that will lead to monetization” for Kicksend, according to Elankumaran. (The Kicksend service itself is free on all devices.)

Here’s a tip for you: Kicksend isn’t limited to sending photos and videos—it actually works with almost any digital file, which makes it into a sort of free, private version of Dropbox or Box. “There was this guy who wrote to us to and said, ‘My bandmates live in Washington and Florida and California. Can I ship Garageband files around using Kicksend?’ and we said sure, no problem,” recounts Elankumaran. “That was really cool, and it’s something we could not have anticipated.”

But that’s just a distraction—Kicksend’s core “use case,” to use a bit of product developer-speak, is still sending photos and videos within a family or a small group of friends. And Elankumaran thinks that market will provide Kicksend with lots of room for growth.

“The demographics of people who have iPhones and other smartphones is changing very, very quickly,” he says. “These are not the same people who were buying them earlier. There need to be tools so that less technically savvy people can do what they want to do, and Kicksend is the app that lets you get stuff done with photos.”

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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