Heads up, social media fiends. Menlo Park’s Moju Labs is launching its first product today, a photo sharing app that the company is marketing as “Instagram on steroids.”
Co-founders Mok Oh and Justin Legakis believe that photos and videos are “artifacts of legacy devices”—photos can only show one stagnant moment in time, and videos are often too long and cumbersome. With their new app, also called Moju, they want to offer a whole new way to document and consume memories. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” Oh says. “Great. But it’s not enough these days. It’s too concise. A thing should be more than many slices in time.”
Instead of allowing users to post a single photo or a short video, the app lets you post up to 24 frames. Rotate your phone and you can interact with each post, scrolling through all the images in one visual experience, so that 24 separate images of, say, a 360-degree view of flowers in a field will let you explore that view with a twist of a wrist.
“There’s a lot more expression going on there than making a single image,” Oh says. “It’s more about a moment and capturing that more closely to how you want to remember it than trying to get a slice in time.”
With Moju, you can show friends the sunset from your vacation, document a short prank, show off your ability to do the worm, or, as Oh did, record the look on his daughter’s face as she stuck her head out the window of their car. “Case in point is my daughter’s facial expression,” he says. “[With photos], we can keep one of those things. But it should be about that movement, her smile, her hair blowing in the wind.”
Moju is pretty fun to play around with, and some users do a good job of telling stories in their 24 frames. The question, of course, is whether Instagram or Vine could add the same capability within their own apps. But, Oh says, Moju is using patent-pending technology, and the new app, out in the iTunes app store today, is the first of many products coming from the company. The two co-founders wanted to start by releasing a consumer-oriented product so they could figure out customer acquisition and understand their user base.
For now, though, Oh is not sharing details about what’s coming next. “We’re reimagining a whole lot of things,” he says. “We have a bunch of products in the roadmap. If you look at my background and Justin’s background, we’re MIT guys who have been thinking about images and computational photography for a long time.”
Oh and Legakis met in 1996, when they were both in the graphics lab at MIT. They parted ways after graduation but kept in touch over the years, as Oh went on to become the chief scientist at PayPal and Legakis worked as a GPU architect at Nvidia and as a software engineer at Google and Palantir. Last April, the pair started Moju Labs, funding it themselves. Just recently, they raised their first million in funding from angel investors including Eugene Jhong, Alex Saverin, and Eduardo Saverin—or as Oh refers to them, “our rich friends”—all of whom will be joining Moju’s board. “It’s a simpler way to go,” he says. “It gives us room to grow.”
The seed funding enabled the company to hire a new director of engineering, David Hill, formerly an engineer at Apple.
Although the company is currently working on more image analysis products, for now, Oh wants to see the new app “adopted by the masses first, before we do anything fancy,” he says. “We have a bunch of stuff in line, but we’re going to keep that powder dry for now.”