Smilebox Takes on Shutterfly, Snapfish in Growing Global Market for Photo Sharing

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we do business,” he says. Unlike companies like Photobucket, the Smilebox business model is based on providing valuable content—like the 1,000 scrapbook and album designs users have access to for free—rather than monetizing it.

“They’re whole goal is to promote [consumers] to print out physical content,” Wright says. “Our strategy enables us at the core to have the experiences that users create—nobody today has replicated that.”

Instead, Smilebox focuses on providing consumers with whatever services they need to build their own experiences. Up until this point, the company’s main demographic has been primarily women, from their early 20s to late 70s. Wright says the older women tend to use the photo sharing service to stay in contact with their families. And as the company expands abroad, he says one more goal will be widening its appeal to larger markets at home—“making sure we have the right mix of content styles to appeal to the more urban, suburban, coastal, Midwest—something for everybody.”

This, Wright says, creates a “much richer experience” for everyone, and helps Smilebox “build a great global differentiated brand.”

It has also helped Smilebox foster its own unique company culture. All but 5 of the company’s 60 employees work in the Redmond office, where a large international group works to develop Smilebox services that cater to the atmosphere of the countries it’s expanding to, coordinating with the European office.

“We’ve spend a lot of time and energy on our culture,” Wright says.”There are no walls.” He means that literally—the floor is undivided, the conference rooms have glass tables, and rather than having the management in officers around the outside of the space, the management team sits in a cluster right at the center of the room—what they call “the kitchen table.”

“It’s kind of like a trading room on wall street, or a newsroom,” he says. “Anyone can come up and talk to us and share ideas.”

The open and collaborative strategy has worked so far. Wright says there are many more exciting developments on the horizon, including expansion into even more additional European countries in the months ahead, more retail partnerships—the company has already teamed up with Sam’s Club—in the next few weeks, and a rolling out of new contents and services. And if all goes according to plan, more hiring.

“We’ll be creating a lot more content for the modern urban mum,” he says. Broadening the Smilebox catalog is also a big piece, as well as pushing forward with more social media campaigns. The company integrated with Facebook a year ago, and Wright says the benefits have been undeniable.

“It’s been on a very steep upward trajectory—it’s by far our fastest means of sharing,” he says.

The company has raised $16 million to date, and isn’t currently looking to raise cash. But Wright didn’t rule out the possibility of raising more in the future. “Never say never,” he says.

“Right now we’re in very good shape, and we’ll see what the future holds. If we have to we will, but obviously I’d like to do without it,” he says. If everything goes according to plan over the next six to 12 months, Smilebox will be cash flow positive again. Then, Wright says, “We should be good.”

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