PhotoRocket Cuts Staff, Swaps CEOs, Looks for New Direction

Seattle photo-sharing startup PhotoRocket, stocked with veterans of high-profile companies like Amazon, Microsoft, aQuantive and Qpass, has cut its staff and changed CEOs as it tries to build up the product, including adding new features to make PhotoRocket stand out in a forest of mobile photo apps and services.

In an e-mail to Xconomy, founder Scott Lipsky said the PhotoRocket cuts are “less than 40 percent” of the staff, which had been above 20. That includes CEO Anna Collins, the former Microsoft advertising general manager who joined the startup in April. Lipsky writes that Collins “chose to cut herself,” and that PhotoRocket co-founder Michael Cockrill will now serve as CEO, while Collins remains an adviser. The changes were first reported by John Cook over at GeekWire.

Lipsky was pretty frank about the reason behind the changes. The company’s market, for online and mobile photo sharing, become much more competitive lately.

“For over a decade, there were only the ‘Web 1.0’ photo sharing sites. Then, over the past 12 months, there has been a huge flurry of new activity and development in the photo, mobile, social, and local spaces, which leads to consumer confusion and overload,” Lipsky said in his e-mail.

That clogged market made it really difficult to raise money, he said, leading to the need for PhotoRocket to cut its spending and re-focus on its technology and product. The lighter staff is heavier on engineering and development people, for instance.

“What we are doing now is focusing on evolving our core differentiating features, and focusing on product development—rather than on spending our dollars on marketing and buying users,” Lipsky wrote. “Anyone who downloads and uses PhotoRocket gets hooked and never needs to use email again to share photos—so we know we’re definitely onto something big.”

I had some skepticism going in as a test-user when I wrote about PhotoRocket earlier this year—how could another photo-sharing service be needed? I will say that, once I got down into the details, I could see the convenience of the application’s ability to send stuff quickly across lots of platforms and store it online.

A real marquee strength of PhotoRocket has always been the pedigree of its top people. Lipsky was a very early employee at Amazon and also co-founded aQuantive, the advertising company purchased by Microsoft for $6.6 billion. Collins also worked at aQuantive. Cockrill is a member of the “Qpass Mafia” of well-connected Seattle entrepreneurs, and was previously a managing partner at Atlas Accelerator. Another co-founder, Gary Roshak, was a vice president in mobile advertising for Yahoo.

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