Lobster will buy your photos on Instagram
The startup offers to solve the problem of selecting unique photos and illustrations by buying graphic content from amateur bloggers. Investors appreciated the idea and invested a million pounds.
The idea of creating the Lobster company came to Olga Egorsheva while working at DHL Global, where she held the position of Strategic development Manager in Russia. Yegorsheva was constantly faced with the problem of finding pictures and illustrations: in traditional photo banks, images are of the same type, and one photo can cost $500. You can find better content for less money from amateur photographers, but it is difficult to negotiate with them about buying images, and the negotiation process takes a lot of time.
The same problem was faced by two other founders of Lobster — former ABBYY employees Maria Iontseva (responsible for the usability of products) and Andrey Dmitriev (head of the Lingvo testers group). So they came up with the idea to create a marketplace where you can buy photos and videos from users of social networks.
The Lobster team is engaged in communication between photographers and clients. Lobster users do not need to fill out complex contracts and set tags for photos: it is enough to register in the service, “link” their social media accounts to the marketplace and specify which photos they want to put up for sale.
£1 million of investment and development of the marketplace
In January 2017, Lobster attracted £1 million of investment from the Klyuch coworking network, the ex-CEO of Otkritie Capital, Nikolai Katorzhnov, investor Alexey Malakeev and British business angels.
To sell user-generated content from social networks, it was necessary to solve three problems: the selection of high-quality photos and videos, automatic tagging and increasing the resolution of images. Instagram and Facebook “compress” photos — and content buyers need high-resolution images. The Lobster artificial intelligence allows you to select high-quality photos and videos, places tags, identifying objects in photos — and using them, Lobster finds content relevant to the buyer’s request.
“In 2018, Lobster launched a new service for customers — Super Resolution. Now the resolution of any image can be increased four times. For example, the London office of a network advertising agency asked to enlarge a photo to use it for outdoor advertising. The creatives wanted to place posters at bus stops, ” says Olga Egorsheva.
The Lobster community consists of 30 thousand users: 20 thousand creators who publish content on the marketplace, and 10 thousand registered buyers. Instagram Facebook, VK, YouTube, Vimeo, Google photo, Flickr and Dropbox and Verizon Cloud Cloud services are supported by Lobster. 10 million photos and videos are available for purchase through Lobster. Instagram Facebook is also able to access another 30 million images on request: Lobster searches for content not only in its library, but also in open accounts of Instagram, Flickr, Facebook and other social networks.
The algorithm determines the prices automatically, they depend on the source and image quality. The minimum price of a photo is $1.19, a video is $8.33. Content from popular Lobster authors is more expensive.
“Among the company’s clients are large network advertising agencies: McCann, Leo Burnett and the international consulting network Oliver Wyman. Lobster has not yet reached the turnover of millions of pounds, so it is too early to disclose the financial part, ” says Olga Egorsheva.
The company is also interested in traditional photo stocks that want to sell Lobster content. The marketplace has agreed on a partnership with the British company Alamy, the German news agency DPA and is negotiating with the Chinese stock Visual China Group. Among the content of Lobster, photos make up about 80%, but the demand for videos is growing. According to Yegorsheva, in 2019, the company plans to “teach” artificial intelligence to work better with videos: to put tags and improve quality.
The fight against illegal immigrants
In addition to selling photos and videos, Lobster wants to fight the illegal use of visual content. “The Lobster team is working on a joint project with KODAKOne (KODAK’s digital content rights management platform). The user will be able to upload a photo to the Lobster marketplace and check whether someone uses the image on the Internet without the author’s consent. Then the author contacts the site or an individual and offers to pay for the use of the content (for example, $5). In the summer of 2018, Lobster began testing this project, and in June 2019, it is planned to launch post-licensing for all users. Previously, copyright compliance was monitored only by famous photographers whose works are expensive, or photo stocks: they searched for photos on the Internet and sued for thousands of dollars. Now technologies allow you to track the use of content and resolve conflicts without bringing the situation to court. This saves money and nerves, ” explains Yegorsheva.
Lobster receives 30-40% of its revenue from companies from the United States and Europe. The marketplace also works with Russian customers, but the Lobster brand is less recognizable in Russia. However, in February, the company won a startup competition held by S7 Airlines. Currently, the use of Lobster content in brand advertising is being discussed.
In 2018, together with the advertising agency Leo Burnett, Moscow Lobster held a charity event #MemoryDonation. Social media users could register on Lobster and mark their content as a donation. The money from the sale of these photos and videos was sent by the marketplace to help patients with dementia and their families.
“The company intends to continue working on improving artificial intelligence and expand its presence in the markets of China, Latin America, the UAE. To implement these plans, the marketplace attracts a new round of investments — £2-3 million. The company will break even in 2020, ” says Yegorsheva.