Peter Kafka

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A “Hole-Filler” Gets Funded: TweetPhoto Raises $2.6 Million

The new conventional wisdom is that photo-sharing systems built around Twitter are toast.

But don’t tell that to the TweetPhoto team. The San Diego-based photo service, which is indeed built around Twitter, has just raised $2.6 million, led by Canaan Partners, supported by Anthem Venture Partners and Qualcomm (QCOM).

The series A funding certainly seems a bit more fraught than it did about a week ago. Since then, Twitter appears to have decided on a build/buy strategy for some functions it previously allowed third-party developers to handle.

And if you believe that Twitter investor Fred Wilson’s “hole-filling” blog post is a road map, then Twitter is set to run its own photo service sooner than later.

If so, the money TweetPhoto just raised makes it unlikely that Twitter will buy the start-up because it’s now a much more expensive acquisition. And you can say the same thing about YFrog, the Sequoia-backed photo service whose parent company, ImageShack, has raised $11 million.

So if you follow that logic, Twitter will either buy TwitPic, which is the most popular Twitter-centric photo service (and one that hasn’t raised venture funding)–or build its own.

TweetPhoto CEO Sean Callahan says his service will survive whatever Twitter does because it can work well with other social networks, like Foursquare and Facebook. And Deepak Kamra, the Canaan partner leading the investment, says that his team knew Twitter would want to do more of this stuff on its own, and planned accordingly.

“I think there’s a lot of fear uncertainty and doubt for the next 6 months or so. Which also creates opportunity,” Kamra said.

But even if Twitter hadn’t roiled the waters last week, TweetPhoto–and all the other photo uploading services–wouldn’t have smooth sailing. All of the services boast big traffic, but it’s expensive to host all those photos, and it’s hard to sell ads against those pages.

Meanwhile, do you know which photo service you use to push pictures to Twitter? It turns I out I use TweetPhoto, because that’s the default photo service on both TweetDeck and SocialScope, my two primary Twitter platforms. But I had to look it up to find out.

Callahan says he can lure more developers and distribution because his API is more robust than his competitors. And he says his new funding will allow him to experiment with revenue models. One idea: Charge other publishers for the right to use his users’ images as stock photos.

I think that one poses a bunch of problems. For instance, what do you do with the weird images I’ve uploaded?

But Callahan says he now has time to figure it out. “We’re going to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what sticks,” he says. “That was the purpose of doing the series A.”

4.13.2010 — San Diego, CA – TweetPhoto (http://tweetphoto.com), the real-time media sharing platform for the social web, today announced it has secured $2.6 million in a Series A financing led by Canaan Partners, with additional investment from Anthem Venture Partners and angel investors. The company plans to use the capital to accelerate the development of its core offering, a platform of open APIs and mobile SDKs for real-time media sharing across the social web. The round will also allow the company to expand its developer relations program and to introduce new products that further strengthen its position as the preferred way for leading application developers to incorporate real-time media sharing into their applications.

“We are extremely pleased that we have been able to assemble a great syndicate of investors to help us in the next phase of our growth,” said Sean Callahan, CEO of TweetPhoto. “This round of funding will allow us to further attract top engineering and sales talent while we continue to focus on delivering the best platform available to instantly share media anywhere from any device. In the next few months, we will significantly expand our offerings and make it easier for developers to create compelling applications that leverage the social web.”

TweetPhoto allows users to share, discover, and interact with media seamlessly across multiple social networks through its developer platform. TweetPhoto users can link their accounts and publish media instantly to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and other popular social networks, and the TweetPhoto APIs support features such as photo commenting, favoriting and voting, meta-data filters, geo-tagging, location-based search, friend feeds and customizable widgets. These features are exposed through a rich suite of easy-to-implement APIs and software libraries that let application developers easily incorporate these best-in-class media sharing capabilities into their mobile or web applications.

“Consumer demand for intuitive, effective and easy to use media sharing technology continues to increase,” said Deepak Kamra, General Partner at Canaan Partners. “The number of people connecting through social networking sites and the social web is still growing, and sharing rich, personalized content is a key part of the experience. We’re excited to leverage our investment history and experience in the social media industry to help TweetPhoto expand its offerings and achieve a new level of growth.”

“Sean and his team have built a solution that provides a simple and elegant way for developers to create more engaging, connected applications,” said Brian Mesic, General Partner at Anthem Venture Partners. “The company has great traction, and the platform has proven to be scalable and robust through a period of truly impressive growth.”

One year after launching the service, TweetPhoto has attracted a dedicated team of developer-friendly engineers and key sales executives serving nearly 15 million monthly unique visitors from various social networks, 40 million API requests a day and 250 million images each month.


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