Mike Isaac

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With $3 Million More in Funding, Stipple Aims to Tag the Visual Web

stipple-logoPhotos are so hot right now.

Obvious, yes. Look at Facebook and Instagram. Look at Twitter and filters. Look at Yahoo’s new Flickr app. There are photos everywhere.

Problem is, there are few direct ways to monetize them. Sticking ads alongside them is still the most popular.

Stipple, an image-focused commerce start-up that just raised $3 million in venture capital from Sands Capital, takes a different tack.

Think of it as an ad network for images. Stipple works with companies that have huge repositories of images, most often product-based ones from brands like Zappos and Nordstrom. Stipple tags those images so that they’re identifiable if they float around the Web. Stipple then works with Web publishers who can make “Stippled” images show up properly on their sites.

The result: A picture that’s interactive, complete with in-image links and pop-ups that can potentially coax viewers into buying what they’re looking at.

In theory, it’s a better way to let consumers actually “play around” with the items they’re checking out. If you’re thinking of buying a tablet, for example, a Stippled image could surface a small box with specs, pricing and other pertinent information.

One worry, though: Part of why we’re so in love with photos is that they’re simple, straightforward and uncomplicated. You look at a picture and take it in — no reading of text, no clicking around to make things happen. Perhaps an interactive photo is missing the point of the photo itself.

But I’d imagine the point of the service isn’t to target all the Web’s photos, just the ones that picture things for sale. Pairing off with publishers that showcase myriad product-centric images is the obvious pitch, rather than, say, “Stippling” a bunch of LOLcats.

The company has already raised $7 million from Kleiner Perkins and other investors, and plans to use the recent $3 million cash injection on scaling up its infrastructure to handle — you guessed it — tagging even more photos.


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle