Albumatic’s Photo-Sharing App Fails Fast, Tries Again

Published on August 1, 2013
by Peter Kafka

albumatic 2.0Back in February, I told you about a photo-sharing app called Albumatic, and suggested that you might actually use it.

You didn’t.

Lots of people wrote about Albumatic, and Apple gave it a coveted promotion at its iTunes store. But within a few weeks the app’s creators concluded that it was a dud, and went back to the drawing board — actually, a house rented via Airbnb, in the Loz Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, where they holed up for a couple months.

Here’s the new version: It’s still a photo-sharing app, but without the emphasis on location and privacy that set the last one apart, and which also made it too hard to use.¬†This one is more like a mashup of Pinterest, Instagram and Apple’s Photo Stream, with a dash of Google Docs-like collaboration.

I usually try to avoid writing about product iterations. But I am very interested in hearing from companies who are willing to admit that something didn’t work, and what they did to try to fix it.

So, on Wednesday, I had a nice chat with founders Adam Ludwin and Devon Gundry , and distilled a few lessons from their experience:

Don’t just fail fast — fail really fast:¬†Albumatic launched Feb. 21, and expected to get a big boost in March at South by Southwest, where the company gave out Korean tacos to people who downloaded the app. But after four nights of handing out free food and watching people struggle to use the app, Ludwin and Gundry decided out they had to start over.

If you want people to test your stuff, don’t cheat: Before launching, Ludwin and Gundry showed off Albumatic to lots of people, and they say they always got a great response. But test-users didn’t have to download the app to their iPhone, turn on the phone’s location-sharing option, and try to find friends. Instead, they were handed a phone preloaded with the app and stocked with friends and photos.

Raise a pile of money, so you can try again: Prior to launching, Albumatic raised — but didn’t announce — a $4.2 million round from investors like RRE, SV Angel and Thrive. That gives them the option to take a second stab at it — and, Ludwin and Gundry say, many more if they need to. They figure that at their current size — there are just a handful of employees — they could run for three and a half years with their remaining cash.

Press doesn’t help, except when it does:¬†Albumatic got lots of respectful write-ups (Ludwin did all the outreach himself, aided in part by a halo created from his connection to Twitter’s Vine), but a dud app is a dud app. On the other hand, Ludwin and Gundry say, the digital ink did help generate interest from potential partners and investors. And they think there’s enough value there to talk to people like me, again.

Time to see.

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