When Allison and I got married, she was smart enough to do that thing where you put a couple of disposable cameras on every table at the reception. I never would have thought of that, but the fact is, seeing all those pictures (once they were painstakingly developed over the course of DAYS) was one of the highlights of my whole wedding experience (behind, of course, the ceremony, the reception, the honeymoon, and our wonderful life together as husband and incredibly awesome wife).
So of course, the disposable camera custom, which died out in the mid-2000s as digital cameras became ubiquitous, is the first thing I think of when I think of WedPics.
And it’s the first thing I talk about whenever I get together with WedPics CEO Justin Miller, mostly because he hates it.
“When we first launched WedPics,” says Justin, “we marketed it as the replacement for the disposable cameras, because that is definitely the AH-HA! moment when you hear the business idea. But as soon as we launched, we realized folks were using WedPics to capture much more of the entire wedding experience rather than just the reception — where the cameras would typically reside.”
The truth is that Justin was onto something when he built WedPics out of his original startup dejaMi last year. Since then, he’s raised a million bucks and built his network up to over 385,000 users who share over 30,000 photos a day from over 2,200 weddings per weekend.
Now, 85,000 or so of the 385,000 users are the marrying couples themselves. This is important, because the remaining 300,000 are the wedding party, guests, relatives, etc., and those are users who, if a wedding is in their future, are primed to used WedPics themselves.
“The beauty of the wedding space for us,” says Justin, “is we have a built-in driver that pushes our app. That driver is the bride, and she markets the product to all of her guests. That’s why we’ve been able to explode this thing out — that’s the differentiator.”
Last week, Raleigh-based WedPics and Raleigh’s Picture.com, a photo-book creation service spun out of Lulu, finalized a partnership that creates an easy path for everyone involved in your wedding, from guests at the showers to guests at the reception (probably good to keep the bachelor party candids out of the book), to contribute to and create a custom photo book that details the whole experience from beginning to end.
The partnership came out of an introduction that itself came about, oddly enough, when WedPics was evicted from their working space at Justin’s house (I promised I’d leave any “what did you get kicked out of now” jokes out of this article). From the press that came about during that episode, Justin was introduced to Lulu, and several pieces fell into place, including Lulu’s founder (and Red Hat founder) Bob Young coming on as an investor in WedPics’ latest round.
“In the midst of all of the chaos during that time, we began some really interesting conversations with the folks over at Lulu.com and realized we had very complimentary offerings,” Justin says.
The partnership is awesome for a couple of reasons. In the hyper-competitive photo-sharing space, there’s an even more competitive wedding-photo-sharing space. WedPics has been doing a fine job standing out with a product that is designed well with a fun and intuitive user experience.
But there’s only so much of that to go around, and expanding out into the tangible world seems like an obvious next step in hindsight.
Offline is indeed the new retro.
But another great reason is, unlike many startup partnerships forged in desperation with each side expecting the other to carry the weight, this one actually works on paper very well. There’s very little overlap, and the solution is fully integrated over the Internet.
“The beauty of this partnership and offering is that it’s seamless for the end user – capture, view, select, print. It’s that simple,” Justin says.
WedPics is also getting a lot of calls to do other family functions and even –and this is where I see huge potential — the ever-popular corporate event.
The corporate event is a big deal because, in that scenario, the WedPics service — allowing anyone to share photos in a single digital location — becomes almost a DIY B2B play (and I get to combine to overused acronyms).
So Microsoft hosts one of their big crazy conferences, uses WedPics to create a photo collection and then, via the WedPics partnership with Picture.com, purchases hundreds of keepsake photo books as mementos for the attendees.
Boom. Million-dollar idea.
But I’m sure he’s thought of it.
“WedPics was a spin off of our original idea, deja mi, which we were able to test in corporate events through our multi-conference partnership with IBM in 2011 and 2012,” Justin says. “While the idea makes a lot of sense, ultimately we opted to tackle and dominate a single vertical – weddings – before moving into other channels. We built the WedPics framework with this in mind, to easily render into other white labels down the road, and are keeping these ideas on the back burner, for now.”