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WeHeartPics is a beautifully designed mobile app that seems to be popular amongst social mobile photography aficionados in Russia and possibly soon elsewhere in the world. The app, available on iOS and Android phones, helps users discover and share photos, connect with friends and make new ones as well as communicate using messages and photos within the social network community.
It is a little bit of Instagram (yes, it has filters and allows sharing into other social networks), with a touch of Piictu (communicate in pictures) and social network features (follow other people, connect with your own Facebook friends, communicate in messages).
Unlike many other photo-sharing apps, whose sole monetization option is a big bang exit (err, Instagram?) or premium photo filters (e.g. Path), WeHeartPics, backed by Igor Matsanyuk venture fund IMI.VC, sees opportunities for monetization with premium accounts, also known as “awesome”. The user with an awesome account is instantly visible as a premium user and can add premium stickers to its messages. It is possible that there will be more features. The updated app with awesome accounts will be out in Apple App Store this week.
The company claims that stats of the app usage is higher than average – its 5 to 6 thousands daily users have on average 2 sessions per day, or 2,7 sessions on a weekly basis. Since launch in spring 2012 WeHeartPics has obtained 140,000 registered users.
IMI.VC is an investor in the recent Russian Internet success story – social game publisher Game Insight. Game Insight, founded by Alisa Chumachenko, raised $25 million in funding just this month and reported $80 million in revenue in 2012, according to Jared Barol of WeHeartPics.
Barol tells me that being located in the same office as Game Insight, the WeHeartPics team has access to the Game Insight knowledge base and experience about promotion and gamification. Thus, soon the startup plans to introduce free-to-play photography-related games, which also offer opportunities for monetization.
So far, the marketing of the app has taken place via social media, as it is closely integrated with the Facebook. No fan of automatic sharing of my information to my Facebook friends, I have discovered that by default all my photos and new connections within the app are shared into my public Facebook stream. This is perhaps not a surprise, as the photo stream within WeHeartPics is public but I would rather they took social marketing down a notch.
Big plans include social discovery of people in real life based on the geo-tagging of the images but those features would only work once the company has a sizable user base. As for social discovery, the jury is still out whether it is a valid need, or another name for dating.
As for the non-verbal communication in pictures, the core concept behind WeHeartPics is quite interesting: images, unlike texts and comments allow to break borders within cross-border communication and the international angle is what the company seems to place a strong focus on Soon the app will be available in 15 languages. For now it can be used in English, Russian and Korean.
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