Highlights from the Innovation Economy Blog.
Two pioneers of online photo-sharing have raised seed funding for a start-up that’s chasing a big opportunity: analyzing the pics you post on Facebook, Pinterest, and other social networks and creating links to related content.
Some of the links might be to supplemental information, like Yelp reviews of a restaurant where you dined, and some might be paid for by advertisers, such as StubHub’s making a pitch to your friends about tickets to a Celtics game after you post photos from the Garden.
The Cambridge start-up Ditto Labs, founded in 2012, has already raised seed funding from investors including Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, and Richard Dale, of the investment firm Big Data Boston.
Ditto Labs founder David Rose and chief technology officer Neil Mayle worked together on Opholio, one of the first services to make it easy for people to upload photos and create albums; the Boston company was sold to FlashPoint Technology in 2000. Now, Rose and Mayle are focused on photos as the main attraction of many social-networking sites.
“On Facebook, everyone looks at each other’s photos first,” Rose says. “Far less frequently, they read the text. And even less frequently do they look at the ads in the sidebar. So what we’re doing is taking the stream of photos, which represent people’s passions and interests, and trying to make those photos actionable. Photos are basically implicit recommendations to your friends.”
When you install the Ditto Labs app on Facebook, you’re giving it permission to examine the photos you post. Right now, the app tries to identify logos and emblems in the photos. When a photo includes information about a location, Ditto takes that into account. The app adds a comment below the photo with a link to a separate, annotated version of the pic that might contain a link for related products on Amazon, or to a ticket-selling site, or Yelp reviews.
“This is a way of rethinking advertising,” Rose says. “Instead of text ads in the sidebar, it’s a way of getting peer-to-peer recommendations. In a utopian world, we think you’d get advice from your friends related to the things they love, instead of ads you aren’t interested in.”
So Rosen is trying to make it possible to purchase favorite bottles without leaving the app. The latest version of Drync, Drync Direct, was launched last week in conjunction with the Boston Wine Expo.
“I can never find the wine I enjoyed at a restaurant when I’m at the store later on, or I can’t remember it,” Rosen says. “One issue is that retailers stock less than 2 percent of the overall number of wines available. So we wanted to help consumers who create an emotional connection with a wine — yes, maybe they’re intoxicated — and help them buy it right then and there. The idea is to buy a wine you love, in the moment.”
You use Drync to photograph the label on a bottle of wine. The app either automatically recognizes it and shows you the price and a rating or the image is sent to a Drync employee who tries to identify it. You can add tasting notes and “tag it” with the location where you consumed it and use the app to purchase that wine at any time.
Orders are filled by existing retailers and distributors, Rosen says. Drync takes a “marketing fee” for each order. Currently, Drync can ship only to 22 states, because of regulatory restrictions.
When I tried the app on 15 random bottles, it did pretty well: Drync recognized 10 automatically, and the company’s human helpers punched in the other five within about an hour.
The app wasn’t very good at getting the correct year, but you can adjust that. Five of the 15 bottles I photographed were available for purchase through the app.