Rodney Rice’s teenage daughter desperately wanted her photo.
A photographer at her tennis competition had dropped a business card into her bag after shooting her match, so on the ride home, she borrowed her dad’s phone to cruise the website for photos.
But they weren’t there.
“You’ve got a high intent to purchase right there, but the content wasn’t available on the site,” Rice said.
And once the photographer does get around to uploading all the photos, it’s safe to assume Rice’s daughter will have to page through all of them to find herself.
Which is precisely the problem Rice set out to solve with his longtime business partner, Michael Beaudoin. The two men previously founded HomeAdvisor after helping launch the Einstein Bros. chain of bagel shops in the 90’s.
Their new company, Waldo Photos, allows professional photographers to upload photos directly from their cameras as they shoot using WiFi-enabled SD cards. Then, thanks to a facial recognition engine running on Waldo’s cloud, registered users who appear in the photos will automatically receive push notifications to view them.
Yesterday, the company announced a $5 million seed funding round led by Upfront Ventures to continue preparing the product for market.
Waldo isn’t the first company to apply facial recognition technology to the photography industry. Their peers in this field include the Israeli Face-Six and New York-based NameFace, not to mention similar businesses that read the bib numbers in race photos to identify the athletes who might like to buy them.
The real innovation here is how efficiently Waldo delivers photos to people recognized in them, and simplifies the purchase process. To register, users supply a selfie and a phone number. Waldo then analyzes the selfie and compares it to every photo on the platform. Each time it finds a match, it sends a notification to the phone number.
“There are 175,000 pro photographers in the U.S. making a living at it,” Rice said. “91 percent of whom are sole proprietors, meaning they don’t have the business infrastructure or technology to [market those photos].”
Which is why Waldo includes an e-commerce element that allows photographers to sell their photos to the people who want them most — their subjects.
“The beauty from the business perspective to me is it allows anyone with a good camera, some skill and an entrepreneurial spirit to go out and make their own model for monetizing this,” Rice said, noting that the supply of photos feeds the demand by bringing new users onto the platform to retrieve them.
“Once Waldo has become a household name, people will drive Uber all day and shoot on Waldo at night.”
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