Bootstrapping Barcelona-based visual commerce startup Photoslurp has taken its first external funding: Announcing €750,000 (~$870k) in pre-Series A financing, led by Spanish VC Inveready Technology Investment Group, with participation from Bankinter VC, Caixa Capital Risc and ICF.
The team's SaaS platform is designed for brands to build influence by leveraging user generated content (UGC) in their marketing -- with the underlying premise being that online advertising is delivering diminishing returns, thereby placing more importance on 'native advertising' techniques, and specifically on embedded UGC as a key avenue for digital marketing.
Photoslurp's tech works by crawling social media platforms (specifically Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) looking for tagged photos and videos of products being used in the wild -- to act as "shoppable social proof", as it calls it, to help brands sell their stuff via integrating the UGC into their online stores, in a 'shop this look' format.
The harvesting of relevant UGC is done automatically by the platform -- after which there's an intended manual curation process to refine the final selections.
"Our platform collects visual content that has been hashtagged with those hashtags related to the brand. Through our collection dashboard brands have an array of tools that allows them to perform logic hashtag searches into the social networks, as well as blacklisting both secondary hashtags and/or users," says Photoslurp's Ruud den Rooijen.
"Besides the logic hashtag searches and blacklisting, where our technology automatically dismisses inappropriate content, collected imagery is shown to the brand, or to our curation team, in a moderation dashboard where the brand's have the ultimate say on the imagery that ends up in their digital channels. This ensures that all imagery always matches the image the brand wants to communicate."
While the platform crawls multiple social networks, Instagram is (unsurprisingly) the main source of UGC that's considered shiny enough by brands to double as appropriate marketing sides -- Photoslurp tells us that 98 per cent of the collected content is generated there.
The startup, which was founded in 2014, says it's working with over 150 brands across 20 countries in Europe at this stage. It name-checks the likes of Links of London, Folli Follie, Tally Weijl, Cluse Watches, Adolfo Domínguez and Lindblad Expeditions as some of its flagship clients.
The new funding will go on further development of the platform, including spending on image recognition tech to "further help ease the detection of products" from the UGC pool, and on ramping up on sales and marketing globally.
On the competitive front, the startup names Olapic, Curalate and BazaarVoice as playing in a similar space -- though says it's differentiating by focusing on brands in the SME space vs targeting larger, enterprise players.
"Growing brands benefit hugely from the visual content tools that we provide, and is a market that was not catered to before we joined the game," argues den Rooije.
He adds that R&D efforts fueled by the need funding will also be targeted at helping its target brands make more out of the organic content their customers are creating and uploading.
"On the immediate roadmap we are starting to delve into areas such as audience engagement, and performance benchmarking," he says, flagging up a free Instagram analytics tool Photoslurp launched last week to help brands to measure the impact of their marketing efforts on social media.
- This article originally appeared on TechCrunch.