Things we learned from Pinpic failure
After we officially wrapped up our story with Pinpic we’ve received tons of emails asking what went wrong with our startup. That gave me an idea to really ask myself what went wrong and share some of the main mistakes we made from our perspective.
For those who don’t know about Pinpic, you can read more about it here. Long story short, Pinpic was a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book photography services, on-demand, wherever they are. Uber for photographers.
Most of the startups don’t survive more than 2 years without being funded. That’s what happen to us. For this type of business, high budget for marketing is fundamental. We forgot that we are luxury service competing with airline companies, hotels and other touristic organizations and ads were too expensive for our bootstrapped startup.
We were working on a high-touch product that requires a lot of personal customer management from a market where demand for such product is low and trying to capitalize in markets where we had no physical presence adding to the overall complexity of running the business. We all know product market-fit but I wonder if we were living/operating in the UK, USA, or Canada at the very beginning where it is easier to find “more” customers who could afford a luxury service like having a photographer follow them on their holiday and cultivated those relationships, would we have been more successful?
Focus on paying audience
In the beginning, when energy was high in the team, we thought and focused on finding photographers. Even made our Kickstarter campaign targeting photographers. What we really should have done – in retrospect – was to focus on the audience that would be paying for the service. I think we have talked about this in the past that we could have just put up a website without the whole platform technology and helped customers find photographers initially. Which ultimately makes me think, is this an on-demand product anyways? Maybe Flytographer has found the secret sauce for this type of business.
Focus on one location
Our plan in the beginning was to focus only on one big touristic city but we were getting website hits from all over the world so we got excited and started focusing on other locations. That was a huge mistake because we were not focusing enough on one location to learn more about the audience based there.
I think we got too inspired by Airbnb which operates in an established hotel industry where it is normal for different types of accommodation to be priced differently and it is easy to see why. Surely, someone would be willing to pay more for the ‘ocean view’ versus no view. Or a hotel or house by the beach is more expensive to book than a hotel in the middle of downtown. Most people are not able to see such nuances between photographers. Even if different photographers have different skill levels and styles, people simply want holiday photos. Therefore maybe we should have standardized our prices, e.g. 10 photos $100, 20 photos, $150, and let photographers choose if they wanted to participate on the platform. There clearly wasn’t a shortage of photographers and like on Fiver, photographers could have sold add-ons.
I think energy started going down when we started working remotely. I feel like we were the most productive when we were together and seeing each every day. At that time we didn’t have to dedicate time to brainstorm ideas and talk about our startup, that was already happening naturally. Incubators are good for that I think because the team will be in one place committed to a startup for some period of time without distractions.
General Product-Market Fit and Expectations
Generally speaking and from what I have seen and heard there seems to be low demand for on-demand photographers. In the age of smart phones, selfie-sticks, Go-pros, a majority of people will opt to self document their experiences than pay to hire someone else. Social media trends supports this behavior too. Think of your favourite Youtuber or Instagrammer or Blogger. The ones that get the most following are the ones that come across as the most authentic. That can not be achieved with a professional. Again, this is all in retrospect when it’s easier to see all of it logically.