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Developing Minds Want to Know: Q&A with Cooliris CEO Soujanya Bhumkar

by Brad Spirrison

Just a few weeks ago, an all-new Cooliris app was released for iPad and iPhone and it just got its first major update. Since its launch, Cooliris gained the No. 1 spot in the App Store in over 80 countries within the Lifestyle category. Cooliris brings photo discovery and sharing to the next level with the addition of captions and improved Google Image search options.

In this installment of Developing Minds Want to Know, we talk to the co-founder and CEO of Cooliris, Soujanya Bhumkar. Amongst other things, Soujanya explains how Cooliris adapted from browser plug-in to powerful mobile application. He explains the innovation behind the product and how to succeed in an increasingly-crowded photo-sharing app market.


Key Company Facts

Name and Title: Soujanya Bhumkar, Co-Founder and CEO

Company: Cooliris

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Size (Revenue and/or Employees): 14 (more than full-time) and a host of awesome interns

Primary Apps/Platforms: Cooliris for iPad and iPhone; LiveShare for iPhone, Android and web


APPOLICIOUS: What inspired you to become an app creator?

SOUJANYA BHUMKAR: Apps come very close to reflecting the state of the mind. We believe that with the explosion of media creation, curation and consumption that happens daily with our cameras, smartphones, and other mobile devices, users need a better way to easily discover and consume relevant media. Our take is that apps enable you to create beautiful and immersive media-centric experiences.

Here is a video showcasing all the great new features of the Cooliris app on an iPad:

APPO: How long have you been developing apps, and what is the most significant difference between now and when you began?

SB: Our first big success was the Cooliris browser plug-in that Austin [Shoemaker] and team built in 2008. A couple of years later, we built the Gallery app for Android which is the default native app for photos and videos for Android.

In many ways, the demand is still the same as it was then – people continue to want a beautiful and efficient way to browse, discover and consume media. However, there has been a steady shift from web to mobile, and a shift is happening to have close-knit interactions – which is what we’ve come to focus on with the launch of the all-new Cooliris app for iPad and iPhone.

APPO: What apps (outside of those that you develop) inspire you the most and why?

SB: Paper is a cool app that stands out to me. They have really been able to merge functionality with beautiful design to create a pretty awesome user experience and I also like how monetization is seamlessly integrated into the experience. Instagram did a phenomenal job of blending simplicity of sharing with focus and business strategy.

APPO: Where do you see the most innovation in the app sector?

SB: Overall we think there is momentum in the market to have:

- Close-knit and selective sharing for boosting signal to noise

- Real-time performance for instant gratification

- Availability across multiple platforms (including mobile apps and web) for universal access

APPO: How do you harness that innovation in your own titles?

SB: We believe that users should have the control to selectively share content with audiences of their choice. In the Cooliris app, users can create close-knit conversations to collaboratively share photos they discover with friends. And at the other end, they can easily share collections of photos to Facebook for publishing to a broader audience.

Secondly, we combine email invitations for new conversations with an extended web experience, so that invited users who don’t have the app can view the photos and messages in the conversation on the mobile and desktop web without having to login or sign up. We believe it’s important to make sharing accessible to everyone, regardless of what device or service they use.

Last and definitely not least, combined with our new real-time backend, the Cooliris app delivers an efficient, fluid and integrated experience for the media you love.

APPO: In such a crowded space, explain how you generate awareness and drive downloads to your applications.

SB: Photo sharing has been a crowded market space and in many ways Cooliris fills a consumer void with its unique visual and cohesive communication experience. The app got ranked No. 1 for iPad in over 50 countries in the two weeks since its launch in Lifestyle, and we’ve seen engagement to the tune of millions of minutes in the app. We are building a strong community of users via our social media channels. More importantly, our outreach to have conversations with our users helps us to truly understand how they are using the app so that we can provide more valuable propositions that fit into the daily lives of the consumer.

APPO: What are the biggest technical constraints that exist today in the app sector?

SB: This doesn’t qualify as a technical constraint, but one challenge that an app maker faces and that is expected to grow over time is creating a good design for various platforms and form factors, and then testing every single interaction detail for each device and platform. It is truly a time-consuming exercise and definitely an expensive process.

APPO: How do you (or will you) make money from your application?

SB: We follow a freemium business model and so we will always have a free element to our app experience. Monetization will come from premium services and features, and we will always keep seamless user experience as #1.

APPO: What advice do you have to those working on their first applications?

SB: Relentless focus on matching the user interface with user intent is extremely necessary. User experience is not something you slap towards the end of the product development process. And also, don’t be too late to the market, but also don’t go out too early as well.

APPO: Where do you see the app sector one year from now? Five years from now?

SB: Mobile growth has created an entire app economy, that in relative terms, is just taking off. As mobile hardware continues to become more powerful, app developers will have to evolve just as quickly to create new and better experiences for the consumer. Five years ago we were in a different world, and five years from now it will be exponentially different – especially with respect to global market reach, immersive 3-D interactions and new interfaces.

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