What started as a frivolous side project at London digital services agency Made by Many has turned into a legit thing. Picle is a photo app that records sound. It’s a cool little way to turn a static image into a sensory experience, and a hell of a lot better than the millions of too-long, dark, shaky videos cluttering up YouTube.
And now it has 50,000 users.
Creator Alex Harding joked after Facebook bought Instagram that, if you stack Picle’s user base against Instagram’s, Picle is already worth around $24 million.
Made by Many’s Will Roissetter, Harding, and the team had worked on Picle off and on for around five months, launching it at SXSW. The app saw 30,000 downloads that week, and it’s up to 50,000 now.
The company is currently running lean like Instagram, with one employee currently working on it full time while the rest of Made by Many’s 31-person team pitches in between working on client projects. It is an agency, after all. The entire team is excited about it, but “we’re set up for the client. This is a big learning process for us,” Roissetter said.
There are a million things to be done. First, they’re focused on adding social elements. Picles need to be easy to share on Facebook and on Youtube. Right now they can only be manually exported as videos and then posted. They need hashtags and geolocation. And eventually the Made by Many team will add a more comprehensive website similar to Instagram’s.
Then, they want to make Picles embeddable. One of the great features available now is that you can fuse a series of Picles together to make cool little videos like this:
That’s what Hardy made after a trip to the beach last year, but it took him several days. Most amateur photographers or videographers don’t have the bandwidth for that, so they end up posting crappy vacation or concert videos to YouTube. This is a certain improvement. (To give you a sense of a single Pickle, here’s a rather unexciting one my friend made while IMing me about this story.)
The Made by Many guys have no idea where the project will go. Right now they just want to make something people love. “We want to give people new superpowers in telling stories that they didn’t have before,” Roissetter said.
It’s not entirely surprising — to me, at least — that a cool app could emerge from an ad agency. They’re increasingly looking to labs and skunkworks projects as a way to stay innovative, grab potential clients’ attention, and even recruit employees.
Wieden + Kennedy has its own incubator. So does Rockfish Interactive. Crowdtap, a social marketing platform, was built in the creative agency Mr. Youth. (It eventually spun off and raised outside venture backing from Foundry Group and GSA Venture Partners.) You could argue that this is a sign of a bubble, where suddenly everyone and everything is a startup, or that it’s an awesome trend for innovation everywhere. I’ll go with the latter.