Unlike the plethora of photo sharing apps that have come and gone in the last year, Winter 2012 Y Combinator alumni Chute is solving a major problem in the marketplace. Prior to Chute, each developer and brand wanting to build photo functionality into their app or website was forced to build these tools from scratch.
The startup has addressed this issue by creating an “Images-backend-as-a-Service” platform enabling developers, online publishers, and brands to capture, manage, and display media files in a simplified and portable way.
Chute announced $2.7 million in seed financing today led by Freestyle Capital, with participation from Battery Ventures, USVP, Salesforce.com, Klout CEO and CTO Joe Fernandez and Binh Tran, and Zen Payroll CEO Joshua Reeves.
The startup has built a library of APIs, SDKs, and developer tools to support image uploading, processing, and moderation, as well as third-party API integrations and user authentication. This functionality can be added to apps or websites by embedding a few lines of code. Current clients include NBCNews.com (formerly MSNBC), Today.com, Lucky Magazine, Taylormade, Havaianas, House of Blues Entertainment, and LA Live.
“The Chute user experience integrates beautifully with our editorial product, making for a seamless user experience and maximizing engagement,” says TODAY.com GM Jen Brown.
Brands and publishers gladly pay a usage volume-metered SaaS fee in order to accept and manage user generated media assets using Chute. Each company has found its own innovative ways to use the system, although with the tool just recently out of beta, the current applications are barely scratching the surface of what’s possible when companies gain true control of the content being submitted by users.
One of the more fruitful ideas has been hash-tag driven photo contests. “With Chute we are able to utilize hash-tag driven content feeds, which are highly viral and go a long way to drive brand awareness and fan engagement with our venues and events,” says House of Blues Entertainment Senior Manager, Social Media Mikey Kilun.
Only a few months removed from YC, Chute is currently in the midst of another, decidedly different, type of incubator. The company is five weeks through a twelve week Turner Broadcasting Media Camp accelerator for digital media startups. The program provides education, access to industry experts, and the possibility of additional investment.
According to co-founder and CEO Ranvir Gujral, the experience has already proven invaluable to his team of former “media outsiders.” Gujral describes his assigned mentor as the “CEO of a prominent television network” and predicts adding a number of paying customers in the very near future based out of relationships built started within Media Camp.
“The best brands and publishers in the industry are bringing user generated media alive and displaying it on their site, on their Facebook pages, in their mobile apps, or at live events; anywhere their content lives,” says Gujral. “With Chute, publishers, brands, and application developers no longer have to reinvent the wheel every time they want to build functionality to capture [this content].”