Photos

There are no shortage of apps and services looking to help users store, manage, and share photos. So many that you could forgive the average consumer – or technology journalist – for getting lost amid the myriad of choices. And yet despite the sheer number, most focus on solving the same problem: sharing a limited number of photos with a semi-public group of social media followers. But what if grandma wants to see all 500 high-resolution photos from that ballet recital and doesn’t know Facebook from face lotion?

Like it or not, trying to share a large number of photos, especially at full resolution, can be painful. At the same time, many of those loved ones who can’t stand to miss a single precious moment in our lives aren’t technologically savvy. It may not be a terribly sexy problem, but it’s nonetheless a huge market opportunity. Today, Y-Combinator-backed startup Kicksend is rolling out an updated version of its file sharing product to solve this very problem. To use one of those incredibly cliche product-mashup analogies, think of it like Path plus Shutterfly for grandma’s.

Version 3.0 of the Kicksend iOS and Android apps are built around a new “Print to Family” feature which allows users to privately share an unlimited number of high-resolution photos with chosen family and friends. The company is launching the new feature alongside retail partnerships with CVS, Target, and Walgreens (available since September) that allows users to order physical prints from one of 15,000 US locations for pickup – allegedly in under an hour. Recipients simply view all the shared photos, grouped by time or location,  via a link sent by email or SMS, and choose those for which they want to order prints and in what size.

Kicksend didn’t make this decision to focus on photo sharing in a vacuum. Rather, it was driven by analyzing usage data for previous versions of the product to determine which features were most heavily utilized. It turns out that people were already using the product to share high numbers of images – and doing so frequently – even though it was poorly designed to do so. The new version is therefore aimed at simplifying this process, while keeping true to the brand’s privacy focused and small group optimized file sharing roots.

With the emphasis on not just sharing, but printing photos, Kicksend competes in varying ways with some deep-pocketed, well-known companies. Each offers a piece of the solution, but believe it or not, none brings together the full package to solve this specific problem. In the photo-sharing space, Facebook, Instagram, and Path are the biggies, but each caters toward wide sharing and is not terribly well suited to dealing with high resolution images. When it comes to printing, Shutterfly and Kodak easyshare lead the way, but neither offers the simple sharing features of Kicksend.

The YC alum startup raised $1.8 million in seed funding at the end of 2011 led by True Ventures, with participation from SV Angel, Start Fund, Digital Garage, and Milo Founder and CEO Jack Abraham.

So yeah, Kicksend is another private photo-sharing app. And yes, in a throwback to a bygone era, it offers real paper prints of photo’s. But the startup is offering a seamless, end-to-end in a way that for some inexplicable reason, no one has really done very effectively to date. Crazy as it sounds, this could actually work. At least for another generation or so.