NYC 2.0 (continued…)

In the past, I have written about a number of first generation NYC entrepreneurs coming out of the woodwork to launch new ideas.  Sure, the market may not be great right now but in my opinion it is the best time to build a business.  As an entrepreneur you have time to develop your product, refine and test it, and get it ready for when the market turns.  The most recent addition to this list of second generation entrepreneurs is Andrew Erlichson, former CEO and cofounder of Flashbase.

When I first met Andrew in late 1998, he had just finished his Stanford Ph.d program in EE from Stanford with other well-known classmates.  My fund seed invested in his idea which was to allow anyone to build database-enabled, web-based applications through a simple GUI.  Some of the applications that users built ranged from simple forms for their website to richer ones like help desk, call center, project management, and sweepstakes apps.  This was 1998 and Flashbase was a true predecessor to Intuit's Quickbase. We were obviously way too early but after a year of blazing this trail, we ended up selling the company to Doubleclick for a nice return.  After spending a few years with his golden handcuffs on at Doubleclick, Andrew is back in action with his next project, Phanfare.

Like any great consumer service, the company started because Andrew wanted to solve his own problem with sharing his digital photos.  For many, the first instinct with a digital camera is to make prints.  However, it is clear that this will evolve and people will share more and more of their pictures online.  The problem is that the print sites only want you to share with friends as a vehicle to sell more prints.  They do not keep your photos up indefinitely, their branding is all over your private albums, and your friends and family get bombarded with email to buy more prints. So Andrew did what most entrepreneurs do, created his own software and service.  Simply put, Phanfare allows users to share and back up their digital photos in a simple, permanent, polished, and unbranded way.  You can even use your own URL to share photos.

From a technology perspective, we are seeing an evolution in the way network client software is written. Initially, the client sw was web-based, with simple html as the implementation technology. Then interactive sites moved to using client side scripting like javascript. Now, for media intensive applications, we are starting to see full fat client network applications like iTunes. While I am a fan of software as a service, it truly makes sense for apps manipulating or using large files to be client-side but network-enabled. With Phanfare's client software, you can manipulate your pictures locally from within the app while your website stays in synch in the background. While the idea of sharing photos does not sound like a heavy-duty technology initiative, Phanfare's founders were trained to build cache coherent multiprocessors at Stanford. This means that like any web-based service you can use Phanfare from any computer with a simple download and keep your albums synched.

So as the holiday season approaches and you snap tons of photos of your friends and family, I suggest giving Phanfare a try.  I have my own family website and may just transition it all to Phanfare.  While the service is great, my only question is how big this market will be for Andrew.  That being said, it is great to see Andrew back with a new venture.

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This post was written by who has written 358 posts on BeyondVC.

4 Responses to “NYC 2.0 (continued…)”

  1. Damian Dec 3, 2004 at 3:49 pm #

    No offense to you or Andrew, but aren’t there a million of these sites out there?

  2. Ed Sim Dec 3, 2004 at 4:39 pm #

    No offense taken, I am not an investor, just like the service and the fact Andrew is out with a new company. Yes, the question is market size and competition.

  3. Charlie O'Donnell Dec 3, 2004 at 4:57 pm #

    I’m definately going to check this out! I was literally just looking for sites and I was annoyed that sites like Snapfish, etc. will charge me to get my own hi-res files back… they’re print services, not true photo backup sites. There’s a big difference between a site that shares photos and a place for online storage. The question is whether you have a big enough market of advanced users who can appreciate the difference. I’ve never seen any studies about market behavior… I’ve seen the high level numbers about digital camera penetration, but I haven’t seen numbers on what people actually do with the photos after they’re take them and how many people just print them versus keep them online, burn them to CDs, keep them on websites, etc.

  4. Andrew Erlichson Dec 3, 2004 at 5:24 pm #

    There are quite a few sites that offer online photo sharing. The benefit of coming a little later to the game is that you can address the deficiencies in the current solutions. You can break the universe of photos sharing sites into two groups, roughly; those that offer sharing as a way to sell more prints and those that are in the business of offering online albums. Of the latter group, we think we have something that is better. And if you want our combination of intelligent, caching client plus a completely unbranded personal album, there are no other solutions. But I would suggest you give it a try and then judge for yourself.

    Regarding size of market, we believe it will be there. It is not surprising to me that today, prints are the focus. We all come from the world of film and have been taught to value that stack of 4×6 prints. But we believe behavior will change over time. Personally, it is very satisfying to maintain a high quality online album for friends and family. And having killer tools to make it faster and more efficient makes it much enjoyable.

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