Aviary has done pretty darn well for itself in the four months since launching its mobile SDK. In a blog post announcing a new version of its embeddable photo editing software for web and mobile, the puppy-obsessed startup shared some noteworthy stats. Aviary is now editing more than 10 million photos were month on mobile alone and picked up 300 partners through its API. Both in terms of unique users and edits, the company is growing at 50 percent a month.
The Aviary blog features a number of luxe screenshots of what the updated user interface, which includes enhanced speed, sleek dials, overhaul of its cropping tools, and more effects, will look like. But Betabeat spoke to Alex Taub, head of business development and partnerships, to get the full story about the upgrade, which also includes some attempts at monetization. In the meantime, if you want to start playing around with it, Pic Stitch will be the first partner to implement and go live with V2.
For those that aren’t familiar, Mr. Taub offered a handy summary of how the company evolved from a destination site to an API for web and mobile. Aviary began with funding from the likes of Jeff Bezos and Reid Hoffman to back a founding team that wanted to build Abobe Photoshop, but in the cloud. “While that was going well,” he said. “It was built in Flash and we didn’t have a solution for mobile.”
“We saw a lot of people use Photoshop, but it is an advanced skill to have,” said Mr. Taub. “So we took sort of the good stuff out of it. We said, we want to be around in five years, so we need shift gears. We’re focusing on professional consumers and advanced suite and we need to focus on consumers, developers, and mobile.” Rather than limiting Aviary’s tools to its own site, “We said, why don’t we take out the best things in our advanced suite, which was effects, and cropping, and rotating, and brightness and stickers—why don’t we take that out and make it into a lightweight editor and put it on third-party sites.”
The web API came in Thanksgiving 2010 and the mobile API in 2011. After that pivot, he said, “We went from a good business to a better business.”
Bigstock, Ning, Imager, FriendCaster for Facebook, RockMelt, Fashism, and Halftone are all current Aviary partners. Companies that use the Aviary API, he explained, don’t need to be photo-centric, rather any platform that allows users to upload photos. “If you’re a dating site, maybe you want to do red eye removal, brightness, cropping, rotating. If you’re a blogging platform, maybe you want stickers, effects, and drawing,” said Mr. Taub. “It really takes a full company working on it to build the tools right.” With the new version, the Aviary branding is less prominent so that users to have a more seamless experience.
As we spoke, Mr. Taub demonstrated the incredibly easy-to-use dials to adjust brightness. “This is me adding effects in real-time. It’s sick.” The brightness dial in particular, he noted, is “ten million times cooler for mobile” and vibrates as you move right and left. “Honestly, we put this in the partners hand and they smile.” The best, however, may be how well it works with crappy photos. “Auto-enhancing, night-enhancing, backlight balance, it’s all one-click magic.”
Meanwhile, he pointed out, competitors like Picnik, which was purchased by Google, have yet to release a mobile version. Although Aviary sees its biggest competitor as the actual tools in your smartphone, although iOS 5 cropping tools, for example, are still without an interface for developers.
As far as potential new revenue stream, the tool will still be given away for free to developers, but Aviary will start offering premium content like virtual goods on top of its editor to help partners monetize their users. That includes effects packs, sticker packs, and branded sticker packs. That includes “grungy” and “nostaglia” effects, themed stickers for particular holidays and, potentially, partnerships with big brands like the NBA or MLB. Another potential monetization strategy is printing, but right now the focus is on premium content.
“When you’re doing 10 million photos a month, if you can start converting a certain amount of users into buying stuff, it gets really, really interesting,” said Mr. Taub, who pointed out that Zynga only converts 1 to 5 percent of their users. In an email to Betabeat, CEO Avi Muchnick said, “I’m most looking forward to seeing our in-app purchasing capability beginning to roll out across our entire developer network.”