A Q&A with Linea co-founder and CEO Rowland Hobbs. The Seattle-based startup, which offers a horizontal-scrolling slideshow photo-sharing app, closed a $4 million Seed funding round at the end of May. It was founded in 2011
SUB: Please describe Linea and the primary innovation you are bringing to the market.
Hobbs: Try viewing all your photos at once. You’ll find that you are limited to viewing tiny thumbnails or slowly clicking through a slideshow. Slideshows have been around since the first projector in the late nineteenth century. The slideshow concept was improved in the 1960s with the advent of the Kodak Carousel, but our way of viewing photos has changed little since then, even though other photo technology has rapidly advanced.
Linea is the first time there has been a new way to see photos that breaks away from the slideshow model and keeps pace with how we want to view, share, organize, store, print and ultimately enjoy our photos. We do this with a beautiful and intelligent scrolling mosaic layout we call a Line.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Hobbs: Photo enthusiasts—people who love viewing photos, taking photos, or sharing photos. They are family photographers, amateur photographers and even pros. Right now, we are moving to a large public beta for photo enthusiasts. People can contact us if they want to be a photo leader with Linea.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Hobbs: There is no one approaching photo browsing, sharing, organizing, printing or storage like we do. But of course we do bump up against Flickr, Shutterfly or Dropbox. We find our users come from those sites because they want to see their photos more than they want to be database managers. Linea is simply beautiful photo browsing, and our users love it.
Hobbs: You can see all your photos in a beautiful, intelligent, design and it’s easy to use. Try making a photo album with Shutterfly. It takes at least twenty minutes. With Linea it takes under three minutes. Sharing with Dropbox? Your photos are stuck in folders and are difficult to view. View all your photos with Flickr? Looking through them in slideshow mode could take hours. Linea brings shared photos to light and simplifies photo browsing and printing.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Hobbs: Linea started as a side project while George Dy and I were at Post+Beam, an innovation and communication firm. We had been approached by a client to solve the problem of photo sharing and found the problem was in how we view photos, not the functionality of sharing itself.
So we founded Linea in fall 2011, and have been growing ever since. We now have 200,000-plus users and 11 amazing employees.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Linea? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Hobbs: Yes, when we watched family photographers trying to organize their photos, we saw the problem. There was no way for them to organize all of their photos in a way that made it easy to view them as well. This was an early user experience insight, but it took us a bit to prove it out through a private beta. Now we are moving the design into a full social medium over the summer.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?
Hobbs: We organize photos as Lines. These Lines are infinitely scrolling, beautiful mosaics. So, we named the company ‘Linea.’ Our logo itself is actually a line—a perfectly pulled single piece of string. It symbolizes pulling all our memories together in one great story.
SUB: You recently launched with $4 million in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?
Hobbs: As we move into a public sharing mode in the summer, new funding will help us reach new communities and add functionality. For instance, our latest version that was just released in the app store makes your photos from Dropbox easy to view, share, and print.
SUB: Do you have plans to raise more Venture funding in the near future?
Hobbs: Yes, we are in discussions on a Series A round for the fall.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Hobbs: Reaching the key organizers and photo enthusiasts has been crucial. We really want to talk to you if you are an awesome photographer.
SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Hobbs: We are focused on creating an awesome user experience right now and growing our photo enthusiast community. We do have a healthy increase in our book orders month-after-month. That isn’t our long term goal, but is great to see.
SUB: What are your goals for Linea over the next year or so?
Hobbs: Elate photo enthusiasts, free people from spending all their time sharing and organizing and get them viewing their photos again, and create an incredible dynamic community on top of our initial core of 200,000 users.
Linea – www.getlinea.com