Startup Spotlight:'s online marketplace – affordable photography for your meaningful event.’s online marketplace fills niche for affordable photography for your meaningful event. Sam E. Ulu, Founder & CEO of, explains how their growth hacking techniques will keep customer acquisition costs low and conversions high.

Q. What does provide?
A. is an online marketplace connecting consumers who need professional photography services with local photographers. It’s simple for consumers to find, compare and book available photographers at affordable rates. Photographers utilize the site as a platform to gain exposure to new clients, build their reputation, manage reservations and accept payments.

Q. What makes cool?
A. is different because we’re the first marketplace solely focused on enabling photography enthusiasts to monetize their passion without the cost or time needed to setup a photography business.

From a company culture standpoint, we are a NO email company – every decision and new feature is metric driven. As passionate as we are about our product, we’re even more passionate about our customer acquisition strategy being low-cost, high-touch and high-conversion, hence our close integration with local communities via events.

For instance, we have our photographers attend local events and take candid photos of the attendees for free. They hand out a mini card with their name a link to our site. Visitors can look up the photographer’s name and the event they attended and then search through all the photos. If they find ones they like, they simply download them for free and share. Each picture comes with a signature line that includes our company name and the photographer name to help with brand recognition. By driving people to the site to see the free photos, they will likely come back to us and the photographer when they need to book a paying engagement.

We feel good about helping consumers capture their memories with quality photography at affordable rates, which allows them to be in the moment.

Q. Why did you choose Cincinnati for your startup?
A. I originally came here on a scholarship for graduate school at University of Cincinnati to learn jet engine design. While a job at GE Aviation was my most likely career path, I knew I also liked tech start-ups. My first experience was a site called, which I started in 2007 as an undergrad at Florida Institute of Technology. It was comparable to an online version of American Idol and I eventually sold it to a competitor. My second startup experience came after graduate school. I worked as a product manager for local startup, inno360. I really wanted to start a company of my own again, and I decided to stay here, because Cincinnati is a great place to find smart people coming out of good colleges. Plus it has a low cost of living. My money goes a lot farther in Cincinnati that it would on either coast. Cintrifuse has been extremely helpful, and we are establishing our permanent office here once the full-time staff is on board.

Q. What’s unique about your pricing model?
A. Crowdsourcing and collaborative consumption are trends creating opportunities for people with skills, equipment, products and extra bandwidth to sell their product or service via the Internet at reduced rates – think Airbnb. Getting paid something is better than getting nothing and letting your empty apartment or photography studio, time, or camera equipment go to waste.

Photography is a $10 billion industry and event photos represent 11% of this. We think we can carve out a niche by offering an affordable, convenient service enabling consumers to improve their experience by hiring a photographer to take candid shots at any type of event or activity.

There are two key trends happening in the photography market. First, social media has driven the demand for photo taking – from the exciting to the mundane – selfies evolved because the picture taker realized he/she wanted to be in front of the camera, not behind it. Second, consumers’ desire to share via social photography and be captured in the moment is now transitioning to the next level of demand – improved quality of candid photos across a broader range of social, community, and professional events. This means hiring photographers. The challenge with hiring photographers is to find them, know whether or not they are any good, and be able to justify paying for them.

Kandidly exists so our customers can be in the moment during meaningful events without worrying about being out of the frame, or spending too much money for better quality photos.

Q. How did get started?
A. The idea came to me from two sources. First, I have several friends who are photographers, and I would listen to their challenges. These were mostly about the business side of photography, such as getting new clients and managing a web site, or trying to figure out how to monetize their weekend photography hobby. Most acquired new clients through word of mouth. Second, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal “Don’t Forget to Pack a Photographer”, which reviews the latest consumer trend of hiring photographers during a vacation to provide quality photos for holiday cards, social media photos and great memories that include everyone in the photos.

I firmly believe that more people will hire photographers for social and business events if it is easy and affordable.

I did competitive research and realized there was no site or application that already did what I was envisioning, and so was incorporated in 2012.

Q. How does work?
A. Photographers sign up on the site and create a profile that lets consumers know their rates and availability, such as full-time, part-time or weekends. We integrate with their existing photo-sharing site accounts so there isn’t any need to migrate photos. The photographer only has to select their top favorite photos hosted elsewhere to add to their portfolio. We also integrate with their existing social media profiles for log in and feeds, and of course we offer some of our own social features such as badges, check-ins, and user ratings so consumers can compare photographers and review feedback from their clients.

We also offer a rate recommender for photographers based on their experience and city. Often when starting out, they don’t know what to charge. Our app takes ongoing transactions into account and continually updates the rates.

Consumers search based on their location, the type of photographer, and time needed, and can see all key information in one view.

We charge a small percentage of the total booking fee. The consumer pays us directly after the photography session is completed, and then we pay the photographer.

Q. What haven been your key challenges?
A. Our biggest challenge is at the core of what we do, which is changing the way our memories are captured during meaningful events. At not only are we trying to gain market share, we’re also trying to create a new market around affordable photography for events.

We have to reiterate to photographers that we are not taking their business away, decreasing their artistic value, or trying to reduce their profit margins.

It’s just the opposite. We are creating a new revenue stream for photographers by making it easy, fast and affordable for consumers to find, compare and book photography services for all types of events and activities not normally considered before. For example, consumers can capture professional candid photos at birthday and holiday parties, reunions, corporate events, community events, non-profit events, and sporting events to easily share and print. Additionally, by improving the quality of product photos for listings, sellers can improve their chances of selling these items.

Q. What have been your key accomplishments?
A. I have been incredibly lucky to put together a very talented and experienced local team to help me design, build and market the site. They have shown tremendous dedication, and each has worked many hours in their free time without pay. (They each have day jobs for now.)

We’ve been hitting all the milestones that were set since the whole team came together. We’re also on track to complete our beta site in time for a summer launch.

We have 600 photographers across 12 major cities signed up on our site and ready to start taking pictures.

We have our operational and analytics technology tools and processes in place and are ready to go.

We accomplished this with just a little bit of friends and family funding.

Q. What are your next key milestones?
A. We are looking to close $500,000 in seed funding within the next 30-45 days. This allows me to hire the staff on a full-time basis, launch the site in April, and increase awareness, bookings, and photographers. Additionally, a mobile app is in our short-term product roadmap.

Q. What should interested photographers or consumers do?
A. Visit our site at and enter your e-mail address (scroll down on home page to “Get Access When We Launch”), and we will let you know when the site is ready.

Contact Sam E. Ulu: 513.608.5223

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