For some, the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the year for 2013, “selfie,” meant little more than an inane desire for people to capture themselves looking cool. For Sam Ulu, founder of Cincinnati-based startup Kandid.ly
, it was a revelation and an opportunity.
Kandid.ly is an online resource for photographers to list their work and book gigs. Similarly, it acts as a resource for customers who want to book photographers for any type of event. The streamlined setup allows for quick analysis by customers to find the right photographer based on rates, locations and recommendations, and also adds a social “gamification” element where photographers can receive badges from checking in at events, similar to Foursquare
. Ulu cemented the concept for the company just as the selfie era was beginning.
“People are craving richer experiences, and they want to be able to remember those moments. That’s why the selfie is so popular,” Ulu says. “The selfie is our quest to capture ourselves being in the moment.”
Rather than attempt to capture ourselves, Ulu bet that he could develop a means to have more experienced photographers capture those moments at a price point affordable to anyone. After reading a 2012 Wall Street Journal called “Don’t Forget to Pack a Photographer
” that descrived what astronomical rates hotels and vacation services were charging for this, Ulu knew there was a better way.
“Nobody had figured how to best monetize this process,” he says. “So I spent a lot of time talking to consumers, interviewing photographers; in the end I talked to more than 600 photographers from 2012-2013.”
Now, after taking time to build his team up (Kandid.ly is currently run by a team of seven), Ulu has his company poised to get things rolling.
“We’re working on closing a $500,000 investment from Queen City Angels
,” Ulu says. “That will enable us to run Kandid.ly in public beta for 12 months, start validating our customer acquisition strategy, revenue model and many other things before we actually scale it.”
Ulu is passionate and excited to build his company here in Cincinnati.
“People have that Midwest pride here and want to help, even if they are not investing in your company; everyone wants to see you succeed,” Ulu says. “Cincinnati is positioned the be the next hub for entrepreneurs. In the near future, a couple companies are going to bust onto the national scene to literally announce that the Midwest has arrived, and we believe that Kandid.ly is going to be one of those companies.”
By Mike Sarason