Backing Olapic, because “visual content rules”

Introducing Olapic, built on the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words

Olapic is a SaaS company that enables marketers to turn user-generated photos and videos into assets for their brands. By enabling brands to identify, manage and track this visual content Olapic powers an even stronger bond between brands and consumers. It started as a small project between three friends — Pau, Cabo and Luis — who met at Columbia University in NY during their MBA in 2010. They had a vision to explore how visual content generated across social networks, could become pieces of content for more established media, retailers and brands. At that time Instagram was just getting going, and the world had not switched to mobile yet, but they had a strong intuition that visual content would become increasingly important. Fast forward 4 years, they have grown from a small project to a very established business with c. 100 employees in the US (HQ in NY plus team in SF), Latin America (engineering in Argentina) and Europe (from London) and many happy customers, essentially consumer brands in lifestyle categories. We have had the chance to invest 2 years ago (initially as a personal investment pre-Felix) and we encouraged the team early to think about international expansion. In particular we believed Europe would be an attractive market, with so many great lifestyle brands and also some very large consumer facing companies with global reach (Unilever and L’Oréal, two Olapic customers, being great examples). Since then we witnessed their commercial success, extreme focus on product, and ability to manage growth with limited amounts of capital.

You can see Olapic in action here with Target’s iPad app with user generated content

Olapic finds itself at the intersection of fundamental, secular technology and social trends

- the rise of e-commerce, especially mobile commerce where good imagery on small screens is so important

- the rise of social media, especially visual (Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat etc. and mobile in general), becoming the main media that people, young and not so young, want to consume

- the reinvention of marketing by technology

All of these trends are beautifully and convincingly summarised in Mary Meeker’s latest report on Internet trends. We loved to see on page 68 of the report the slide below, “visual stuff (in and out) rules”, especially driven by the younger (12–24) generation that is showing the way of Internet & mobile usage.

Visual stuff rules…

Both the quality and the volume of such content are rising fast as people spend more time on mobile social networks, consuming and producing visual content. Smartphones’ cameras are now everyone’s favourite cameras. The photo apps have built tools to create increasingly beautiful content, becoming primary tools of self expression. The result is beautiful, engaging, authentic visual content, the kind of stuff that brands now aspires to recreate, endorse and use as this is what people want to consume.

This is particularly attractive for lifestyle brands where there is a strong, emotional relationship with the customers, who are likely to express this love publicly across social networks, including posting pictures or videos with the brand as the hashtag. Olapic started in apparel & fashion (with brands from New Balance to Christian Louboutin), then grew across other lifestyle categories such as beauty, luxury, travel, and working with many retailers as well (Target, Walmart, TopShop, etc.)

A great illustration of Felix Capital’s investment strategy

Olapic matches our investment strategy of investing in brands and related enabling technologies. The two largest segment we are focused on at Felix are “Digital Commerce” and “Digital Media”, and arguably Olapic overlaps with both. We look at these segments through our thematic lenses. In media we have 2 core themes that resonate with Olapic: “visual content rules” (coincidently we have this as a theme since Felix’s inception), and “the tech-enablement of the CMO”. So Olapic is just in our sweet spot. More importantly we look at every opportunity through three key criterias that are essential for us to invest:

- a great team: this is the key criteria, our business is “all about people” and we place a great emphasis in backing founders we believe will grow with the business, and with whom we can build a strong partnership. Pau, Cabo and Luis are an amazing trio with extremely complementary skills and a great ambition.

- a different business: Olapic started very early to work on this visual content marketing opportunity. Over the years they built a great depth of technology and expertise with the engineering team. This is best illustrated by Olapic’s Photorank™, a proprietary machine learning algorithm that predicts which photos will perform best across channels including e-commerce, advertising, social, direct and in-store.

- a global opportunity: especially with the ability to conquer the US market, which is essential in the marketing automation space, but also Europe and Asia at some point.

While we were fund raising for Felix’s first fund we often gave the example of Olapic as an illustration of the companies we would have loved to back at their first round. We have always said that we will be pragmatic when it comes to investments. We invest early, ideally in first institutional round but if we find companies where we have missed the previous round and have conviction that they have the potential to scale and own their category, we will try to get on board. This is exactly the case with Olapic. Our conviction is that visual content is only going to become more important and that the company is at the intersection of fundamental trends, with a strong ability to execute.

We led a $15m investment in Olapic, with the support of existing investors Longworth and Fund Capital, and the fantastic addition of Unilever Ventures, who have deep knowledge of the marketing technology space. This is an important investment for us, the first in the US and we will work very closely with the team to help build a global leader in the segment.