How we turned our initial idea for SNAPP Guides into the ultimate location-finding app for photographers
Two years ago we had an idea to build an app-based tool for photographers that would get people to the right places at the right times to get the shots they wanted. Here’s the story of how we got SNAPP Guides off the ground and created an app that travelling photographers would want to have with them as the perfect field companion for every shoot.
The not-so “Lightbulb Moment”
It might have started the day we trudged up a steep hill for over an hour following vague directions from a photographer friend to shoot the misty flood-plains of Cerknica, Slovenia, only to realise we were just two minutes away from our car had we headed off in the opposite direction! Or it might have been the morning we set off for a sunrise shot in the hills surrounding Sarajevo and arrived with only seconds to spare to set up as the sun was rising because we had missed a couple of key, un-signposted turns.
At any rate, having worked and photographed together for three years and hunted for many a perfect location with ideal light and weather conditions, the idea for SNAPP Guides was actually less of a lightbulb moment and more a growing sense of “wouldn’t it be great to have one amazing, easy-to-use app that helped photographers get to the right places at the right times to get the shots they wanted?”
So What Next?
We started to sketch out and develop what we believed was a great idea for a photography location finding app with the key differentiator being a focus on providing quality images, accurate data and an incredible user-experience. The solution we came up with was SNAPP Guides; a series of app-based destination guides for photographers, created by a network of international pro photographers. This way we could cover multiple destinations without relying on crowd-sourcing to provide users with photography locations. But with no experience of building an app or launching a tech start-up and just the two of us trying to come up with a plan, there were moments when it looked like our grand idea might come to nothing as the road ahead looked so daunting…
Here are some of the things we did to take our idea to the next level and start making a working product:
We talked about it; with each other and with other photography friends and contacts. Whilst some starting out on new business ventures worry that their idea might be ‘stolen’, we never doubted that the way forward was to develop our idea by testing the reaction of those we thought were most likely to use it. We conducted interviews, spoke to all types of photographers, sought feedback from key movers and influencers within our circle, and used the Lean Start-Up methodology to get to a point where we had a simple but highly usable product to move forward with. We even found our first SNAPP Pro, Jon Reid, who believed in the idea from the outset and trusted our instincts that we could make it work. The good news is that in the process we confirmed our gut feeling that Snapp Guides was a product that would solve the problems we regularly face as photographers; namely tonamely to save time, ensure we have accurate info to hand and allow us to be out more with the camera rather than indoors planning a shoot.
We read a lot; we’re constantly reading about what’s happening in travel tech and with start ups in general. Some of the best books and articles that have helped us to-date include Traction: A start-up guide to getting customers; Rework and Running Lean. These taught us a lot about finding a focus, developing a minimal viable product to get started and how to work in short sprints and not become overwhelmed by what needed to be achieved. We also keep up with the latest news and blog posts from Buffer, an inspirational company who not only offer a great tool to share your social media posts but generously and transparently share tips, advice and the best ways to increase engagement and drive traffic to your site. Our latest find is Made To Stick by Chip & Dan Heath, a book about nurturing your ideas so that they succeed and have a lasting impact.
We entered a seed-funding competition; just as entering your first 5k or 10k run focuses your fitness training, it all came together for us when we entered a bid for Start-Up Slovenia with up to 54,000 EUR available in seed funding for the top pitches. Only discovering the competition 2 weeks before the deadline added extra tension but forced us to pull together a tight plan, story, logo and basic website in preparation for the bid. It made us realise we actually had all the ingredients we needed but gave us the momentum to put it together in a more professional format. I’m delighted to say that we were finalists in the competition and met the criteria to access funds provided by P2 Slovene Enterprise funding.
We created a voice for SNAPP Guides on social media; as photographers we were already sharing our work online, so next we sought to establish an identity for SNAPP Guides and started to share some of the incredible locations we had already discovered and photographed as well as those of the pro-photographers we recruited to make guides in their chosen locations. We hate sharing for sharing’s sake, so our focus is on creating quality blog posts, updates and newsletters that really help the photography community and help photographers like ourselves to discover and explore exciting new places around the world. We’ve started small and are gradually increasing our followers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ by focusing on the needs of photographers who love to travel and photograph responsibly.
In the past 24 months SNAPP Guides has gone through many iterations to become the destination guide-based app we launched in the App Store last month (and soon on Android). No doubt it will evolve again as we progress and we certainly have more features we want to incorporate in time. But for now we’ve listened to fellow photographers, mentors and those with experience of launching a tech start-up and have focused on what matters — quality app-based destination guides to help photographers discover incredible places to shoot and give them inspiration, creative and local tips to ensure they take their best shots ever once there.
Our advice — don’t give up! If you’ve got a great idea, go for it… write it down, start talking about it, let it develop and see where it leads you. It’s hard work, we won’t lie, but so worthwhile to see something you care passionately about take shape and become a tangible product.
We would love to hear from photographers who use location-finding apps and tools to plan their photo shoots and hear your thoughts on SNAPP Guides. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or thoughts about what we’re up to at Snapp HQ or want to talk about getting your own idea off the ground. We’ll be back soon with more updates on where our journey takes us next!
Jules Renahan (Co-founder)