Facebook's billion-dollar buyout of Instagram and Yahoo's purchase of Flickr showed us that photo sharing apps and websites have value in the mobile sector.
Now picture this: a photo-based Seattle startup that wants to build its user base first before looking for ways to monetize it.
Since Trover launched in 2011, it has targeted "photographers, foodies and explorers." Its users share photos and stories about their travels, and so far the iOS app and website has attracted more than a quarter of a million photos and other content. Trover's user base of what CEO Jason Karas calls "storytellers" has grown four-fold just during its last quarter.
The company, with a small staff of eight working out of a Pioneer Square office, has a strong pedigree: its co-founder is Rich Barton, the entrepreneur who gave us Expedia and Zillow. Trover is funded by top venture capital firms, including Bellevue's Ignition Partners and Benchmark Capital in Silicon Valley. There's also an investment from Concur, the Bellevue-based tech company that makes travel and expense management software.
You'll find some great-looking photos from 150 countries on Trover, as well as travel-related tips, restaurant recommendations and the accompanying food porn. What you won't find are ads or any visible ways that Trover can make money. And that's fine for now, says Karas.
"The value that we're building in this sort of content and in this community is really unique and really powerful," he said. "There's really not a place where you can get this super-authentic visual content around travel, so if we continue to do that, the monetization is actually going to be the easiest part, I believe."
More user growth is expected in June, when Trover launches an Android version of its app that's been in development for eight months. The company currently has deals with several boutique hotel chains that allow guests to see Trover photos and stories about things to do and places to go near where they are staying.