Why we decided to shut down lifeblob photo sharing post acquisition?

Since the announcement of acquisition of Lifeblob by Printo, there has been a sudden surge of interest in the photo sharing service. Infact, so many people asked me about why we are shutting down the photo sharing services that I decided to write my answer in this post.

The answer is a single word: FOCUS

The mission of lifeblob was to be a photo sharing that allows people to explore photos through relations in a visually engaging format. For the first two years, we were solely focussed on growing the photo sharing service, but since we were finding it very hard to monetize it, we decided to extend the service to include merchandising of personalized photo gifts. By then we had over 4 Million photos and the plan of acquiring users through the photo sharing service and then monetizing them by selling personalized gifts made perfect sense.

However, as we started executing on our plans, the reality dawned on us – “People who use our photo sharing services are not necessarily the ones who would purchase personalized gifts from us”. Infact, pretty soon, we realized that there is very little overlap between the two segments and we ended up splitting our marketing effort into two parts, one targeted towards growing the photo sharing service ( contests, events etc ) and the other targeted towards increasing transactions ( adwords, SEO, coupons, mailers etc ) in our personalized gifting store. The segments were so dramatically different in all respects that we simply couldn’t leverage a user acquired from one segment to the other.

Despite this realization, we decided to continue running both the services under Lifeblob because in our minds, discovery of photos through relations was our primary service with merchandising being necessary for revenue generation. However, the scenario changes when you combine Lifeblob with Printo.

Printo’s mission is to provide excellent printing services to their customers and Lifeblob’s simple and elegant personalization platform perfectly fits the bill. However, that doesn’t rule out an interest in photo sharing service because it was growing at a good pace and common sense suggests that photo sharing + printing service is a good combination.

Over the past few weeks, Manish and I have had several discussions regarding the photo sharing service and based on our experiences over the past year, it has been my recommendation that the photo sharing service be shut down so that the combined entity retains FOCUS on its mission and not divide its efforts.

As much as it pains me to make a recommendation that will put an end to three years of hard work, I feel it is my responsibility to suggest what is right – the final decision still rests with Printo though.

10 thoughts on “Why we decided to shut down lifeblob photo sharing post acquisition?”

  1. Why can’t photo sharing consumers be the providers and printing consumers be the consumers of the photos? I may want to gift my friend a t-shirt with his photo but I might not have one that fits the bill. Or I might want to use a nice photo for a calender and maybe willing to pay an extra 100 rupees for it?

  2. Thats certainly an interesting idea. I do remember hearing it before ( perhaps from you in an earlier conversation ) and discussing it with the team but we never pursued it.

    And there were a couple of reasons for this:

    1) At a basic level, this conflicts with the idea that was behind lifeblob photo sharing. We were building an open system with photos that are loosely connected through relations whereas this would require dealing with copyright issues, adding another level for users to opt-in for their photos to be used by others and most importantly excellent filtering mechanism for photos. We didn’t want to make our offering more complex than it needed to be.

    2) We strongly believed that people would buy personalized gifts if there is an emotional connect. And that emotional connect comes from a photo that has a person you are related to. Infact, all the orders that have gone through our system justify this belief.

    3) We didn’t have sufficient evidence to believe that there is a big enough market for this.

    In isolation, I don’t think it is a bad idea at all, and deserves further research to validate, but we were certainly not in a position to execute it.

  3. Pranav, need some insights…
    1)Why did you start LifeBlob.. motivation behind it… and wasn’t monetization part of that (common sense says yes it should be .. afterall you are starting a Biz. and not a fun site )? Comments please.
    2) Why did investors invest in Lifeblob ($2 mil.) when there was no monetization idea at that time. With Printo what did they get inturn.
    Just looking at some black and white numbers, etc. or a if you want to put it another way.
    3) If one has an idea and since the web biz has a low entry barrier .. success factors.

    Guess , am asking your and LifeBlob’s story here :-)

    Thanks.

  4. @watcher – I would have been much more receptive to your query if you had not chosen to be anonymous. Sorry, but I can’t spend time putting down all those details for you when you are not comfortable disclosing your identity.

  5. be generous Pranav…. share your “success” :-) and enlighten the whole net enterpreneur community.. Anonymity means no harm.. trust me !!
    You can give “general” gyan around your experience :-) if not specifics ($ 2mil funding etc. ;-) )…
    Thanks for your time (in advance)

  6. @watcher – I do plan to write a series of blog posts over the next few weeks to share my learnings with the community. But I will do them at my own pace and I hope you enjoy reading them as they come out.

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