Thinglink, a Finnish startup, has come out with a new focus. Little over a year ago we wrote about the company and how they were opening up their Beta. Ulla-Maaria Engeström’s blog post goes on to explain how during that Beta phase they explored all the possible variations of linking together people, things and the information the things hold. Even if brief, It’s an important account on how a startup can dig out the essence of a minimum viable product (MVP) on their way to product/market fit.
Not only that, the learnings that Ulla-Maaria Engeström describes are very valuable in understanding how a thing can serve various kinds of discovery.
During the beta phase we also noticed that discovering new interesting things almost always includes other types of discovery. Sometimes things lead to other things, which again lead to places to buy or articles about the designer. Other times things can introduce us other people, and we are thrilled to discover aesthetic soul mates or fellow collectors. Old things can open us new horizons to ourselves, to our family, or to our cultural history. We at Thinglink found it important to support various kinds of discovery, not only commercial.
If you’re a product person like I am, you understand the excitement I got from reading how the essence of a whole new product category can be discovered by building an understanding through user testing and iteration. It might be frustrating at times, but it sure can be useful. The applications of the findings are vast when the web marches further into the real world and the line between the two become more fluid. For the full account you can read the blog post here.
The service itself is quite simple. It’s as simply as Bit.ly, but with Thinglink you tag images. You can do this even without registering just as you would shorten an URL at Bit.ly. Once you tag an image, you can link it to anywhere you want. Its ideal for media, photographers or anyone wanting to present things through photos online.
Ulla-Maaria is not the only Engeström working on the product. Ulla-Maaria’s husband, Jyri Engeström (co-founder of Jaiku and former Product Manager at Google where he worked on all things social that Google was involved with) is the Head of Product at Thinglink. To fully grasp how to ‘give things identity’ it can’t hurt to have Jyri Engeström driving the product development. Along with co-founding Jaiku, he also coined the term ‘Social Object’ in the web context. Janne Jalkanen, a Nokia longtimer and an NFC wizard also joined the company as a CTO some three months ago (see our story here).
There’s a few ways I can see the company generating revenue with the service. Since the focus of the service is to enable object tagging in photos this could be quite nifty tool for any media who could subsequently generate affiliate sales through linking the objects to online stores or even sell those products themselves. Another way to monetize would be eventually through the accrued data base of information the company will have. This ‘thing graph’, as Ulla-Maaria Engeström calls it, will eventually be very valuable, but does not come quick. It takes considerable usage and time (think Facebook’s social graph). But the simplicity that the team gunned for will help driving usage and also to distinguish Thinglink from its competitors whose services are more complicated to use.
Thinglink’s competitors include a US based Pixazza, which just recently raised $12 million Series B round. Pixazza’s pitch is build around ‘AdSense for Images’ and the pitch seems to be working at least for Google since the company got Google Ventures to invest along with Shasta Ventures, August Capital and CMEA Capital. The company don’t comment on exact numbers but says that click through rates are significantly higher than regular banner ads. Other companies working in the space include Like.com, Image Space Media and GumGum.
The $12 million machine might intimidate at first, but its also a good sign that validates the market for Thinglink’s new focus even though the company might adjust its course along the way when the service matures.
I, for one, am excited to see where the team will take the service and how this new space will shape up going forward.