STARTUP SPOTLIGHT

Thanks to a selfie, this Austin entrepreneur is building an online site for photography

Austin-based Kandid.ly connects people who want to capture their important moments with amateur and freelance photographers.

Posted November 10th, 2016

Austin entrepreneur Sam Ulu got the idea for his startup from a selfie.

"I started thinking about how everyone pays professional photographers for their big moments like weddings. But there are a lot of memorable times that go uncaptured," he said.

Ulu had a hunch that people would pay for photos of those moments if they had an easy, affordable way to do it.

So two years ago, he launched Kandid.ly, a photography startup that connects people to photographers. 

We talked to Ulu about how it works.

What they do: Kandid.ly's website targets anyone who is seeking a photographer -- from event organizers to everyday folks who want candid pictures of an event that matters to them like an anniversary celebration or a birthday bash.

Kandid.ly photographers also shoot Christmas card pictures, family portraits, Thanksgiving gatherings, anything except weddings.

To find a photographer, you go to the site, fill out information such as the type of event, location, the date and how much you want to spend per hour. 

Kandid.ly recommends three amateur and/or professional freelance photographers and their hourly rates, and includes links to past work and reviews. The session can be booked online, and the fee goes into escrow.

"There's Airbnb for lodging and Uber for rides, why not have a similar model for photographers' services," Ulu said.

Sam Ulu is the founder of Kandid.ly

How they do it: Kandid.ly currently offers services in Austin and Cincinnati and is preparing to break into new markets.

Ulu says the typical freelance photographer charges about $100 an hour, while photographers on Kandid.ly charge an average of $40 an hour. Kandid.ly keeps 20 percent of the total charge.

The company has signed more than 1,000 photographers, and has booked more than 10,000 photo shoots since launching.

Who they are: Ulu, the founder, earned a master's degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. His master's thesis was in optimizing jet engine designs using software.

Ulu worked as a research analyst and a simulation engineer at Procter & Gamble, and was engineering team lead at Cincinnati-based Inno360, where he developed software for large companies including Procter & Gamble, General Mills and Kraft.

He came up with the idea for Kandid.ly in 2012 and launched the site in Cincinnati two years later. After visiting Austin, he decided it was the right place to build the business. Last year, Kandid.ly was accepted into the TechStars accelerator program in  Austin. 

The company has just a handful of employees and offices downtown at 701 Brazos St.

Investment: Kandid.ly has raised $100,000 from angel capital group Connetic Ventures, based in Covington, KY, and other angel investors.

The company recently raised a portion of a planned $1 million investment round from Queen City Angels, based in Cincinnati.

 Biggest challenge: Getting the word out, Ulu says. "There are all these ways people are using it that we never imagined - social media profile photos, work head shots or even as a personal paparazzi on a night out," Ulu said. "This is about ordinary people capturing moments at a price point you can justify. We need to reach more people and show them what we do."

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