Photography marketing

Utrecht-based spot photography market Smiler secures €7.4m, plans European expansion

Based in Utrecht Smilea spot photography marketplace that connects photographers and customers in tourist hotspots, announced on Tuesday that it has secured $8 million (about 7.4 million euros) in a seed funding round.

The round was led by Mosaic Ventures with participation from Speedinvest, Dutch Founders Fund and PROfounders Capital.

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Use of funds

Smiler says the new funds will allow it to expand its geographic footprint beyond its current active cities in the UK, Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy.

Additionally, the company is looking to develop new partnerships and tap into networks of photographers across Europe and the United States. The Dutch company will also use the funds to increase its workforce to support this expansion.

The startup intends to improve the range of print products offered to customers, giving photographers and venues more revenue-generating opportunities.

“It’s not just professional photographers who become Smilers,” says CEO and co-founder Kasper Middelkoop. “Many are talented young photography enthusiasts looking to make money from their skills and passion. Photographers, like many creative people, often don’t have the opportunity to turn that passion into profit, so they turn frequently to other side gigs.

Smiler: What you need to know

Founded in 2021, Smiler is an onsite photography marketplace for freelance, professional and enthusiast photographers. The platform allows photographers to offer spontaneous on-site photoshoots in memorable locations and venues.

“With Smiler though, the earning potential is significantly higher than through a traditional gig economy platform,” says Middelkoop. “A generous commission split, scalable control over the amount and frequency of their work, and the fact that they provide meaningful product to their clients – it’s a new way of working in the gig economy.”

After a photo shoot, the client’s contact details are captured via a dynamic QR code displayed on the photographer’s smartphone. The startup’s technology matches each customer with their photoshoot before digitally delivering their photos for review and processing of payment for print purchases and downloads.

Since its inception, more than 9,000 photographers worldwide have created an account with the service, the company claims. The company has already won contracts and tenders with venue and event partners across Europe, such as Manchester City Football Club, Montparnasse Tower in Paris and ARTIS Royal Zoo in Amsterdam.

The platform was announced as the official guest photography provider for the Tower of London last week. Within the company, a team of engineers is currently developing advanced automated photo editing technology to change backgrounds, retouch photos and apply artistic effects.

Venues can rely on Smiler to source photographers or have their existing staff use Smiler’s technology to facilitate the capture of customer data and the delivery of photographs.

“Our approach means that venues have no setup or equipment costs and it’s much more sustainable – instead of paper tickets or needlessly printing photos that are never purchased, our entire workflow is digital,” says Middelkoop. “It also allows for a better customer experience. The photoshoot and registration is completely contactless, photos are delivered directly to their mobile phone for easy sharing on social media, and they have the option to purchase their photos days or even months after their visit.

Investor

Mosaic invests between 1 and 10 million dollars in those who build bold (ad)ventures in Europe. After raising $300 million across two funds, they are partnering with founding teams that are fundamentally reshaping major markets.

“At Mosaic, we seek out exchange platforms that delight customers and create new economic opportunities for vendors,” says Bart Dessaint, Partner at Mosaic Ventures. “In Smiler’s case, creating strong memories with loved ones for tourists and a new creative role for photographers is a perfect example of technology unlocking interaction that was previously unreachable. This round of funding has already enabled to the platform to reproduce its success in many other places around the world!”

Speedinvest is a venture capital fund that invests in pre-seed, seed and early stage technology startups. With over €600m in assets under management and 40 investors, the venture capital firm provides access to its in-house platform and a team of operational experts who can provide tailored growth marketing support , human resources (HR), business development in the United States and networking at every stage.

Jeroen Arts, partner at Speedinvest, says: “A selfie at the Tower of London with half of your partner’s face missing might seem historically accurate, but it’s probably not a photo you’ll hang proudly in your home. With Smiler’s on-site photography marketplace, it’s simple and affordable to work with a professional photographer to capture the most important travel memories. The founders and team of Smiler are not only expanding consumer photography globally, but at the same time creating a new category-defining gig economy business. It’s something to smile about.

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