Palo Alto startup Cooliris has built its reputation by creating a slick experience for browsing photos, videos, and other media, but now it’s making the famous Silicon Valley “pivot” with a new mobile and Web application called LiveShare.
Co-founder and chief executive Soujanya Bhumkar told me the LiveShare app tackles a common problem with photo-sharing: trying to control who sees the photo. With LiveShare, you aren’t limited to either sharing photos with everyone or with a preset group of friends. Instead, for each set of photos you determine who gets access. Then the people you’ve invited can look at your photos and add pictures of their own. It’s an evolution of the original form of online photo-sharing, where you just emailed pictures to your friends.
Co-founder and director of product Mayank Mehta offered a couple of instances where this approach makes sense. You could create LiveShare streams around one-time events like conferences or parties, or you could use a stream to continually share photos with a small group of people, like your immediate family.
Cooliris is one of a number of high-profile startups that have jumped on the mobile photo-sharing bandwagon in the past few months, but its approach sounds pretty different. Apps like Instagram (which was also a shift from the startup’s original location app Burbn) and Picplz focus on allowing you to share your pictures with everyone. Path emphasizes creating a small group of connections that you share everything with.
Bhumkar argued that this isn’t a complete change for Cooliris, but rather an evolution of its existing products. It sounds like an attempt to offer something a bit more practical than Cooliris’ 3D wall, which was cool but not something I’d use every day.
The connection between Cooliris’ old and new products is particularly evident in the Web version of LiveShare (there are also downloadable apps for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone 7), whose appearance is similar to the 3D Wall. The app will take advantage of the technology that Cooliris has built for displaying high-quality brand advertising, Bhumkar said, and it also integrates with one of Cooliris’ other products, the Gallery app that comes preinstalled on Android phones. Gallery users will now be able to share photos directly to LiveShare from the app.
Cooliris released the first version of LiveShare about a month ago, and it’s making its first big publicity push this week at the Mobile World Congress.
The company also just announced a new $9.6 million round of funding from existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DAG Ventures, The Westly Group, and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Venture. Cooliris has now raised $27.6 million.