The mobile app market is on the upswing, according to research firms like App Annie. Global downloads grew an estimated 15 percent and consumer spend 20 percent year-over-year in Q2 2018. And smartphone users spent more money on apps — $18.5 billion — than in any quarter in history. One of the most popular categories was video players and editors, which helped drive installs on Android to 20 billion in Q2. And five-year-old Jerusalem startup Lightricks — the folks behind Facetune and Enlight — benefited firsthand.
Lightricks today announced that it has secured $60 million in a funding round led by Insight Venture Partners with participation from Claltech, bringing its total raise to date to $70 million. It said that its apps have racked up more than 100 million downloads globally and that the most recent addition to its lineup — Enlight Pixaloop, which launched in September — attracted 6 million users and 200,000 subscribers in just two months.
As part of deal, Insight Venture Partners principal Harley Miller will join the company’s board of directors.
Lightricks cofounder and CEO Dr. Zeev Farbman said the capital will be put toward acquiring shares from founders, employees, and investors in a secondary transaction, and to double the size of the team to roughly 300 employees across offices in Jerusalem and London.
“The mobile market is growing, and more and more people are turning to mobile devices over desktop software to create their content,” Farbman said. “Whether you’re an Instagrammer editing a photo, an artist designing a poster, or a small business owner creating a video, you can use one of our tools.”
Lightricks — the brainchild of PhD students Nir Pochter, Yaron Inger, Zeev Farbman, Amit Goldstein, and former Supreme Court of Israel clerk Itai Tsiddon — focuses the bulk of its research on the computational photography techniques that underlie its apps. But it has also developed an in-house mobile advertising platform that, using proprietary algorithms, predicts the ad spend required to secure spots on app stores’ best-seller lists.
Facetune 2, which debuted in November 2016, taps artificial intelligence (AI) to let users fine-tune selfies by adjusting the proportions of their facial features and controlling the lighting. Its augmented reality component, meanwhile, allows them to preview and apply editing effects like teeth whitening, blemish removal, and skin smoothing.
Lightricks’ Enlight suite of apps is a bit broader in scope. Photofox features a Photoshop-like layers system with blending modes, opacity controls, fills, transformations, fonts, graphic elements, brushes, tonal adjustments, and presets. Videoleap, a no-frills non-linear video editor, lets users composite two video streams together, layer them on top of one another, apply translucency and other effects, and add text. Quickshot boasts a collection of “handcrafted” filters, like HDR+ and color autocorrection tools. And Pixaloop allows users to animate parts of photos with customizable movement and overlay controls.
All four of Lightricks’ apps are available for free, but the company also offers in-app paid subscription plans that include additional features. Enlight Photofox, for example, locks Darkroom — a premium editing mode with tonal controls and tuneable film filters — behind a $4-per-month paywall. (It’s $15 for six months or $20 twelve months.) Facetune makes available individual features for purchase, but additionally offers an all-you-can-eat subscription that guarantees access to future content.
Lightricks made the leap from a one-time payment model to subscriptions in 2015, and it’s done wonders for business. The startup’s profitable, Farbman said, with nearly a million paying subscribers driving revenue growth of 270 percent year-on-year. And he expects revenue will exceed $50 million this year and $100 million in 2019.
The accolades haven’t hurt, of course. Enlight was Apple’s App of the Year for 2015, the eleventh best-selling paid iOS app in 2016, and the recipient of an Apple Design Award in 2017.
“This field of creativity lends itself well to the exciting, and in many ways new business model of consumer mobile subscription,” Farbman said. “We’ve seen early success with Facetune 2’s VIP access, with our advanced users finding great value in the advanced capabilities and continuous updates.”
“The need to create, edit, and engage with content on a mobile device is greater than ever before,” Miller added. “Lightricks has met this growing customer need through its innovative apps. [The company] has been experiencing tremendous growth, and we’re thrilled to partner with the team to further strengthen their global leadership in the mobile content creation category.”