At your typical startup, the founders will often have to go through the trouble of hiring an outside public relations firm. That is, unless you are computer developer Ben LeDonni, in which case you can just shout across the house to ask your wife.
Ben, along with his wife Kelly, a public relations representative, joined forces to work on Adography, a site that connects amateur photographers with companies looking for specific candid photos to be featured in advertising materials. A company might place a request for, say, a mother hitting her head on a van steering wheel. Photographers submit their photos, and advertisers can pay a fee to the photographer ranging from $20 to $100 with Adography taking a ten percent cut.
Thus far, the couple has bootstrapped the entire operation, and they are beginning to pick up some momentum. In February, the site was featured on TechCrunch and, subsequently, Digg. The site is growing with nearly 500 users and recently, the couple has been hard at work on a new redesign (pictured above) that will unroll a bunch of new features such as Flickr integration.
We sat down with Kelly and Ben to ask them how many users they have, what was it like getting featured on TechCrunch and how a boogey board spurred their entrepreneurial spirit.
Where did the idea for Adography come from?
Ben: It started as a picture I took that had clear branding in it. It was a picture of my sister-in-law and she was on a body board. This picture was her coming in on a wave and the board said “Morey Boogey” on the bottom, so clear and perfectly branded. I said “There has got to be a ton of people who have pictures like this,” and some companies would love if these pictures get used in their advertising, especially if it’s natural and not really staged.
How much could a photographer expect to make?
Ben: Because we are just starting up, we dont really know the answer to that question. We know that agencies are willing to pay decent amounts of money for the right shot … We think of what it takes for, say, Coca-Cola to stage a photo shoot [versus buying stock photos]. We know we are at a price point between those two, we just don’t know how close it is to the photo shoot versus how close it is to the stock photography.
Kelly: Photos for as low as $20 have sold, and photos have sold all the way up to $100.
What was it like to be featured on TechCrunch?
Ben: It was very, very exciting. My reaction to being featured on TechCrunch was “we’ve succeeded,” because from day one I kept reading TechCrunch thinking: “somebody eventually is going to have this idea [of selling photos to businesses for ads], it’s just one of those ideas that makes you think ‘Why isn’t anyone doing this?'”
I was so excited that we had done it first, that we had gotten the idea out there … we started getting a lot press with that. A lot of photographers signed up, and some partnerships came up that we discussed, so it’s really been great.
Kelly: We got more traffic that day than we ever could dream. We also had a lot of comments that were a little harsh to take, even though they were very obviously needed. Friends and family will tell you how much they like it, but you need complete strangers to get that eye-opening [criticism], and it’s the reason we redesigned the site and changed our terms and conditions. Most of the comments where things we can work on and not critical of the overall idea.
What’s the future for Adography?
Ben: We would like to better position ourselves so that agencies and big brands, people that have products that are country-wide, could be using our service to get better photos for their advertising. The shift for us is trying to capture a bigger scale audience. In the future, it would be nice to have a steady stream of photographers that are coming in with branded photos without being requested … We also want to reach out to people engaged with a brand on Flickr or Facebook as well as other areas and tighten their engagement.
What makes you Technically Philly?
Ben: Besides being huge Eagles fans? We both live in Philly, we both went to school at Villanova, we set our roots and foundation in Philadelphia when we got married.
Kelly: We got married in Philadelphia, I’ve lived here my whole life. I know nothing but Philly. The city has so much talent to tap into, it makes it very easy for a startup to start here.
Every Friday, Technically Philly brings an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia’s technology community. See others here.
Full Disclosure: Technically Philly met with Ledonni in her role as a PR rep for the Spark! event earlier this month.