Photography startup Smiler gets $8 million seed funding

Utrecht-based Smiler, a spot photography marketplace connecting photographers and customers in tourist hotspots, announced it has secured $8 million (approximately €7.4M) in a Seed round of funding, according to SiliconCanal. The round was led by Mosaic Ventures with participation from Speedinvest, Dutch Founders Fund, and PROfounders Capital. Speedinvest recently also invested in the privacy-focused camera app Lapse.

Founded in 2021, Smiler is an on-the-spot photography marketplace for freelance, professional, and enthusiast photographers, enabling photographers to offer spontaneous photoshoots at memorable locations and venues.

Smiler says the new funds will enable it to expand its geographic footprint beyond its current active cities across the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Italy. The Dutch company will also use the funds to grow its workforce headcount to support this expansion, according to the report.

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

“With Smiler though, the earning potential is substantially higher than through a traditional gig economy platform,” says Middelkoop. “A generous commission split, scalable control over how much and often they want to work, and the fact that they are providing a meaningful product to their customers – this is a new way of working in the gig economy.”

Post a photoshoot, customer contact information is captured via a dynamic QR code shown on the photographer’s smartphone. The startup’s technology matches each customer with their photoshoot before digitally delivering their pictures for review and processing payment for print purchases and downloads.

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

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

“A selfie at The Tower of London with half of your partner’s face missing may ring historically accurate but it’s probably not a photo you’ll hang proudly in your home,” says Jeroen Arts, Partner at Speedinvest. “Thanks to Smiler’s on-the-spot photography marketplace, it’s simple and affordable to work with a pro photographer to record those travel memories that matter most. Smiler’s founders and team are not only expanding consumer photography globally but building a new, category-defining gig economy company in the process. That’s something to smile about.”