Sometimes big ideas come from small companies. As volume photography market service providers to make products more personalized to improve customer satisfaction, there comes the natural dilemma of maintaining productivity. UPGRD is a company providing a new way of offering automated photo enrichment. The company started in 2012 as a school photography company in Finland, Oma Design, but by 2015, it started to develop its own software for automated “photo enrichment,” as Matt Rajala, co-founder and customer success manager, puts it.
By 2017, Icebreaker.vc and two other angel investors invested in the company and, in 2019, the studio portion of the business, Oma Design, was sold to their largest competitor (and UPGRD customer) Kuvaverkko Ltd., so the remaining team could focus on the UPGRD service. In addition to Rajala, other members of the team include Kari Vähäkangas, co-founder and CEO; Teemu Lahti, CTO; Tuomas Lahti, lead developer; and Alex Günsberg, strategy and business development.
Here’s how it works:
UPGRD Photos has more than 1,000 design variations in stock for kindergarten, for elementary school, for graduation, for confirmation, for scouting, for various sports, and so on created by professional graphic designers specifically for the platform. UPGRD.IO can be used as a complete online workflow or can be integrated with a sales system via API. Any data from the customer has on the subject – name, school name, team name, player number, position, etc. – can be passed through the API to further customize the image.
“Anything the customer knows about photographed kid can be used in UPGRD Photos,” says Rajala. “The service is really simple. The client sends us one photo with certain parameters, and we send back the choices.”
UPGRD Photos is a service, where the graphics are hosted by them, and served on-demand. Low-resolution images are served to the webstore during the shopping process, then a high-resolution image served after purchase. Users can choose from various collections created by the designers.
“We are talking with 15-20 of the largest operators in the U.S. and Canada,” says Rajala. “We’ve been doing these designs since 2012 and we launched the API in fall of 2019. We have massive amounts of materials.”
So far, Rajala says customer response has been interesting. One of the most popular designs is a white-frame design. “It’s really simple and pretty and, for some reason, it’s really taken off,” he says. “It’s been a surprise.”