If there’s any group that’s getting shortchanged in the Internet era, according to Eytan Levit, CEO of Yoovi, it’s families. “Parents want to share their photos with friends and family, but many are afraid to because of who might get access to them. For many families, the benefits of sharing photos online just isn’t worth the risk. It’s for them we created Yoovi.”
For fear of online creeps who cruise Facebook and other social media sites on the lookout for images they can use to satisfy their predilections, many people take digital photos and store them only on their hard drives. And because these people don’t think the Internet is a safe place to store or display personal, intimate data, they don’t share many precious family moments, said Levit.
That feeling of insecurity is compounded by constant reports of online identity theft and server hacks. It’s one thing to use the Internet for work; most people have no choice in that, despite the inherent security risks. But when making that risk assessment on whether to post favorite family photos online, many parents come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth it.
Yoovi, said Levit, is that safe place online where parents can store and show off photos, confident that only the “right” people will be viewing them. Using the Yoovi app (on either iPhone or Android), said Levit, guarantees that “the only people who can view your photos are the ones you invite to do so, and that invitation is rendered through your device directly to other users, bypassing social networks altogether.”
That is an important component in the appeal, Levit hopes, Yoovi will have for parents. Unlike nearly every social sharing app on the market, Yoovi does not use the authorization services of Facebook, Twitter or Google to sign up members. “We didn’t want anyone to have the impression that their photos could end up on any of those sites, plus we wanted a foolproof way to ensure that only the ‘right’ people could see the photos,” said Levit. Instead of social media authentication services, Yoovi uses old-fashioned email, taken from the address book on a user’s smartphone, on the assumption that someone in a phone’s address book would be a “trusted other.”
By foregoing social networks, Yoovi is bypassing the demographic that every other photo app aims for — teens and young adults, whose auto-photographing activities have bequeathed us the term “selfie.”
That’s not a business plan mistake — it’s by design. Yoovi is not interested in the selfie crowd. “In one sense, we may be restricting our market, but in another sense we are opening up a much bigger one – that of families, a market that is very under-served right now,” said Levit. There aren’t many apps for families, and one of our objectives as a company is to develop solutions to their problems, much like Yoovi does.”
Developers do prefer to write apps that appeal to teens instead of families, and Levit has some ideas why.
“I think it’s because most of the app writers are young and single, and are in essence writing apps for their own cohort,” he said. “People who have kids tend not to work at mobile app start-ups; if they are in the data business, they’re probably employed at a larger company that provides a more stable income and develops solutions for things like databases and security.” To the argument that many make – that teens are a good market because they have disposable income – Levit responds by saying that families have, and spend, even more money, on all sorts of things.
The app allows users to shuffle through their device’s photo library and upload the photos they choose to a Yoovi server, where others in their selected group can view them. Still in its infancy – Yoovi is still in private beta – Levit has lots of ideas for marketing and partnerships. “Families are the biggest buyers of items like printed photo albums, calendars and T-shirts using digital photos, and so on,” said Levit. “We are in discussions with one of the biggest digital photo publishing sites in the US, and when the beta comes out we hope to already have a deal in place.”
If the beta does ever come out. “We got some funding when we started eight months ago, but because my partner and I are supporting families, we aren’t able to live in a sleeping bag on the floor of the office and eat ramen noodles three times a day like many of these single entrepreneurs do,” said Levit. “As a result we have gone through our funding faster than expected, and we only have four more months of money before we have to close down.”
To prevent that development, Yoovi has gone on a unique email signup campaign. “We are collecting email addresses, with the goal of getting 20,000 in a month.” The idea, said Levit, was to show potential investors that there was interest in the app, and potential traction to the investment.
“Action impresses investors, and getting people to provide their email addresses constitutes an important action,” not just because it requires effort, but because those who sign up become Yoovi’s initial target audience for products and services (users agree to this when they sign up). The process is vetted by professional organizations to ensure that everything is on the up-and-up, added Levit.
Obviously, admitted Levit, he would feel this way, but even objectively, Yoovi deserves a shot, he said. “We have a very novel approach that provides something not in the market today,” said Levit. “I think that if we’re given a chance we can do some great things.”