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EyeEm Raises $18 Million in Quest to Sell Your Smartphone Photos

EyeEm's pitch: It wants to make you a professional photographer.

Florin Stana/ Shutterstock

EyeEm, a photo-sharing social network akin to Instagram, has raised $18 million in new venture funding, according to CEO Flo Meissner.

The round was led by Valar Ventures and includes existing investors Earlybird Ventures, Passion Capital, Wellington Partners, Atlantic Labs and Open Ocean Capital. As part of the new round, which is EyeEm’s Series B, Valar will take a board seat at the company.

On the surface, EyeEm works a lot like Instagram. Users can take photos through the app, add filters and edit those photos, and then share them with their followers.

One major difference, though, is that while virtually anything goes on Instagram — your selfies are safe here — EyeEm labels itself as a network for professional photographers. In other words, a network for people looking to get paid for the photos they take.

EyeEm does this in a number of ways. It runs “Missions” in which brands will put out a photo request to the user base and then pay those people who submit the work they need. EyeEm also partners with Getty, so some of the photos shared through the app can be downloaded by Getty subscribers.

Late last month, EyeEm launched Market, an annual licensing program under which people can buy commercial and editorial licenses for as cheap as $20 per month to access EyeEm’s photo archive. When users’ photos are downloaded, they’re paid for their work, Meissner said.

EyeEm plans to use the funding to expand its business, but in a more localized way, says Meissner. That means hiring community reps in different locations to work with local brands and understand licensing rules in different countries. EyeEm also wants to hold more galleries — physical events where its users come to show off and sell their work.

“The exhibitions give you an opportunity to get much more than a few comments or a few likes,” said Markus Spiering, chief product officer at EyeEm.

This strategy might also help grow EyeEm’s user base, which isn’t yet on the same level as any of the big social networks. The company has 13 million registered users, a respectable number but nowhere near a service like Instagram (300 million). Then again, Meissner doesn’t seem concerned so much with user figures as he does with making money for those who are on the app.

“Our next big step is understanding and really thinking about how we can attract people to acquire the images and make money for our photographers,” he said.

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