Albumatic takes another whack at getting photo-sharing right, announces $4.2 million Series A

Albumatic launched back in February as a way for friends all attending the same event to share photos with each other when they’re together and taking photos. Seems simple enough, right? But when the co-founders took their app to SXSW in March and offered people free food in exchange for downloading the app, the challenges became clear:

Albumatic 2.0 relaunch screenshot“We rented a taco truck and we gave out tacos in a truck from midnight to 4 a.m.,” co-founder Adam Ludwin explained to me. “We told people, ‘If you install it and start an album and show the guy, you get free food.’ So we stood out there in the middle of the night watching people try to download the app, and it became super evident that this was, like, a lot to ask of someone. Not just in the number of steps involved, but conceptually.'”

So the team went back to the drawing board and re-thought their concept, which had been location-based, in-the-moment photo-sharing. Albumatic is re-launching on Thursday with a much simpler concept: You can share photo albums with friends and collaborate with other people to create collections, no matter where you are or when you add the images.

The company is also now announcing that it raised a $4.2 million Series A round led by RRE Ventures (where Ludwin is a principal), along with Thrive Capital, SV Angel, Highline Venture Partners, CrunchFund, Box Group, and Betaworks.

explained the premise of the original app when I covered its launch in February, but it was a little complicated to figure out where to save your photos, and who could add to an album versus follow photos in albums that friends were creating. Now, Ludwin says that should be clearer, and anyone can create albums with anyone else. So I could create a shared photo album with my sister on the East Coast, and we could both add to it whenever we want.

Of course, the market for shared photo albums is a lot more crowded — plenty of other apps perform this same function. But Ludwin said they already have hundreds of thousands of existing users who will be automatically upgraded to the new version, and he thinks the simpler format will appeal to people. Albumatic 2.0 has also been entirely re-designed with iOS 7 in mind, ahead of Apple’s rollout of the operating system later this fall.

Ludwin is in an interesting position, because prior to working on Albumatic, he’s been an investor with RRE Ventures, and has sat on the other side of the table and told entrepreneurs that an idea won’t work, or that they might not succeed. I asked him if now, being an entrepreneur who’s changing tactics, he views failure and success any differently.

“You realize that creating value and something that people want to use is just an infinitely hard task. I’d have to say, being an entrepreneur is a very humbling experience, and being a VC is about constantly having people feed your ego,” he said.

But he also pointed out that failing once and moving on makes you a better student of the industry. He said the trick is knowing when you need to try harder, and when it’s time to give up and move on:

“In mobile, you have to make these really hard decision, because you’re limited by what you can do.  And it’s hard to incorporate feedback sometimes, because you’re going down a path. It means you have to question the very core assumptions that you’ve been working on for months,” he said. “But once you realize you’re not going to be taking over the world, you’re much more humble. You’re like, okay, let’s see what happens.”