Nearly a year ago, the startup Zapd launched iPhone app for building a website, a kind of mobile-first Tumblr.
Users can create a website on their iPhone without having to use a laptop or desktop computer. They don't have to know how to code or use a content management system like WordPress, either. Instead, users follow menu prompts to add text and photos as well as choose a theme, (meaning, a layout and choice of font).
Users can add text, links, and photos into a bundle associated by a unique URL, selecting their own design theme and inviting others to collaborate with them. There's an adaptive and responsive design, meaning any website will be rendered correctly on a laptop screen, tablet, or even a large screen TV.
While not exclusively a travel product, Zapd is expected to appeal to travelers h0ping to document their trips, such as this Family Vacation in Mexico. Many of the websites that have been made so far, which the company calls Zaps, are tagged Travel.
Sample use case: If you're at a destination wedding, you could use the app to create a website and upload photos and text about the event, and invite other friends to upload photos and text to the website, too.
Zapd has been chosen as an Apple App of the Week during March 2011.
On Nov. 12, it released a whole new build, with more stylish templates for users to try.
Some of the new features include:
- Collaboration – invite others to make websites together
- Easier, faster creation – batch uploads of photos
- Photo editing - filters, cropping and more image enhancing options
- Personalization - a dozen additional themed layouts
- Content feeds – discover and follow other Zaps and authors
- Improved integration – connect the app with existing address book contacts and Facebook friends
Within the next couple of weeks, Zapd expects to add video: Shoot from your phone and upload to your Zapd website right away. Eventually the company will let users upload video from their own YouTube, Vimeo, and other accounts.
Zapd is backed by investment partners 3 Second Avenue Partners, Madrona Venture Partners, as well as investors Mika Salmi, Mike Slade, Rich Barton and Rob Glaser.
Zapd has fewer than 10 employees and is headquartered in Seattle.
Q&A with CEO Kelly Smith.
How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?
Zapd makes website building more social than most blogging and micro-blogging platforms and, unlike micro-blogging platforms like Tumblr, it was built from the ground up as a mobile-first experience.
You don’t have to worry about your post getting buried in a news feed by other irrelevant topics or photos.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
People are looking for ways to easily share their memories, stories and photos with others. Zapd requires zero design experience or coding. All you need is an iPhone.
Millions of consumers use their iPhone to take pictures and document events and activities; Zapd sets those pictures free in an organized way to share with others.
For example, it’s perfect for people traveling together because they can create their own dedicated Zap to share all their travel photos and experiences in one place with loved ones back home.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
It all comes down to our users. If we do our job right, we will solve a problem and pain point. They will be excited to share with friends and family. Our plan is also to add on features that allow people to develop more robust websites with the social plumbing that facilitates instantaneous sharing built into the product.
What better way to showcase the various uses for Zapd than by having Zapd authors share their websites?
We’ve also been fortunate to be featured by the Apple App Store.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
We don’t view anything to be wrong or broken in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. We do see an unmet need for many, including travellers, to capture and share themed chapters of their life, conveniently and easily from their iPhone.
There’s no easy way right now to create a dedicated website on-the-go that you and others can update as often as you like as the journey continues.
More so, you can instantaneously share, as a group, your collective experiences and photos with others. Zapd meets this need by making it easy for people to create stylish websites with their iPhone while allowing them to collaborate and share with others.
We’re big believers in the fact that while traditional websites aren’t going away, the nature of websites will change as people gravitate towards more instantaneous ways to publish, share, and follow what others are publishing. You might say there's a "gi-normous" market size.
It's reassuring to see a startup created by someone who has been around the block before, so to speak. Founder Kelly Smith has previously launched several successful start-ups, including Inkd.com, Imagekind (acquired by CafePress), and RocketVox (acquired by Comcast’s thePlatform)
The goal of his latest startup, Zapd, appears to be to bring a concept similar to Tumblr to a mobile-first setting.
What the iPod did for music, Zapd could do for blogging, paring the interface down for simplicity's sake and appealing to a mobile-first users.
Some context: Tumblr's innovation was to make blogging easier. Existing blog-authoring services, such as WordPress, presumed that users a familiarity with coding languages like HTML. Tumblr made blogging something that could be done faster and with only choices made through a series of drop-down menus.
It seems like a natural extension to bring simplified website-authoring tools to mobile devices.
True, sharing on social networks like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook is the preferred form of sharing travel and other images now. Yet those services don't provide an effective way for users to create something that's semi-cohesive and semi-permanent, such as a photo album from a family vacation, that can built with others only on mobile devices and shared with others using any Web surfing platform.
For a subset of savvy users (especially travelers), Zapd could prove popular.
One concern: The revenue model remains sketchy. For now, the company plans to monetize Zapd by offering custom themes that allow its users to further enhance and personalize their Zaps.
Further out, options include offering other premium services and other value-added features for designing and maintaining websites.
Mobile advertising remains untested ground, though. How will people feel if, day, every fifth picture in their vacation photo album turns out to be an ad for, say, Travelocity?
Tumblr has swallowed $125 million in investor capital yet hasn't revealed an engine for profitability.
We're not sure the selling of premium themes will do the trick for Zapd. But right now, it's goal is to scale up, and the addition of video uploading should help with that.
Zapd is a promising product, created by a team that looks well-managed, given that it has delivered on its product map in a timely way since launch.
Perhaps the exit for founders will come when a travel company buys it to offer the service to its customers as a way to share and preserve travel memories.
NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.