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Lightricks – Reinventing Mobile Photo Editing
It is often said that only 1 in a 100 startup companies hits the profit line. Roughly one in a thousand makes the headlines with a major success story, typically after spending years on the startup rollercoaster with several loops and turnarounds on the way. And while one could argue with the accuracy of these numbers, for Israeli/New York based startup Lightricks (“The Adobe of Mobile” as co-founder Itai Tsiddon likes to put it), these low odds almost seem not to apply at all…
Since week 1 of its release back in March 2013, Facetune – Lightrick’s first photo editing app for mobile – has concurred the #1 paid app spot in over 100 countries in iOS, and in 113 countries in the ‘photo and video’ category in Android. Add the spectacular reviews the app received in the New York Times and USA Today, and you can see for yourself why Lightricks is widely considered one of the most promising startups in the image processing field for mobile.
Founded by 4 PHDs in computer science and artificial intelligence from the Hebrew University, and Tsiddon – a promising lawyer with business background, Lightricks brings “cutting-edge technology and image processing to everyday consumers, enabling everyone to create amazing photos with their mobiles in a quality what was previously reserved only for professionals on the desktop”.
“The whole thing started one night at 2 AM, while two of our co-founders were sitting in the lab working on an academic paper they were about to file as part of their PHD research” says Tsiddon, who also leads the company’s business development from Lightrick’s New York City office. “…And one of them said: “you know, if we were applying this image processing knowledge outside of university, we would have millions of users by now”. And it so turns out that they were right” – continues Tsiddon. “It took them some time to convince the rest of us that this was a great business idea, but here we are, running a profitable company of 18 employees without ever needing to raise a single dollar from external sources”.
Moving Business Development to the Big Apple
Later in 2013, when money began to flow back to the company’s cash register, Tsiddon packed his suitcase and boarded a plane to New York City, to establish Lightricks’ first office outside of Israel. “We always wanted to build a global leading company, and that means you need presence in the US. For us, New York is a good fit because that’s where a lot of the creative industries are located. There’s also a lot of media, and a lot of ad-tech which is essential for selling your product, especially if you’re offering a B2C product like ours”. With a rising scene for tech companies in New York City, Lightrick’s decision to skip the Silicon Valley and jump straight to the Big Apple may not at all seem surprising, considering the large number of Israeli startups that have already opened an office in the city, or even moved operations fully. “There’s definitely a network of Israeli startups here” explains Tsiddon. “Nobody has helped move Lightricks forward more than fellow Israeli founders have, here in the city. Moreover, there’s an interesting interplay with Israeli startups that are not based in New York. We have circles that include people from Israel, and sometimes we are helpful for them for just being here and open doors, since many early stage startups cannot afford moving operations to NY”.
So how do you manage to build the business from New York while the rest of the team is working from a country as far as 11 hours away by plane, with a seven hour time-zone gap? Tsiddon likes to cite an article published by Noam Bardin, CEO of Waze, the Israeli mapping startup that was purchased by Google for $1.1 Billion in 2013. “To make the best out of this move to another country, you really need someone with an existing strong relationship with the team back home. It’s not something you can “hire away”. You need someone who is a core and integral part of your team, preferably a member of the founding team”, advices Tsiddon. “But on the flip side”, he adds, “make sure you integrate yourself here, don’t stay marooned in your own Israeli community, because otherwise you’re missing out on the great opportunities and the important stuff you can learn here in the US”.
So what’s the future holds for Lightricks? You may ask. “Well, we have a very loaded roadmap of products that we will release to the market in the not-too-far future” partially reveals Tsiddon. “We want to see hundreds of millions of people using their mobiles to create anything they want with content, photos, etc. And we want them to do it by using cutting-edge, seamless beautiful products created by Lightricks. Essentially, we want to enable the creator in everybody”.