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Smiler secures $8M to grow its one-of-a-kind on the spot photography marketplace

Smiler Founders
Image credits: Smiler

Smiler, which connects photographers with visitors at over a million identified public locations, has secured $8 million in seed funding. The investment round was led by Mosaic Ventures alongside participation from Speedinvest (which invested in Greyparrot, nilo.health, and more), Dutch Founders Fund, PROfounders Capital, and angel investors, including Greg Marsh, who sold his startup onefinestay to AccorHotels for £117 million.

Development and expansion plans

The Dutch startup will use the proceeds of this round to further expand its geographic footprint beyond its current active cities across the UK, The Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy. The marketplace is looking to develop new venue partnerships and tap into photographer networks across Europe and the US, whilst growing its team of staff to support this expansion.

Currently, a team of engineers is developing advanced automated photo-editing technology to change backgrounds, retouch photos and apply artistic effects. Also, the startup will enhance the range of printed products Smiler offers to customers, thereby giving photographers and venues even more revenue generation opportunities.

Already, the company has won contracts and tenders with venue and event partners across Europe, such as Manchester City Football Club, Paris’s Montparnasse Tower, and ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo, and last week was announced as the official guest photography provider for the Tower of London.

“At Mosaic we look for exchange platforms that delight customers and create new economic opportunities for suppliers,” said Bart Dessaint, partner at Mosaic Ventures. “In the case of Smiler, creating strong memories with loved ones for tourists and a new creator gig role for photographers is a perfect example of technology unlocking an interaction that was previously in-accessible. This seed round has already enabled the platform to replicate its success in many more locations around the world!”

Jeroen Arts, Partner at Speedinvest added: “A selfie at The Tower of London with half of your partner’s face missing may ring historically accurate but it’s probably not a photo you’ll hang proudly in your home. Thanks to Smiler’s on-the-spot photography marketplace, it’s simple and affordable to work with a pro photographer to record those travel memories that matter most. Smiler’s founders and team are not only expanding consumer photography globally but building a new, category-defining gig economy company in the process. That’s something to smile about.”

On-the-spot photography marketplace

Smiler, the on-the-spot photography marketplace, was founded in 2020 by Kasper Middelkoop and Rob H. in Amsterdam. The company intends to do what Uber did for taxi travel for photography. It is used by freelance, professional and enthusiast photographers and enables them to offer their passion and skills directly to consumers in an instant, at a range of locations, attractions and events.

Venues can rely on Smiler to source photographers, or have their existing staff use its technology to facilitate customer data capture and photography delivery. Unlike traditional venue photography services, which have fixed equipment, permanent staffing costs and on-site printed products as pillars of their offering, Smiler’s marketplace model enhanced by technology is as flexible for venues as it is for their guests.

Currently, Smiler is used by over 9,000 photographers around the world, who have created an account with the service.

What does Smiler do?

After taking their photos, customer contact information is captured via a dynamic QR code shown on the photographer’s smartphone. The startup’s technology then matches each customer with their photoshoot, before digitally delivering their pictures for review and processing payment for print purchases and downloads.

The customer detail capture and photo delivery happen autonomously on the photographer’s behalf, thereby allowing them to focus on delivering high quality photography at scale. All they need is their camera and a smartphone to flexibly ply their trade at an almost limitless number of public locations around the world, or at one of Smiler’s partner venues, capturing and monetising valuable memories.

“It’s not only professional photographers who become Smilers” said Smiler CEO and co-founder Kasper Middelkoop. “Many are young, talented photography enthusiasts who are looking to make money with their skills and passion. Photographers, like many creators, often don’t have the opportunity to turn that passion into profit, and so frequently turn to other side gigs. With Smiler though, the earning potential is substantially higher than through a traditional gig economy platform.”

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