Utrecht-based Smiler, a spot photography marketplace that connects photographers and customers in tourist hotspots, announced on Tuesday that it has secured $8M (approximately €7.4M) in a Seed round of funding.
The round was led by Mosaic Ventures with participation from Speedinvest, Dutch Founders Fund, and PROfounders Capital.
Smiler says the new funds will enable it to expand its geographic footprint beyond its current active cities across the UK, the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Italy.
Additionally, the company is looking to develop new venue partnerships and tap into photographer networks across Europe and the US. The Dutch company will also use the funds to grow its workforce headcount to support this expansion.
The startup intends to enhance the range of printed products offered to customers, giving photographers and venues more revenue generation opportunities.
“It’s not only professional photographers who become Smilers,” says 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.”
Smiler: What you need to know
Founded in 2021, Smiler is an on-the-spot photography marketplace for freelance, professional, and enthusiast photographers. The platform enables photographers to offer spontaneous on-the-spot photoshoots at memorable locations and venues.
“With Smiler though, the earning potential is substantially higher than through a traditional gig economy platform,” says Middelkoop. “A generous commission split, scalable control over how much and often they want to work, and the fact that they are providing a meaningful product to their customers – this is a new way of working in the gig economy.”
Post a photoshoot, customer contact information is captured via a dynamic QR code shown on the photographer’s smartphone. The startup’s technology matches each customer with their photoshoot before digitally delivering their pictures for review and processing payment for print purchases and downloads.
Since its inception, more than 9,000 photographers globally have created an account with the service, claims the company. The company has already 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.
The platform was announced as the official guest photography provider for the Tower of London last week. Within the company, a team of engineers is currently developing advanced automated photo-editing technology to change backgrounds, retouch photos, and apply artistic effects.
Venues can rely on Smiler to source photographers, or have their existing staff use Smiler’s technology to facilitate customer data capture and photography delivery.
“Our approach means venues have no set-up or equipment costs and it’s far more sustainable – instead of paper tickets or needlessly printing photos that are never purchased, our entire workflow is digital,” says Middelkoop. “This also makes for a better customer experience. The photoshoot and registration are entirely contactless, photos are delivered directly to their mobile phone for easy social sharing, and they have the opportunity to purchase their photos days or even months after their visit.”
Mosaic invests $1-10M in those building daring (ad)ventures in Europe. Having raised $300M across two funds, they partner with founding teams that are fundamentally reshaping big markets.
“At Mosaic, we look for exchange platforms that delight customers and create new economic opportunities for suppliers,” says 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 inaccessible. This seed round has already enabled the platform to replicate its success in many more locations around the world!”
Speedinvest is a venture capital fund that invests in pre-seed, seed, and early-stage tech startups. With more than €600M AuM and 40 investors, the VC provides access to their in-house platform and a team of operational experts who can provide tailored growth marketing, people (HR), US business development, and networking support throughout every stage.
Jeroen Arts, Partner at Speedinvest, says, “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.”