Chute, the Y Combinator-backed startup that began life as a photo-sharing app before transitioning to a backend platform that any developer can incorporate into their app to make incorporating photos from various sources much easier, is seeing a lot of demand for its product post-pivot. That’s led the company to set its sights on providing an ever-more sophisticated API that will eventually make it easy for both web and app developers to leverage all kinds of existing user media.
Chute was on-stage yesterday at YC’s Demo Day, showing off its cloud-based photo and video-sharing infrastructure, which developers can easily incorporate into their own apps without having to start from scratch. Chute co-founder Gregarious Narain told us that Chute provides an essential service for developers, by taking a lot of time and effort out of one area of development that can be especially tricky to deal with.
“When you’re building an app, there’s likely 100 things you want to do, 10 that you have the time to do, and just a couple that you can master,” Narain said, talking about why developers would opt for something like Chute’s solution vs. building their own. “Scalable infrastructure has gotten easier and easier to build, but it requires a lot of time and energy to take advantage of it. As more and more of the differentiation is happening around the user experience and engagement, developers seem extremely receptive to resources that help them keep their energies focused on those areas.”
That’s the approach Urban Airship has likewise adopted with its push notification, in-app purchase and subscription service bolt-on integrations. Urban Airship announced a milestone of 10 billion push notifications served in January, which represents 100 percent growth in just five short months. Developers are clearly looking around for time-savers, especially for features that are time-consuming or cost-intensive but essentially cookie-cutter features.
Narain says that developer demand is what prompted the decision to focus on the platform, in fact. “We always planned on making the API [which powered the Chute app's photo sharing and syncing features] public, but we thought it would be to let other developers access the camera roll,” he said. “As we chatted with more and more developers, however, they all wanted to be able to leverage the backend for their own photo needs. Once we started hearing that from more and more people, we realized there was a great need for better tools and services in this arena and we made the decision to focus on the platform over the product.”
While Chute “will always” offer a free tier for developers to take advantage of, Narain said the plan is to also charge for use of its APIs depending on developer needs. He didn’t offer specifics, but he did say that “as [developer] use and needs evolve, we’ll continue to do the same.”
Chute recently launched its Photo Picker+ drop-in replacement for native iOS and Android photo pickers in beta, and it has already amassed 800 developers on its waiting list. It’s also now offering SlideChute, a simple photo uploader for website, blog and app publishers, in private alpha with a beta planned soon. But Narain says photos are just the tip of the iceberg. “Video is next up on the list for sure and we hope to bring it online in the next quarter. Audio will likely come after that,” he told us.
The challenge might be achieving critical mass before a larger player like Urban Airship decides to diversify its portfolio and offer something similar, but Chute is doing a good job of shipping and iterating its products quickly, which could help it stay ahead even if its competitors do decide to enter the market. One thing is certain; with app popularity on the rise, and developers needing to focus on elements that set theirs apart from the crowd, someone’s bound to profit from making the basic elements like media sharing easier to nail down.