Montreal’s Picmile is in the Business of Telling Stories- Not Just Tagging Photos

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A short chat with Montreal-based startup Picmile and its founder Reda Benembarek convinced me that I should use Picmile for a night out with friends- possibly even New Year’s Eve, but we’ll keep that between the Picmile app and I.

Picmile is a free photo and video-sharing app for iOS that allows users and their peers to “discover, capture and publish life stories on iPhone”. The startup was founded two years ago by Benembarek and Fabien Lafontaine.

But in a crowded space filled with photo-sharing apps, some of them copycats and likely hundreds of them developed from bright cofounders just like this pair, how can Picmile forge an identity and gain big traction?

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Benembarek told me the app is all about allowing people to tell ‘stories’ rather than having people simply upload photos and videos and tag others. In fact, there is no tagging with Picmile. Rather, the app simplifies this through geo-location features.

“We simplify the capture of people’s stories, like a trip, a night out with friends or anything that you might feel that you want to immortalize through photos and videos on your phone,” Benembarek told BetaKit. “But instead of doing post by post we do it through a story.”

That means the user starts the story, adds content like photos and videos and the app automates the whole process, categorizing the story by location, time and context. Friends can join in to make it a collaborative effort, by adding in their content and status updates. “It becomes a way to capture the real story, and not just you and your photos and your friends and their photos (and tagging in between),” he said.

Users can also apply filters and frames to photos, and stories can be shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Like many apps, this one presents a pretty cool value-add for a night out. The issue now is getting enough people to know about the app.

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Quality-wise, the design and feel of the app is clean. Without signing up, anyone can check out stories that other Picmile users have submitted and made public, from a broad range of categories, like music, technology, news, lifestyle, art, food, sports, travel and much more. Friends can comment, favourite or share content.

Benembarek emphasized several times that Picmile is never really finished. It’s always improving, individual parts are being revised and user feedback is always being considered. It was refreshing to hear that attitude as many startup founders tend to speak almost in an ‘all-or-nothing’ style. The app is either “finished” or “not finished”, when in reality, it’s really always a work-in-progress. These cofounders seem to be the few who aren’t afraid to admit it.

A resounding “no” was given to me when I asked if the app would be monetized via ads. While Benembarek wouldn’t outright tell me their business model (that’s a secret), he indicated that a central problem to story-telling in technology is that the content is, for the most part, stuck inside the virtual walls of smartphones and computers. He hinted that Picmile is working on a way to allow those stories to come offline. The only thing I could think of was potentially integrating 3D-printing features, but that doesn’t really solve the video aspect. We’ll soon find out, assured the cofounder.

“It’s cool just to capture a night out and start a story somewhere, while the friends that you’re with can join in,” said Benembarek. “It’s a never-ending process. We started, we change it all the time and we’re always moving, updating and simplifying.”

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk previously has written for the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Regina Leader Post, Techvibes and BC Business Online. Joseph often goes crazy on twitter during NHL and NFL games.