Lobster, the iTunes for user generated content

Sick and tired of people stealing your content? Meet Lobster, a marketplace that connects users of Instagram and Flickr and those who want to legally use their photos. With an international team from Moscow and London, we interviewed Olga Egorsheva (@egolya), co-founder and CEO.

Question. How would you define Lobster and how did you come up with this idea?
Answer. Lobster is a marketplace for digital content created by social media users. It’s a place to legally buy and sell user generated content (UGC) such as Instagram photos, Flickr photos, Soundcloud audio, Vimeo video and others. Lobster aims to be a truly universal marketplace to acquire intellectual property rights from private users. It’s an iTunes store for user generated content.

Q. What did you do before starting up Lobster? And the rest of the co-founders? 
A. I was starting new companies within corporate environment, so involved in entrepreneurship (e.g. Deutsche Post DHL), doing an MBA/MSc in Norway and France, supporting my father’s IT startups. The rest of the team have been working in IT (in companies such as ABBYY, one of the biggest Russian IT players), developing new products, or in the academic research environment (MSTLab co-founded by Microsoft and Moscow State University computer science faculty, the coolest uni in Russia).

Q. Why is Lobster different from other well established photo platforms such us 500px, Getty, etc.?
A. Lobster is different from both traditional photo stock and user content apps. The competitive advantage over traditional photo stock is simple:
– User generated content is more affordable than professional photo stock, and often user created content comes with great quality and creativity.
– Content from users appears at Lobster immediately, which is great for news photography and event based photography, since you get thousands of user images available immediately.
– We don’t have to limit the users’ amount of content or take a large stake of the price because we don’t have storage costs, we don’t store all the content, only the metadata.
– You don’t have to upload to Lobster, because we get your content automatically from the source platform with your permission. You just hashtag #ilobsterit. We give users freedom and seamless experience.

Q. Lobster has recently been chosen to enter Wayra, Telefonica’s global accelerator for start-ups, how is it like having this support? Has this represented a turning point for the project?
A. It’s really great! We really feel the expertise, support and drive that Wayra brings and have already accelerated our growth to a huge extent in just one and a half month that we are here.  It is going to be a great boost and step forward for the project after these 9 months, I believe!

Q. Lobster is creating a content marketplace that connects creators and buyers, do you take a cut from every transaction? What is your business model?
A. Yes, we take 24% of every transaction, you can see it on our website. This is rather low compared to 30-and-up-to-70% that traditional photo stock may charge. We will also be introducing subscriptions and packages to corporate customers. We will sell packages to private users too through partner services, such as website making apps, presentation making apps, etc.

Q. Content consumption is becoming more and more visual. Apart from photos, are videos on your pipeline? What other improvements are you implementing in the short term?
A. Yes, videos, as well as sounds and texts and any kinds of other user generated content. We are actually launching videos this week. Apart from that, we are now working on new stuff that improves conversion, such as mobile experience, adaptive layouts and a basic iOs app. We have recently launched the “News Mode”, a specific news content display mode and call-for-submissions created by marketplace customers themselves. We are also in process of developing the new and improved internal content management system that will in particular let you put photos on sale in batched instead of tagging every photo. New content sources to be introduced (Soundcloud, Vimeo, etc.) shortly and we are speaking to all these people about partnerships.

Q. What is your favourite film and why?
A. One of my favourite films is Melancholia. It is visually beautiful, impressive and reminds us of the finiteness of life, not only our own life but life on Earth in general. Together with some bitterness it brings a deep motivation to live the life, to do things, not to be afraid of anything and look at things from a wider perspective.

Find out more about Lobster through this presentation: