iSpicePhoto's Bid to Transform Facebook

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With Apple predicted to report first quarter sales of a record 8.5 million iPads next week, Lebanese startup iSpicePhotos’s focus on an iPad application has never seemed wiser.

Launched on June 22nd, the iSpicePhotos app generates a geek's dream scrapbook on Facebook, using algorithms to detail the history of your friendships and tessellate your photos based on friend groups. Whether seeing that your ex was your “Biggest Fan” in 2008 leaves you wary or curious about further statistics, iSpicePhotos guarantees an honest- and beautifully rendered- retrospective.

Conceived by founders Davina Atallah, Chady Kassouf and Fadi Bizri at YallaStartup Weekend in November 2010, the app went from idea to launch in only seven months, with the help of incubator Seeqnce in Beirut. As new platform Google+ recrafts the social news stream as a more public conversation, iSpicePhotos’s glance into history offers a refreshing reminder of the real-world connections that brought you to social media in the first place.

We asked founder Fadi Bizri the Wamda Ten Questions:

Fadi Bizri1) How did you decide to create this company?

iSpicePhotos started with the idea to mix social metadata with online photos- we imagined that this could potentially create value for Facebook users. We then attended YallaStartup! Weekend 2010 with this idea and presented a prototype of the application within 48 hours. The audience loved the concept, and their support encouraged us to push for a full product release.

2) Do you see your market as local, regional, or global?

We have released our first app only for the iPad. There are an estimated 20 million iPads worldwide, and most of them are in North America and Europe. Therefore our current target market is global.

3) What are your ambitions? How do you plan to grow?

Eventually we plan to port our iPad app to the iPhone, which will give access to over 100 million devices globally. We also plan to add more features to the current version and sell our next version for a higher amount. Finally, we’re looking at ways to spin off the algorithms we have built and adapt them into products related to social media marketing. We are currently in early talks with brands and agencies to that effect.

4) What were the most important decisions that you made in your company, or what was a key turning point in your approach?

The team was working on another web project when it started iSpicePhotos. For various reasons we made the decision to focus all our resources on iSpicePhotos and put the other project on hold. That was a difficult decision to make but we felt it was essential in order to deliver a solid and polished product.

5) What is the biggest problem that you faced (or are facing) in your company, or what were the biggest mistakes you made as an entrepreneur?

It’s difficult to create and maintain a startup team in Lebanon. Team members are often freelancers with limits on the amount of time they can give to an unproven idea. Also, simply finding competent and motivated people who can endure stress and perform consistently is not an easy task.

6) What is your role in your company? If you have partners, how do you manage your partnership?

I’m a co-founder at iSpicePhotos, along with two partners. I focus on marketing and overall strategy while the other two focus on product design and development.

7) Has owning a company made you financially more secure, or not?

Not yet.

8) How does technology enable your business? What is a technical tool that you cannot live without?

The internet is essential of course. Fast internet in particular is still lacking in Lebanon, and this is severely impacting productivity.

9) What does your family and/or spouse think of your company? Would you advise other people to become entrepreneurs?

My family tends to be supportive, while always gently nudging me towards considering safer opportunities that being an entrepreneur. But I think that everyone should take a shot at starting their own venture. It’s the only way to find out if this lifestyle choice is suitable for you.

10) Have the recent revolutions in the region influenced your approach?

Yes, in the sense that in the medium to long term, I’m excited about new opportunities in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. It’s proven that a higher amount of freedom encourages innovation and growth; therefore new markets should open up in those regions. We’re keeping an eye out for opportunities in the web, mobile, and internet space in those markets.

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