Matt Munson is the captain of the ship at Instacanv.as and is involved in just about every aspect of the Instacanvas site. Instacanvas is a mobile photography marketplace that allows Instagram users to receive a free online gallery to sell their work as beautiful design objects. Casual Instagrammers can also turn their own photos into wall decorations, greeting cards, and more.
MO: Do you think that mobile photography is starting to gain credibility as an art form? If so, how do you anticipate this growing trend to evolve in the coming years?
Matt: We believe the most interesting artwork of our generation is happening in mobile photography. Instagram is a very popular platform for sharing amazing mobile photography and artistic edits. We’ve aimed to help validate mobile photography as an art form by giving the world’s best mobile photographers a platform for connecting with a wider audience. We’ve watched as the iPhone and affordable mobile photo editing software has created an entire new generation of photography enthusiasts who believe the mobile phone is their best tool for artistic expression. These mobile photography enthusiasts represent the largest, and fastest growing trend. The popularity of mobile photography, we believe, will only accelerate as more of the world’s populations gains access to smart phones.
MO: Can you talk about the development process behind first having the idea for Instacanvas and then taking it to market and any early challenges you faced?
Matt: Instacanvas started because we were big Instagram users, and we were frustrated that the artwork on our walls was so much less interesting than what we experienced on social media every day. We started with a “lean startup-style” test. One Friday, we built a four-page website explaining the idea and allowing users to sign up for early access to sell their Instagram photos, or to purchase the photos of others. 4,000 people signed up the first weekend! Once we realized we were onto something, there were plenty of challenges, from building our first image-resizing algorithm to figuring out how we could effectively ship products to our almost immediately global user base. Within eight weeks, we were shipping hundreds of products to users on five continents.
MO: How important has social media been to your marketing strategy?
Matt: Our user base is extremely vocal and active. All of our growth stems from social interaction, more specifically the self-promotion of our artists’ galleries and that of their fans. Content marketing is also a big driver for us. We feature awesome pieces on our Instagram and Facebook homepages which attract artists and art-lovers all over the world.
MO: Startups typically need to pivot and evolve their business model over time, especially as customers start to use the product. Can you provide some advice or lessons learned to entrepreneurs on pivoting while keeping your business moving forward at the same time?
Matt: Growing a startup is a sensitive balance between executing on the day-to-day while systematically finding a way to the bigger opportunity. Finding product-market fit is the first big hurdle. Most founders chase their first idea for far too long, instead of iterating weekly or daily. Product-market fit is like falling in love. If you’re not sure, you don’t have it. If you’re struggling to find product-market fit, or to find a product that grows, I’d strongly recommend spending a weekend doing Lean Startup Machine with your team. Very helpful stuff.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Matt: There’s nothing better than building a product that changes peoples’ lives all over the world. We’ve been amazed by the response of our users this first year, and so thrilled to hear the impact they feel we’ve had on their art form. We have some big things coming in the months ahead that we think we have the potential to really shake up the mobile photography landscape. Stay tuned.
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