There are a lot of different mashups of technology and startups over the past few months and years and it’s definitely the year of the API. It all starts off with an idea and then by leveraging the API of that startup, others can build their own vision of a product. It usually happens with one of the more popular startups and today, one of them happens to be Instagram. Naturally, startups are going to try and “ride their coattails” (in a good way) to find ways to improve the service or come up with a great product. Launching this week, Scan-to-gram just happens to be one of them.
Started from nothing more than a mashup of ideas during a Scan company hackathon event, Scan-to-gram is the outcome of Scan team members mashing up their popular QR code generator and Instagram in order to create a fun new way for companies and others to have a web presence and increase their following on the photo-sharing social network. Not a bad idea from the company that produced one of the top downloaded QR code scanners in the Apple marketplace. According to TechCrunch, Scan is in the business of “creating apps that extend the potential application of QR code tech…” and they’re doing a pretty interesting job of trying to make QR codes less boring and more valuable. For many people, the thought of using a QR codes probably seems a bit far-fetched–some might even speculate that they’re dead. After all, it wasn’ t as if they’re a new thing in the marketplace. The QR code was first invented in 1994 and was designed to enable tracking of vehicles during the manufacturing process. But it’s only been recently since QR codes have hit their stride, somewhat, and have become more mainstream–but there’s a long ways to go. And that’s just what Scan seems to be trying to do, but they have a long way to go.
Recent statistics show that in June 2011, there were 14 million US smartphones that scanned a QR code, but when you compare it to the entire US smartphone population (82.2 million), it’s not that impressive. But now when you look at all the emerging startups making names for themselves and getting acquired, they’re all mobile-based and rely solely on the smartphone. Take Instagram, Path, Highlight, Foursquare, Flipboard, Evernote, etc. for example–these are all mobile-based startups that people with smartphones are rapidly downloading. The camera on the smartphones have become even better too. So the environment is there eagerly awaiting for a really great startup to put it all together. Scan just managed to find the right deal–make it easy for people to find their friends and great photographers on the number one photo-sharing app. That’s what you get with Scan-to-gram.
In a sense, Scan-to-gram is very much like Instagram meets Twitter lists. We all know that there’s no real directory on Instagram for you to follow people…in fact it’s practically impossible to search for folks or to segment them. But Scan-to-gram alleviates that for most folks by enabling you to create a list of Instagrammers all on one page by your own curation efforts and then giving it a hashtag so that it can be better found. So I could create a Scan-to-gram page of Instagram users I consider to be great photographers in real life (besides on Instagram) and by sharing that link out, you can use the Scan application to instantly view that individuals Instagram profile, see their photos, and follow them. It’s that simple! You can make whatever edits you want and continuously curate Instagram users and watch as their latest photos are shown on the page.
In a well-written TechCrunch post, Rip Emerson correctly states that the potential opportunities for Scan and Instagram are numerous. For brands who are having events or have numerous people out in the field, they can have a curated list of their Instagram users right on the screen and enable fans to follow along with them. For example, NBC’s Today Show could have their main anchors out and about using Instagram and photographing what they’re seeing and their website and social media profiles would point to their Scan-to-gram page which would allow their fans to select the anchor or personality and instantly follow them. There wouldn’t be a need for users to manually type in the username into Instagram–it’s all done for you just through the use of the QR code. It’s a simple and easy call-to-action! Other avenues of opportunity could be for brands to tout their fan evangelists and promote them on a Scan-to-gram page. Just by using a specific hashtag, if a brand notices that John Doe has been pushing his Instagram photos of their product onto his social media channels, then they might be inclined to promote him on their Scan-to-gram page along with others who continue to publish those similar photos. Think of it as a wall of fame and a mark of recognition.
Already brands are starting to take notice of the potential that Scan-to-gram can have. Since it’s launch just a few days ago, this new service has managed to snag three Instagram power-users and probably some of the most well-known brands out there, especially known for being associated with great photography: GQ, Marc Jacobs, and Warby Parker. If you look at their pages, it’s filled with Instagram users who are photographic about all things fashion or style related. According to Jiovan Melendez, Scan’s Head of Business Development, the startup hand-picked these three brands, along with VEVO and Hello Giggles because they felt that they were among the most popular users on Instagram and also represented design and style from “smart and innovative people”–what they apparently strive for at Scan.
What other avenues could you take with Scan-to-gram? I’m sure there’s a whole lot more potential…the trick is for brands to understand what they want to do with QR codes and also with Instagram. One thing that’s for certain, photos are definitely the biggest rage right now and the explosive proliferation of smartphones across the United States and potentially the rest of the world holds enormous benefit for companies who are interested in capturing more of the mobile segment.
You can sign up now for your very own Scan-to-gram page for free. This is also Scan’s second brand-focused product as their first one was targeted towards giving brands their very own QR-related mobile site. It’s for certain that Scan is highly interested in created a true and solid business case for why brands should entertain QR codes in their business strategy. Not bad for a company that who received $1.7 million in seed funding from Menlo Ventures’ Shervin Pishevar, Google Ventures, CRV, Start Fund, Social + Capital, Ludlow Ventures, and many others.