Where everyone else sees a picture of shoes as just a picture of shoes, Nariman Haghighi sees possibility.

As co-founder and CTO of Candid.io, a B2B marketing startup, he’s always believed there’s a lot of untapped potential in all of the photos residing on everyone’s smartphones – potential that can be used to boost a brand and help it build out its marketing strategy. Anyone armed with a smartphone can snap high-quality pictures and tie them to a brand, Haghighi says.

“Businesses need to harness talent outside of their corporate walls in order to compete, whether this is contractors or on-demand workers, or whether this is the crowd,” he says.

“[We] wanted to push crowdsourcing onto businesses … businesses that are e-commerce merchants that have a tough time sourcing unique, original content for their catalogue – they can turn to the crowd.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Haghighi and his team gave a presentation about their startup to a room of investors and media in the Burroughes Building in downtown Toronto. Candid is one of four startups to graduate from the fourth cohort of Extreme Startups, an accelerator for early stage technology companies and one of the most well-known programs of its calibre in Canada.

Haghighi and his co-founder, Dominic Gignac, explained their platform would be an intermediary between online retailers and individual consumers who might promote their brand – essentially, Candid would be like an agency supplying talent to its clients, the online retailers.

Candid would also keep tabs on the photos coming in, helping online retailers measure which photos get the most click-throughs, as well as the photos that get the most consumers to start shopping on an e-commerce site. The startup would then generate a report to display the top photographers, giving the retailer insight on who’s helping them drum up business.

(Image: Candid). Instagram gallery showing user-generated photos for the Crocs brand.
(Image: Candid). Instagram gallery showing user-generated photos for the Crocs brand.

On the consumer side, in return for taking photos, brands can reward them with perks, or a say in what kinds of products the brand comes up with. That creates a “two-way relationship,” Haghighi says.

While companies like major fashion labels often do have street-style snapshots and other forms of user-generated content attached to their brand, he adds those companies are probably using white label companies to link them to consumers.

“There’s no two-way relationship. They’re just tapping social media content,” he says, adding those companies often charge more since they have bigger offices and more salespeople reaching out to brands and asking them to join their service.

By contrast, Candid would cost much less – pricing starts around $30, making it an affordable option for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) in the e-commerce space. However, the company is currently considering a freemium model, where it would make its service free and then charge for the data analytics in its reports.

For Haghighi, the greatest benefit in joining Extreme Startups was being able to leverage its brand.

“Extreme’s brand has been very influential. When we meet clients, sometimes there’s some hesitation because we’re an early stage technology company,” he says. “But with Extreme backing us, and all the VCs, it lends us an air of credibility to the customer. They have the confidence that our product won’t disappear.”

Now that it has graduated from Extreme Startups, one of its top priorities is to find a third partner who can help it forge relationships and bring its platform to the mainstream within Canada, the U.S., and Europe, Haghighi says.

Right now, the startup is still trying to raise about $200,000 to carry it through this year, with a funding round potentially closing in January.

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