Toronto startup launches photo-sharing app with Maple Leafs promotion

Toronto-based Thumble launched its iOS photo-sharing app on Tuesday, and to mark the occasion its offering users the opportunity to win tickets to a Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens playoff game.

A startup out of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ), Thumble is available for download now. It’s a social app that lets people share digital photos from their smartphones, add tags, and earn rewards from participating businesses for “checking in” with a photo using their tag. Think FourSquare, but with photos.

To mark the launch, Thumble is giving away hockey playoff tickets to a Maple Leafs or Canadiens game to a lucky Thumble user that upload a photo of themselves showing their pride for their respective team and uses the right tag or, in Thumble-speak, slash.

Right now, the app is just available for Apple iOS, but Thumble co-founder Ricky Fung said they’ll be looking at other platforms down the road, but for now they’re focused on growing the network.

“Our job right now is to help users find companies our users enjoy, so they can post a picture of their favourite moment and receive rewards,” said Fung.

While other companies have tried to build their brands on social media, Fung said Thumble believes incenting users to spread the word for a business within their own networks is much more effective, and that’s what they’re trying to enable with their app.

“We’re big fans of having your fans spread the word about you,” said Fung. “(We want to) create brand evangelists that want to spread the word about you through photos. We think that’s a much more relevant and personal way of telling a story. We’re so used to brands pumping out messages; that’s becoming less relevant and less believable.”

The success of Thumble’s app and business will therefore depend on the businesses it can sign up that want to reward users for uploading relevant photos. So far, Fung said Thumble’s clients are mainly in the Toronto area, including Gangster Burger, Chronic Ink Tatoos and Fit Factory Fitness.

One example of a typical promotion is Thumble’s reward with Uber, a car service designed to help people get home safely after a night out on the town. If a Thumble user uploads a photo of themselves having a fun (and responsible) night out and uses the slash don’t drive and drive, they’ll receive $20 off their first ride with the service.

Fung said he recognizes that social apps have to make money eventually, and so they have to either charge for the app, have in-app purchases or advertising. Thumble doesn’t want to do that; the participating clients are the ads on its model.

“We’re a lot closer to profitability. We’re not figuring out the revenue model, but rather how much to charge and what the proper return on investment is for companies offering rewards,” said Fung.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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