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Shutterfly’s Strategy: A Conversation with CEO Jeff Housenbold (Part 5)

Posted on Monday, Mar 24th 2008

SM: You are focusing on personal memories and personal experiences exclusively.

JH: Exactly, things which are near and dear. We have always been a password protected environment. I am not going to put the pictures of my three young boys across Flickr for everyone to see.

SM: Nobody cares anyways. JH: No, they don’t. My son scoring a goal is interesting to him, me and his grandparents and that is about it. We have always been about a closer sphere of influence, about shared memories, things that are near and dear.

We are extending that into the shared experiences. We are doing that in a couple of ways. We recently bought Nexo which was kind of a web 2.0 startup that competed with Yahoo groups and a couple other group based startups. What differentiated them was the two founders are great technologists; this is the fourth company they have founded together. They were using Yahoo groups and found it limiting. Essentially it was an email list server, and they realized their kids were in all of these activities and they wanted to be able to set up a website quickly and get everyone to use it without having to answer technical questions. They did that and they were kind of a technology that was in search of a business model beyond Google AdWords.

We had launched Shutterfly Collections about three years ago, so we were a business model looking for the next generation platform; it was a perfect marriage.

For my kids soccer team, I could set up, with a couple clicks of the mouse, a team soccer page. I could go grab a calendar module so the coach could put when the practice and games are, I could pull a roster so people know the kids’ numbers, what positions they play, how many goals they have scored, and I could go grab a poll to use for things like where to do the team picnic, etc.

What the two founders of Nexo did was they made it both a web based environment and an email based environment. You get an email with a poll and it auto-updates on the websites. We are now extending the notion of Shutterfly from being a closed environment and a 1-to-1 service, to being a group environment, so you can make collaborative creations like photo books.

SM: You have some other initiatives in that area as well. JH: A week ago we launched Shutterfly Gallery. What we found in talking to our customers was that they love our designs, they love our form factors and content, but a lot of people say they are not that creative.

It is like cooking. A lot of people are not imaginative as to come up with a new recipe, but they can make a beautiful meal with a recipe. The Gallery lets users post their photo books for the community to view.

I may have just come back from a trip, I can then go to the gallery, click on Travel, type in Tag Word ‘Family Vacation’ so it is tagged and it is placed by location. You can then come in and see that I just came back from a vacation in Italy. The community can rate on a 5 star basis, and you can read my profile, and what inspired me, and why I chose the 12×12. You can just click a button that says, “Make one like this,” and it will keep my templates, formats, fonts, and designs but all my pictures get sucked out.

The business benefits for Shuterfly are that making a photo book takes some time. Some people do it in a half hour, and others make it a labor of love and it can take 4 or 5 hours. It is much less than the 150 hours my wife spends doing traditional scrapbooking. It still takes time though. The templates not only increase velocity, but they decrease the creativity required.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Shutterfly's Strategy: A Conversation with CEO Jeff Housenbold
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