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“We didn’t look at what others were doing”: VSCO Founder Joel Flory answers your questions

Anna O'Hare
Published on June 1, 2016
VSCO Founder Joel Flory was on the Marketing Stage today to discuss digital storytelling. VSCO is not only a photo editor but also a photography portfolio in your pocket. With Instagram’s arguably misguided logo redesign, VSCO’s minimal design and simple UX has never felt so fresh. But they don’t care about Instagram. “We didn’t look at what the others were doing,” he said when Alan contrasted VSCO and Instagram. “We had a vision of who we wanted to be.” Joel was alongside Graphic India’s Sharad Devarajan and Rotten Tomato’s Stephen Wang in a panel moderated by Forbes’ Alan Griffin. With no way to like or comment on photos, VSCO has been called the anti-Instagram. So why do they strip back on the social element? That’s just one of the questions our startups wanted to know. We also wanted to know how he gets pumped…
Sparkish ask… How did you manage to build VSCO into a successful startup? Was there ever a point where you nearly gave up? There’s never been a point where I almost gave up, but it’s not always been easy. I have a shirt that I wore earlier to breakfast that says hustle on it. When you take a look at how VSCO got to where it is, it’s a group of really talented individuals. So the first thing I always say is to have the best team possible. If I do one thing, it’s surround myself with great people. The team at VSCO has been catalyst for our success. Everyone believes in what we’re doing. When you wake up, it’s not just a job; we do it because we believe in it. Odigo Travel ask… How are photo apps changing the way professional photographers work? Do you see VSCO as more of a platform for professional/ serious photographers than amateurs? It’s a platform for everyone. Both exist on the platform. I was a professional photographer for over ten years – that’s really where it started. VSCO Film was the first product that we launched, which is like a plugin for light room and Photoshop, but it runs native. Over time and with the launch of our mobile app, we’ve been looking to everyone with a mobile phone. We don’t even say that we’re a creative company. We’re a community for expression, and everyone’s in a different place on the journey of expressing what they see around them. Some are very polished and make a living off it; others are figuring it out. They’re trying to figure out what their point of view is. It’s something that’s a fine balance of providing what we believe are world-class tools, but doing so in a way that’s accessible to everyone. Sweet Escape ask… VSCO has no way to like photos or comment. Why did you decide to strip away the social element for VSCO? Would you ever introduce a social element? We wanted something where when you went to look at a photo, you’d see the photo and you’d see who created it and nothing else. You get to form your opinions based on that. We noticed that our consumption experiences were always looking at the numbers and comments to validate what a photo is. We wanted to create an experience where you would share things because you had something you wanted to say. We have the ability for you to follow people and create a feed within the app to consume content. We’ll continue to introduce ways to do this that are our way. It’s not that we’re anti-social or don’t want to have social components, we just don’t see value in doing it the same way that everyone else has done. Spark Share ask… How do VSCO work with designers and photographers to design the filters? Everything’s done in-house. We have a team of colour scientists, and we gather our inspiration from a variety of things. Things around the world; things that we see; things from different moods, feelings. It’s really a very collaborative process within the company, like someone saying, ‘I’m feeling this – I wish I could apply something that gave my photo this feeling. Then our team will go develop something and come back like, ‘Alright, is this what you’re looking for?’ Join us at RISE 2017. Bring your startup. Apply to ALPHA.