Suba: A Photo-Sharing Innovation Takes Off
From Ghana to Europe and the US in only a few months: A new mobile app from Ghana is changing the way we share event photos. Read More
The situation is all too familiar: We’re at a family event, a reunion with friends, a huge party or an inspiring conference, and everybody is taking photos. We will all share our photos with our friends when it is over, of course. But we will never get to see the photos taken by the other attendees. We just don’t have access to pictures taken by people who are not our friends on Facebook or followers on Instagram.
But maybe there was that one photo some guy took of you and your friends that you’d really like to see. Or that funny situation you just didn’t catch with your camera. Wouldn’t it be great to get these photos? To have access to a photo stream with all the pictures taken by all the participants so we can see them, comment on them, and share?
This is exactly what Suba, a new photo sharing app from Ghana, is all about: “It is a tool for saving shared memories, a sort of digital photo album,” founders Nelson Klutse and Eric Hackman state. “It’s perfect for sharing photos among friends, for travel and group activities, as well as for official events and conferences.”
Launched only six months ago, Suba has already expanded from Ghana to India, Europe, and the US. We talked to Nelson and Eric and asked them: What is so special about Suba?
At Suba your slogan is “changing the way we share event photos”. How is Suba changing photo sharing?
Suba allows users to see and share photos using the event or location as the connector. All event participants can share photos on one central photo stream. So it goes beyond the constraints of a ‘friend list’ on other social platforms. On Facebook, for instance, you have to be Facebook friends with someone before you can see their photos.
Launched only six months ago, Suba has already expanded from Ghana to India, Europe, and the US.
What was your motivation for founding Suba?
We came up with the concept for Suba after attending a friend’s wedding. Everyone was taking wonderful pictures, but we knew we’d never have a chance to see them. That’s how we realized the need for a mobile application that lets users take and share photos with people who attended the same event. An app that also allows them to relive the event later with multiple social elements: liking and doodling, allowing users to prolong the goofing around, and the fun. Hence Suba was born.
You claim that Suba offers a special photo-experience. What is this about?
Suba believes that the stream (scrolling horizontally) is a superior experience to the feed (scrolling vertically) that is common on virtually every other social media platform. This is because the stream is a better reflection of the way we experience life itself – as a rapid sequence, evocative of a roll of film, swiftly flowing by. And what’s more, instead of freezing a moment in time, Suba delights in bringing moments to life: Its “Doodle” feature allows friends to scribble, mark up, and otherwise add a personal touch to the memory.
Suba is now available as web application, too. But why did you initially develop it only as a mobile app?
We wanted to make use of a popular habit most people have, which is taking photos with their mobile phones at social gatherings. All we provide is a place to upload all these wonderful pictures so people can experience an instant feeling of community.
Event organisers can use Suba as their central photo-sharing stream and invite participants to upload their pictures. Who has taken advantage of this service so far and where?
It has been great to see the app used at concerts, an art festival in Ghana’s capital Accra with over 8,000 attendees, and at Fashion Week in India. We also partnered with ScreenNation in London who used Suba at a symposium honouring Ghanaian president Mahama and the ScreenNation Film & TV Awards. But lots of streams are also simply created by friends hanging out for a dinner or by groups on trips.
When it was launched in Ghana in September 2014, Suba immediately became one of the top 5 free apps in the Google Play Store. In March 2015, you had already expanded to Europe and the US. How did you get in touch with users abroad?
Our team is connected with event organizers around the world who have been incredibly excited about Suba. Aside from that, we trained at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Accra, which is funded by Meltwater, a company with offices in over 50 countries globally. These offices have been very supportive.
Eric, you once said that people are often surprised that an app like Suba comes from Ghana. Why do you think that this surprises people?
For those outside of Africa, the image of the continent is quite harrowing. The usual narrative of Africa in the media is limited to stories of war, poverty, disease, and suffering. The idea that there are actually smart educated guys coming up with global ideas goes against many people’s notion of Africa. But we are here and there are more of us – MEST is proof of that. On the flip side, there are people in Africa who believe that true innovation only comes from outside. They can’t imagine that a globally viable idea such as Suba can come from Africa. After their initial surprise, most Africans, especially in Ghana, are proud of the fact that Suba’s creators are African.
"The idea that there are actually smart educated guys coming up with global ideas goes against many people’s notion of Africa."
What were your main challenges when founding Suba?
Finding the right technical talent to join our team has been a major challenge and especially finding developers who work with iOS is extremely difficult in this part of the world. Another major challenge is the instability of the internet connection and mobile data costs in Ghana that affect how people can access and use our app.
The app is free at the moment. What is your business model?
We’re looking to roll out premium services for businesses soon. These services include the ability to have a live slideshow at events and use the images as a marketing tool on social media.
What is your future vision for Suba?
Our ultimate ambition is to be globally synonymous with event experiences in the same way Google is synonymous with searches. Suba will be the definitive source of photos taken at an event.