The problems solved by the best consumer apps are anthropological. The starting point is understanding the things that people have always done and why. Then you study how technology can be used to enable people to do it with much less friction. That’s the start of a great consumer experience. And if it’s done well – really well – the resulting product will feel deceptively simple.
It’s easy to forget this dynamic and to be seduced by technology for technology’s sake. It’s instructive to step back and explore “obvious” needs. So here are a few questions. After an evening out with friends, have you ever asked each of them to send you their photos from the night? Have you ever gone on a family vacation and wished to collect everyone’s photos into a common pool?
That’s Cluster. A deceptively simple app to relive experiences with your friends and family.
Not long after I began playing with a pre-release alpha, it soon found a place on the top row of my homescreen (MessageMe, Path, Cluster, Twitter). It belongs there because the images inside carry deep emotional resonance. I look at them often. There’s a 138 photo Cluster of a family vacation earlier this summer. My wife, sister, brother-in-law, and Mom have all viewed and added photos. There’s a 497 photo Cluster of my son. It’s filled with pieces of the everyday silliness that comes from raising a toddler. My wife and I set it up when we realized that we were texting each other (and our parents) multiple photos of our little guy every day. And there’s a Cluster of Mt. Tam photos that I share with my mountain biking buddies.
This is “pull” not push photo sharing. Each Cluster is open to a unique group of people. It’s made up of the people who asked, “Would you mind sending me those photos?” To them, each image is highly relevant. This is the engagement side of the attention equation.
Founder & CEO, Brenden Mulligan has been working through the concepts behind Cluster for some time. A few years ago, he was one of the first people to build products on the Instagram API. He created PhotoPile and MorningPics to allow people to revisit the nostalgia of their old Instagram photos. His Co-Founder & CTO, Taylor Hughes, was part of the engineering team that revitalized the YouTube homepage. He knows more than a little something about scaling media. But Taylor also understands how to build intimate, mobile apps having been an early member of the dev team at Avocado.
Along with everyone at First Round, I am thrilled to announce our investment in Cluster and welcome Brenden & Taylor to our community. With Cluster, they’ve built a wonderful product with deeply human meaning. That is the foundation for a great company.