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Hipstamatic moving 'full force ahead' despite major layoffs

By dpreview staff on Aug 17, 2012 at 21:29 GMT

Hipstamatic denies that the layoffs of five employees signifies the death knell for the longtime mobile photography favorite. Yesterday the Hipstamatic team was reduced from a team of 11 to a mere six employees through a restructuring effort and questions quickly arose about the future of the app known for its toy camera capabilities.

'We're still moving full force ahead - the original team that built Hipstamatic is still here, and remains deeply committed to continuing to make great products that inspire our community and the world,' Molli Sullivan, director of communications for Hipstamatic, told dpreview in an email about the layoffs.

Hipstamatic practically started the lo-fi filter trend amongst camera phone enthusiasts when it launched in 2009. The app also sparked debate when it was adopted by award-winning photojournalists such as Ben Lowy, who used Hipstamatic when documenting life in Afghanistan for a series published in the New York Times Magazine last fall.

Hipstamatic is in the midst of numerous new endeavors: the WMag FreePak, a join effort with W Magazine to offer free add-ons to the app, announced earlier this week; the nascent Snap magazine, a monthly iPad publication produced by Hipstamatic with its second issue released this month; a forthcoming GoodPak created in partnership with Lowy; and there are also indications of a Hipstamatic Foundation for Photojournalism in the works.

'None of those projects will be impacted or cut,' Sullivan stated. 'We will actually be able to better execute with the team we have now, and we're excited to continue working on projects we're passionate about and love.'

Comments

Total comments: 70
Michael Ma
By Michael Ma (Jan 3, 2013)

Hipsterism got too popular and it suddenly became unhip to be a hipster. That essentially killed it's brand. Not because of the photography, but because of the name.

0 upvotes
stefano_s
By stefano_s (Aug 26, 2012)

Honestly: I wasn't aware of #hipstamatic until I read this review.
I have to say, I tried it and I really love it: simple and immediate.
My background/where I come from: fully-loaded Canon gear (40D + L-lenses) sold off a couple years ago for m43 (GF1, G3).
Is this a process I'm through, and maybe a few other ones like me, willing to get a decent compromise between acceptable quality and low-profile/non-invasive devices?
My job takes me to India, Russia, Africa and the Middle East, where Canon gear is worth wage-months and doesn't go around unnoticed. So: for me, the ones I did lately are good choices.
To sum it up: it's really a great time since it seems there's plenty of choice around, whatever you take shots for.
Myself, I do it for fun if it wasn't clear unto here :)

BTW: did you happen to give a glance at their *free* iPad magazine ("Snap")? Entirely shot with their product of course. Amazing for learning the best combinations of "lenses/films/gels", IMHO.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
larrytusaz
By larrytusaz (Aug 21, 2012)

While I support free-market/free-choice very much, anything that hastens the demise of this gimmicky form of "art" is just fine by me. I'll stick with my Olympus E-PL1 and Nikon D5100 thank you very much.

3 upvotes
Magnus3D
By Magnus3D (Aug 21, 2012)

Hip stuff usually never lasts very long, just like this and all those toys Apple spill out to their hipster fans.

2 upvotes
nebsrfr
By nebsrfr (Aug 20, 2012)

If you're a company that does 100% of your business online and completely from reputation I think a "Director of Communications" is probably as important as a CEO. Just saying

2 upvotes
simmybear31
By simmybear31 (Aug 20, 2012)

When you have 11 or 6 employees - the luxury of a "Director of Communications" is one you can do without lol

0 upvotes
What do I know
By What do I know (Aug 20, 2012)

How much does a hipster weigh?

Instagram

1 upvote
Miguel Mealha
By Miguel Mealha (Aug 20, 2012)

To be short, this is what made me buy Hipstamatic.
http://www.balazsgardi.com/
Glad i did because i have a lot of fun with it. No layoff is good news.

1 upvote
swpars
By swpars (Aug 20, 2012)

Not surprising, I find Instagram's filters a lot more enjoyable to work with.

0 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Aug 20, 2012)

I will celebrate the failure of any company that concocts a fraudulent backstory like 'hipstamatic' shamelessly did.
http://lifeinlofi.com/2010/12/23/news-wausau-city-pages-uncovers-the-real-hipstamatic-backstory/
http://www.mariepeters.com/?p=168

4 upvotes
ennemkay
By ennemkay (Aug 20, 2012)

i really couldn't care less about the validity of their backstory.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Aug 20, 2012)

That is fine that you do not care. There are other people who do.

2 upvotes
Matthew Miller
By Matthew Miller (Aug 20, 2012)

Oh come on. That was clearly on the same level as Blair Witch Project claiming to be a true story. Of course it's not true. "Exposing" that is missing the point.

1 upvote
CaseyComo
By CaseyComo (Aug 21, 2012)

I read the pages you linked. I don't think anyone was meant to believe that silly story.

1 upvote
Kiril Karaatanasov
By Kiril Karaatanasov (Aug 19, 2012)

They have no Android app..what age are these guys living in? do they have app for Symbian or WinMo 6...

Comment edited 15 seconds after posting
1 upvote
ennemkay
By ennemkay (Aug 19, 2012)

the only have six employees and one of them is a director of communications AND she uses the term "full force ahead"? :p

2 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Aug 19, 2012)

Anyone knows about the employee profile of the company, e.g. developers vs management vs marketing, before and after the lay off?

0 upvotes
Les Kamens
By Les Kamens (Aug 19, 2012)

I really love Hipstamatic one of my favorite camera apps. some might say it's a toy and others just another brush and palette... make art!!!!!! it's fun

3 upvotes
isocb
By isocb (Aug 19, 2012)

Bravo!

0 upvotes
Ashley Pomeroy
By Ashley Pomeroy (Aug 19, 2012)

"Yesterday the Hipstamatic team was reduced from a team of 11 to a mere six employees"

I like to imagine that the CEO got the employees together, threw a broken snooker cue on the floor, and gave them six minutes to halve their numbers - or he was gonna kill them *all*.

1 upvote
CaseyComo
By CaseyComo (Aug 21, 2012)

I have it on good authority that this is exactly how it went down. Were you there, too?

0 upvotes
thubleau7
By thubleau7 (Aug 19, 2012)

never heard of them, maybe that is why they are going broke ?

looks like a toy made in China comes in a Christmas stocking five bucks.

1 upvote
Matthew Miller
By Matthew Miller (Aug 19, 2012)

It's an iPhone app, and the cheap toy Holga/Diana aesthetic is intentional (and part of its success).

2 upvotes
Keith
By Keith (Aug 20, 2012)

Not to be mean, but do you live in a bubble?

1 upvote
d_leemans
By d_leemans (Aug 20, 2012)

I don't even have a f*cking iphone, so yes, there are still people out there with no interest at all in this app stuff.

0 upvotes
isocb
By isocb (Aug 19, 2012)

I quite like hipstamatic - I wrote about it here: and there are a number of lo-fi galleries on here:

http://mono-culture.com/photo-streams/?category=Hipstamatic

There's also some other work on the DP2M and Fuji X-Pro1 here that you might find interesting.

I hope Hipstamatic are able to find a way through their difficulties.

1 upvote
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Aug 18, 2012)

Lo fi photography is fun. In the right hands its awesome. But it fast get tiresome for those not having super talent for it. And then you want a real camera.

3 upvotes
probert500
By probert500 (Aug 20, 2012)

of course here you are shooting with a highly advanced digital device an layering it with a digital filter. not much lo about that fi.

0 upvotes
deniz erdem
By deniz erdem (Aug 18, 2012)

how much work can there be in a hipsta?

1 upvote
LiSkynden
By LiSkynden (Aug 18, 2012)

Work for two: the programmer and webdesigner ;)

1 upvote
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Aug 18, 2012)

The problem is that that a simulated lo fi camera fast gets boring. It needs constant evolution. And thats expensive - and evenyually the company goes out of new ideas. Then there is a crisis.

1 upvote
G Davidson
By G Davidson (Aug 18, 2012)

Hipstamatic is definitely the most innovative photo app I've used, though it just has one major flaw... No option to save a regular photo alongside the filtered one. Whilst I know they feel this goes against their philosophy, it puts a lot of people off using their app.

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Aug 18, 2012)

I can imagine :) But as you say - their philosophy is that it *IS* a toy camera. How can it then take quality images?

0 upvotes
G Davidson
By G Davidson (Aug 19, 2012)

It does show their commitment to their ideal, but it makes for a big disadvantage with most other apps having the option. You need to take each photo twice if you want a regular one... Of course a real toy camera couldn't do that, but why leave out a useful option when people want it?

This is a major reason why Instagram does do much better, despite much simpler filters, though now you can post directly to that network. I'm saying all this because it's possible to take excellent photos with Hipstamatic, so a 'raw plus filtered jpeg' option would make it perfect.

I'd even wish for something similar on a DSLR some day... Take a look at their digital magazine to see just what can be achieved with their approach. More interesting than a lot of other photography out there and more instant than post processing all night long!

0 upvotes
isocb
By isocb (Aug 19, 2012)

Completely Agree. What inspires me is the emotion of a picture rather than absolute realism. It's getting easier by the day to take well exposed, crisp photos with loads of detail: I think there is room for both?

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Aug 19, 2012)

Yes - there is room for both. But - if you have a set of instagram filters - and likes only 10 - dont you think the images will look somewhat to similar if you take thousands?

0 upvotes
G Davidson
By G Davidson (Aug 21, 2012)

I'd agree, though this is where Hipstamatic is an entirely (though overlooked) different entity from any of it's imitators. There are many more combinations possible, I think thousands at least, and they all have their own unique character, including some random elements. Combinations can get samey, but no more so than a straight digital shot in a way.

In the future, I can see more sophisticated black and white modes and even carefully simulated small depth of field at the point of capture leading to this kind of thing actually replacing seperate lenses and cameras. For now though, it already offers unique and characteristic images that are more 'emotionally accurate' than a clinical capture. Though of course the latter is more useful for altering later, if you choose.

0 upvotes
semorg
By semorg (Aug 18, 2012)

Maybe they are getting acquired and want more money for the key people. In silicon valley these things are not that uncommon. Founders throw out people just so they can keep a bigger portion of the pie.

0 upvotes
onlooker
By onlooker (Aug 19, 2012)

The payoff is according to the number of shares owned, not whether you work somewhere or not. If you own the shares, you will get the green.

0 upvotes
semorg
By semorg (Aug 20, 2012)

Seems like you don't understand the basic math here. It's not about the number of shares it's about percentage you own. You're also don't know much about strange things that happen in silicon valley.

0 upvotes
onlooker
By onlooker (Aug 23, 2012)

Typical ignorance-borne arrogance. No, how could I know anything about Silicon Valley. I only spent 30 years in the industry here. Please stop making a fool of yourself.

0 upvotes
Fleabag
By Fleabag (Aug 18, 2012)

With 11 employees any layoff is a major layoff.

0 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (Aug 18, 2012)

You mean Hipstamatic® used to be BIGGER than dpreview.com®?

No Way!

NO WAY!

4 upvotes
vetsmelter
By vetsmelter (Aug 18, 2012)

"Full force ahead"

IF the really mean that why they ignore the major camera phone platforms such as the N8 and 808.

So come one, have the left over developpers finally develop something on Symbian^3.
Call it Geekstamatic for all I care.

Almost every N8 and 808 user out there will buy these applications.

Oh well, I probably don't understand enough off business and Symbian will be dead in 2016 (possible along with other OSes)

2 upvotes
tomatoketchup
By tomatoketchup (Aug 18, 2012)

Cause there's no money to be made. Despite how awesome the cameras are on these phones, I've never actually seen one out in the real world. iPhones are everywhere.

0 upvotes
Doug Pardee
By Doug Pardee (Aug 18, 2012)

As you say, Symbian is a phone OS with no future. There's no reason for anyone except Nokia to make apps for it. Android is becoming huge; just days after Instagram released their Android app, they got bought out for $1 billion (US). Even Windows Phone is bigger than Symbian... and it's what Nokia is committed to for the future.

0 upvotes
vetsmelter
By vetsmelter (Aug 19, 2012)

Hipstamatic is too big to take into account instant purchases of a fixed base of a few 100K users?
If their software is any good they should know people will buy a device that has more capable hardware to run it.
Espcially camera centric devices.

And besides that, how hard can it be to port the software BEFORE firing your staff?
Adobe has also ported its Photoshop package to PC, are they bleeding now?

If you are too big a company to ignore a few 100K users buying a 3 Euro software set, then I guess the only way is full speed ahead Android and Windows Phone. Despited the massive lay offs :)

About Windows Phone being bigger then Symbian, I don't know, but I hope for Nokia and continued Symbian + Pureview support that it will happen due to Nokia's WP's sales...

http://trak.in/tags/business/2012/05/17/global-mobile-handset-market-2012-smartphone-sale/

0 upvotes
Doug Pardee
By Doug Pardee (Aug 19, 2012)

A few hundred thousand users? Android has hundreds of *millions* of smartphone users. Besides, how many of those Nokia 808 users do you suppose bought their phones in order to take grainy low-resolution pictures?

In regard to "how hard can it be to port the software", the answer is that each smartphone OS uses a different programming language and a different system interface for its apps. The process isn't a "port", it's a full do-over. Nik has been promising the Android version of Snapseed since the beginning of the year, and still hasn't delivered (it was initially projected to be available in "early 2012"). It's nowhere near as easy as it looks.

0 upvotes
vetsmelter
By vetsmelter (Aug 19, 2012)

Thanks for this clarifying answer.

"Besides, how many of those Nokia 808 users do you suppose bought their phones in order to take grainy low-resolution pictures?"
-> then it is indeed time to fully do-over the software and ask 10 Euro for the professional version.

0 upvotes
Timmie
By Timmie (Aug 18, 2012)

"Major layoffs" <---> 5 people

Really?

0 upvotes
technotic
By technotic (Aug 18, 2012)

It is if it's nearly 50% of the workforce.

3 upvotes
Daniel Schapiro
By Daniel Schapiro (Aug 18, 2012)

They have 6 people in the "company", and one of them is director of communications. They have then a CEO, a CFO, a HR Person, someone answering the phones, so there's like 1 or 2 programmers left to do any real work....

4 upvotes
Just a Photographer
By Just a Photographer (Aug 18, 2012)

... and 1 billion dollars on their cash account.

0 upvotes
naku
By naku (Aug 18, 2012)

It is not necessary for a small company to be so top heavy. They might have whittled it down to just technical contributors. I know a software company that provides version control software for chip designs that is only three people. They essentially operate as three partners in the company with one of them handling CEO/sales role.

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Aug 19, 2012)

It is quite typical though for some startups, to be top heavy. For some reasons it seems hard to get people in the top that can do several things. This is of course very expensive, and gives a not sound balance between company cost and company development capability.

1 upvote
ammca66564
By ammca66564 (Aug 18, 2012)

Occurs to me that a product like Hipstamatic probably gets a surge of revenue. And everyone who wants one gets one pretty quickly, your revenue goes straight into the tank.

0 upvotes
Matthew Miller
By Matthew Miller (Aug 18, 2012)

Absolutely. Their model of selling add-on packs as new "lenses" and "film" is genius, but even that can only go for so long.

It seems like the logical thing to do would be to break down and write an Android version.

1 upvote
roblarosa
By roblarosa (Aug 18, 2012)

I agree with Matthew. I've been using Hipstamatic for a long time and I could never understand why they never had an Android version. I know my friends that use Androids would love the app.

0 upvotes
jsis
By jsis (Aug 18, 2012)

I laughed when they said "none of those projects will be impacted or cut... we're excited to continue working on projects we're passionate about and love". Of course they're going to say that, otherwise they would not attract investors. Instagram is next.

1 upvote
Matthew Miller
By Matthew Miller (Aug 18, 2012)

You didn't hear? Instagram already won the buyout lottery.

3 upvotes
ryanshoots
By ryanshoots (Aug 18, 2012)

Here today, gone tomorrow. Zynga was bought up too and now they're trying to reinvent themselves.

1 upvote
ryanshoots
By ryanshoots (Aug 18, 2012)

Absolutely funny. If "none of those projects will be impacted or cut... we're excited to continue working on projects we're passionate about and love" were true, what the hell were you paying all those folks for before???

3 upvotes
StanRogers
By StanRogers (Aug 18, 2012)

You were paying them for something you thought might happen and didn't. This is probably an example of the sort of problem Fred Brooks described in The Mythical Man Month, where integration and communication problems actually slows progress when the team was expanded -- you end up trying to fix the problem by rewriting the original system to make it more modular (less knowledge of the core is needed to provide additional features), and that actually sends you on a backwards journey. It makes a certain kind of sense in a large project, but for something like Hipstamatic, taking a year or two off to remake what you already have (and make it perfectly backwards-compatible) means missing the value-add revenue stream they depend on. Smaller is better until they can afford to go really big.

1 upvote
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Aug 19, 2012)

Did the people they laid of be developers? Or marketing? Or managers?

1 upvote
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Aug 17, 2012)

I expect more from you guys..

Comment edited 12 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
CAClark
By CAClark (Aug 18, 2012)

Like?

0 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Aug 18, 2012)

More reviews for one thing.

1 upvote
CAClark
By CAClark (Aug 18, 2012)

Seriously, 200 words about Hipstamatic isn't going to be stopping anyone doing the reviews.

I get that some people look down on stories about mobile device related stories, and I personally don't care that much, but I don't see the point on whining about it lol

2 upvotes
Camediadude
By Camediadude (Aug 19, 2012)

Fair enough. Sometimes we all need to vent though ...

2 upvotes
David Parker
By David Parker (Aug 21, 2012)

These are the stories I zero in on these days.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 70