StartIn: Welcome to our Spotlight series! Can you please give us a quick introduction about yourself and your team, please?
Tim: Thank you for having me! I’m Timothee Issenmann, and I’m the CEO of Newgrain. My journey started with a deep passion for analog photography, inspired when my grandmother gave me her old film camera. While pursuing my studies at the London School of Economics (LSE) in Management, I embarked on the path of creating Newgrain to provide a dedicated platform for film photographers. I later teamed up with Arish Tripathi, our CTO, who brought this software development expertise to the project. Arish recently completed his Master’s in Financial Tech and Computer Science at UCL, and together, we’re driving the vision behind Newgrain.
StartIn: Could you share a quick overview of your start-up? Your product, your market / target group, and in which stage are you currently in (MVP, funding, scaling, etc.)?
Tim: Absolutely! Newgrain is a platform dedicated to analog photography, providing a space for film photographers to share their work, connect with a like-minded community, and deepen their passion for film. We launched our MVP a year ago, and the response was incredible – over 4000 photographers joined within three months, demonstrating the demand for such a platform. Currently, we’ve launched our official iOS app, which has garnered over 2000 downloads since its recent launch. Our goal is to create a thriving community of photographers who appreciate the aesthetics and process of film photography.
StartIn: It is very impressive that you have already surpassed 5,000 members on your platform, and you keep growing! Can you tell us a bit more about what strategies you followed to have to so many people joining Newgrain?
Tim: Of course! Our growth journey has been a mix of engaging with communities, forming partnerships, and giving photographers a valuable platform. At first, we connected with the film photography community on Reddit (r/analogcommunity), where we got noticed by sharing our idea and talking with photographers. Then, Instagram played a big role – we began featuring our users’ film photos on our own account and tagging them, giving them exposure while also spreading the word about Newgrain.
We also realised that film photography labs were important hubs for photographers, so we started talking to them directly on Instagram. Some of them like our platform so much that they consistently recommend it to their customers looking for a community to share their work and discover new film types. While these efforts kickstarted our growth, a lot of it has come from happy users simply telling their friends. Our platform resonates with those who love film photography, and they naturally share it with others who feel the same way. It’s been great hearing stories of Newgrain being shared through word-of-mouth!
StartIn: Sounds great! Are existing solutions such as Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest not good enough for photographers to share their work?
Tim: Existing platforms have certainly revolutionised the way photography is shared, but they often prioritise quantity of content over the artistry of each image. For photographers who appreciate the nuances of analog photography, platforms like Instagram may fall short in fully appreciating the beauty of film photography – images are compressed, algorithms favour video content over photos, and everything seems to revolve around metrics such as likes and followers. This is because they all optimise for one thing: engagement. Why? Because their whole business relies on showing you more ads.
Newgrain offers an alternative (or rather, a complement) by creating a space that values the craft, enables distraction-free inspiration, and fosters genuine connections within the analog photography community.
StartIn: What do you think is the biggest challenge for Newgrain currently and what are your next steps?
Tim: Our biggest challenge lies in navigating the balance between meeting user expectations while staying true to our vision. It’s about finding the sweet spot between what our users want and what makes the most sense for the platform in the long-term. A prime example is our decision to prioritise building the iOS app before expanding to Android. While many users express a strong desire for an Android app, our limited resources
mean we need to stay focused initially. Building for two platforms simultaneously could potentially slow down Newgrain’s development, which isn’t ideal for anyone. It’s a strategic choice we’ve made to ensure the quality and effectiveness of our product.
But one thing will always remain true: transparency is crucial to us. We’re committed to explaining the reasons behind our decisions, just as we did with the Android app issue. We want our users to understand the considerations and trade-offs we face as we grow. This challenge forms the core of our next steps. In the upcoming weeks and months, we’re going to continually update the app based on user feedback. We’re actively listening to our users’ needs and suggestions to guide our evolution. Additionally, we’re gearing up to introduce a paid premium tier, which will not only provide enhanced features to our passionate users but also mark the beginning of our revenue generation.
StartIn: What advice would you give to students who are interested in starting a business centred around growing a platform or in the creative area?
Tim: Arish and I always remind ourselves about the “YC philosophy”, because we’re very inspired by the advice given by Y Combinator. It’s straightforward: be in constant communication with your users and build a product they genuinely want. In practical terms, this means actively listening to your users, understanding their needs, and iterating your product accordingly. Don’t be afraid to pivot or refine your concept based on their feedback. It’s this user-centred approach that will set you on a path to creating something truly valuable and impactful. And one final thing I can say: make sure you’re in love with the problem you’re solving. The startup journey has so many ups and downs that you must be extremely, almost irrationally, passionate about your industry and improving it.
StartIn: Thank you for sharing your story!
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Are you currently hiring / looking for investors?:
We will be raising our first round of investment in early 2024. We’re looking to meet angel
investors with a shared dedication to build new online spaces for creatives, and rethink the
way social media works.