Catching up with the CoolIris team in Tokyo

Rick Martin by Rick Martin on 2013.3.13

L to R: VP Business Development Sebasian Blum, Sr Software Engineer Venkat Krishnaraj, CEO Soujanya Bhumkar

L to R: VP Business Development Sebasian Blum, Sr Software Engineer Venkat Krishnaraj, CEO Soujanya Bhumkar

If you spend a lot of time on popular social networks, it can be tough to wrap your head around exactly what CoolIris is. The Palo Alto company has produced a number of photo solutions over the years, most recently its CoolIris app which aspires to bring all your photos together in one place. It’s not photo sharing in the sense that we’ve become accustomed to, but rather a meta viewing/sharing layer on top of the photo services we already use. I caught up with representatives of the company, including CEO Soujanya Bhumkar, at our Tokyo office this week to learn more about what they are up to these days. Currently the company boasts Japan as its second largest install base, next to the US, so its not surprising that they would pay a visit here every once in a while [1].

cooliris-photo-wallWhen we spoke with Soujanya, he highlighted not only the app’s capabilities of bringing together your photos from places like Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, and your camera roll, but also the important function of being able to share photos selectively. In a time when people are turning to closed social networks like Path [2], this adds value on top of the slick 3D photo wall view that CoolIris already is best known for (pictured right).

So if you wish to send pictures from your various sources to someone by email, you can do so without the need for attachments as the collection is sent to the recipient (or a group of recipients) via a browser link. Interestingly, if more photos are added, you’ll see it in real time, and you can also see a real time chat discussion in the browser too.

On the business side of things, it’s interesting to see CoolIris’s business model develop a B2B element, with prominent regional partners that includes Renren in China and Yandex in Russia. Many of its partners promote CoolIris heavily, allowing it to quickly expand its user base around the world.

Next in Line?

cooliris-team-2

Naturally, we were curious if they might be eyeing some specific partners here in Japan. And while they couldn’t specify any company in particular, we think NHN Japan’s Line appears to be a natural fit (especially given the popularity of Line Camera). Soujanya tells me that Korea is the next stop on their trip, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see KakaoTalk as a stop on their tour too.

As for the future of the CoolIris app, the team tells us that video is something that could be on the horizon, as well as possible integrations with Vine. They are also considering in-app purchases for some premium features and services.

Soujanya asserts that ‘Pixels are the new decibels’ and that they hope to empower their users to be able to show off their best pictures with family and friends without worrying about complex privacy settings.

Let’s stay tuned and see where they go from here!


  1. Asia as a whole accounts for 30% of its user base. And I understand that China is the number two country in terms of growth rate, which is a good indication that adding Renren integration was a good idea.  ↩

  2. I’m not a Path user, but I do use Notabli for baby pictures.  ↩

Rick Martin

Rick Martin

Rick Martin is a Canadian living in Japan, and is a writer and editor for The Bridge. For feedback or story pitches, feel free to contact him here.

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