Business development 21 August 2015

EyeEm’s CEO: Creating a community is crucial for turning a business idea into reality

EyeEm has developed a community of more than 13m photographers
EyeEm has developed a community of more than 13m photographers

The founder of photography platform community EyeEm discusses what you need in order to turn an idea into a successful business – from a reliable support system to a tuned-in community to provide the critical feedback you’ll need to grow.

Most aspiring entrepreneurs will have a eureka moment once they realise their idea – whatever it is – will make an incredible business. The excitement often then shifts to “where do I even start?”, opening up a mental minefield. Starting a business isn’t easy and it’s about more than just having a dream, it’s about changing your life. To take that dream and turn it into reality you have to be prepared to face sleepless nights, frustrations, and struggles. It’s a straight up hustle – but if you believe in that dream, you don’t give up, because the rewards are worth it.

Find your support system and hold onto it

One of the most important aspects when starting your business is having a supportive network of friends and family around you. When I said it’s about changing your life – that’s true – but a solid foundation of people in your corner will make that change so much easier. That’s just one of the reasons I took the idea of launching an awards ceremony and travelling gallery celebrating the work of smartphone photographers to my friends Ramzi, Lorenz and Gen in 2010. I knew together we could build something incredible and be a support system for each other. Also – they’re the smartest people I know and I couldn’t have have got anywhere without them.

Discover something you love and run with it

We travelled from Berlin to NYC to host a pop-up mobile photography gallery, one of the first of its kind. I remember reaching out to people on Twitter, Flickr and every social service on the web to find amazing photography to exhibit, all for the simple love of art. I remember the enthusiasm we encountered among this new community because of the ability to share what we see instantly. It’s what led us to really understand the coming visual revolution and start working on our own idea of how the future of photography should play out.

This is fundamental in starting your own business – you have to have so much passion for the product or service you’re working on. The rewards don’t come overnight so you have to be in it for the love of what you’re doing, not just the financial side of things. We saw that our love of celebrating this type of photography was matched by a fast-growing number of people – so that led to the launch of our photography platform, EyeEm, in 2011.

Flo Meissner saw the opportunity to turn his passion into a business with his photo-sharing app
Flo Meissner saw the opportunity to turn his passion into a business with his photo-sharing app

Identify your community and cater to them

Another essential element to a successful business is identifying, growing and maintaining a strong community. It is the heartbeat of your company; these are the people who will give you the critical feedback you need to grow. Your community is invaluable. At EyeEm we have a thriving base of more than 13m photographers who we engage with on a daily basis. Everything we do, we do with them in mind.

We host “Missions”, where we partner with brands and challenge the community to take images that evoke a particular emotion or are shot in a certain style. We provide tips and training on our blog and in our app, so the community can continue to improve their work every day.  We host an annual Festival & Awards celebrating the best upcoming talents. We also offer them the opportunity to sell their images across the world through our market, and through our partnership with Getty Images.

Launching a business is a journey – a long journey at that. Take advantage of the opportunities in your local area and meet as many people as you can. That one conversation at a breakfast seminar may just be the inspiration or spark you need to take your company to the next level.

The harder you work, the more talented thinkers and creators believe in your dream and join the journey with you. As your vision gets clearer, stronger and more powerful it’ll begin to turn from an idea into reality. This is when you leave it all on the table, and push for your dream.

Image: @viktoriianikitina/EyeEm

Flo Meissner is CEO and co-founder of photography platform community EyeEm.

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