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5 October, 2015 - 17:21 By Tony Quested

Lord Bilimoria launches new photo sharing app in Cambridge

PictoSo  chairman Lord Karan Bilimoria (centre) with co-founders Rashid Bilimoria (left) and CTO Philipp Reisinger

Entrepreneur Lord Bilimoria is launching a new photo-sharing app for smartphones – PictoSo – in Cambridge and believes the venture has the capacity to out-Facebook Facebook.

The app will initially be launched in Cambridge tomorrow (October 6) to coincide with the University’s Freshers’ Week, before being rolled out across the UK, India and across the globe.

PictoSo is an instant photo-sharing app for IOS that is free to download and enables groups of users to instantly create shared albums with photographs and 10 second videos, so they can share the moments that matter with the people that matter.

While smartphone users were in the minority in 2012, today they represent more than two thirds of users in the UK. Lord Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beers, says there is massive new business to be won in India alone as smartphone usage spirals while costs fall.

He has launched the new venture with his cousin and business partner, Rashid Bilimoria, a tech entrepreneur based in Boston, Massachusetts, and app developer Philipp Reisinger – an Austrian who is “one-quarter Indian.”

Lord Bilimoria, a cross-bench peer, told Business Weekly that PictoSo had a number of unique features.

Pictures can be edited with filters, effects and stickers, and annotated with captions. Users can share 10-second videos. Entire albums can be shared via social media, email, SMS and messenger. Users can create albums of their favourite photos for easy and instant access.

Images are stored on PictoSo servers so that they can be shared instantly and received at high resolution without taking up extra space on mobile handsets – everything is stored in the cloud.

The launch of PictoSo sees Lord Bilimoria venture into the technology sector, having successfully built Cobra Beer – a global drinks brand which is currently stocked in 98.6 per cent of the UK’s curry restaurants and thousands of supermarkets and pubs across the UK.

The Indian-born entrepreneur founded Cobra in 1989 after graduating from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in 1988.

He said: “We are witnessing the convergence of a number of trends: smartphone usage rising significantly, broadband access and speed expanding rapidly; and the cost of data storage and digital tools falling. It’s clear that now is the time to launch an app that makes it easier for users to share their photos instantly.

“With an estimated one trillion photos due to be uploaded to the internet annually by the end of 2015, PictoSo is designed for the millennial generation, those who are increasingly living their lives on their mobile.

“The city of Cambridge sits at the heart of Britain’s technology sector, with its cluster of high growth digital companies earning it the name ‘Silicon Fen’. We decided to launch PictoSo here in one of the world’s leading tech clusters, which rivals Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Silicon Valley.

“We hope to capture the minds of some of the brightest and ambitious young people in Cambridge, offering them a unique experience and enabling them to share important moments instantly.” 

Lord Bilimoria started Cobra Beers from his kitchen table. He graduated to the dining room table to start PictoSo. He says the new venture is giving him the same kick as Cobra did in its early days.

The app will soon have iPad capability and an Android version will follow in a couple of months. Practising what he preaches, Lord Bilimoria took his elder son to Cambridge for his birthday and filmed the whole day on his smartphone – from loading the luggage into the car from the family home in Cambridge to the celebration itself. “It enables you to share the moments that matter with the people that matter,” he says.

The co-founders have been bootstrapping the venture up until now – and it really has been living on a shoestring, he says. But with London the HQ, Cambridge the IP mothership and the US fertile commercial territory, Lord Bilimoria says PictoSo is ready to go planet-wide with India a natural startpoint.

“There are 130 million smartphones in India against one billion mobile phones. As costs go down and smartphone usage surges, India becomes a gigantic market for the venture,” he says.

Co-founder Rashid Bilimoria is a tech entrepreneur, founder of Zyfin and co-founder of Boston Analytics. He commented: “Among all of the photo-sharing apps available to download, PictoSo is unique. We have built it with a genuine need in mind – families and friends looking for a simple, fun and instant way to share the moments that matter with the people that matter.

“Whether it’s a gig, a party, a sporting event or a great occasion like a wedding or graduation ceremony, PictoSo allows you to collate your photos into a shared album, where pictures and 10-second videos can be uploaded and shared on social media. This way, users can share life’s moments forever, answering everyone’s picture-sharing needs.”

Co-founder and CTO Philipp Reisinger, who is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in the US, said the app had been designed to “have the greatest functionality and an intuitive interface, so that it can be used by people of all ages, from eight to 80. We want the whole family to be able to get involved, so simplicity and ease of use were essential.

“The end result is a really practical solution which keeps all of your photos in one place, instantly shared with those close to you. But what is most remarkable about the app is how instantly it works. You upload a photograph and it immediately appears on a shared album on everyone else’s phones within the group.”

• PictoSo is available to download for free from the iTunes App Store:

Photo: PictoSo  chairman Lord Karan Bilimoria (centre) with co-founders Rashid Bilimoria (left) and CTO Philipp Reisinger


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