Thinglink raises 1M USD from Inventure and Lifeline Ventures

Good news: we are funded! How did it happen? It all came together when we moved to our new offices on Korkeavuorenkatu. It’s a great location in Helsinki, conveniently above an awesome internet agency Valve, and coincidentally in the same space where we operated Jaiku (and Thinglink) back in 2007. I think it was the space that got Petteri Koponen (cofounder of Jaiku and founder of Lifeline Ventures) in a sentimental mood, so he invested in Thinglink. As it happens, on the top floor there is another venture capital firm called Inventure that also believes in the growth of in-image advertising. Well, the rest is history and here we are, looking into the future, together with Inventure and Lifeline Ventures.

Here is our official press release:

Thinglink raises 1M USD from European investors for in-image product advertising network

Helsinki and Palo Alto-based product tagging startup Thinglink has raised $1 million in seed funding from Nordic investors Inventure and Lifeline Ventures to develop an in-image advertising network for brands, retailers and other product advertisers. Thinglink offers online publishers a tool for engaging their viewers through interactive images. Any blogger or website can use Thinglink to make the objects in their images clickable and to drive traffic from these images to e-commerce sites and other destinations.

Founded in 2008 by design blogger Ulla-Maaria Engeström after a conversation with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Thinglink started as a free product code provider for design objects. The site grew into an invitation-only social network for design enthusiasts, and in July this year launched a technology for tagging products in images on any website or blog. The company today added for publishers realtime statistics about the views, hovers and clicks on their tagged images. Examples of European publishers and brands using Thinglink include the Scandinavian media house Aller, The Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE (Wenzel’s Antique Road Show), and interior design brand Artek.

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Bringing in business with photos: Tikau home decoration

If you are a design company making cool things, we have good news for you: it’s never been this easy to bring in business by taking wonderful photos. Let’s take an example.

Tikau

Tikau is a home decoration brand from Helsinki that mixes Scandinavian design with Indian crafting. ‘Tikau’ is a Hindi word meaning long lasting, durable and sustainable. After traveling in India and studying its rich crafting culture, the founder of Tikau, Taina Snellman, wanted to do something to support sustainable community development in rural India.  In 2008 she decided to engage top Scandinavian designers such as Klaus Haapaniemi and Ilkka Suppanen to work with Indian crafters. The result was an elegant home decoration collection with rugs, baskets, pillows, and accessories made from natural dyes and materials such as uncolored wool, organic cotton,  banana fiber and recycled materials.

How to spread the word around?

Building up retail for an emerging design brand is hard and terribly expensive. Getting attention in social media is easier than getting people to visit the shop. But how to benefit from the online attention? This is where we can help.

Tikau has its own webstore and great photos of their products. With the help of Thinglink tags, these photos are now served in the interactive, rich photo format for bloggers and online magazines.

For Taina and her colleagues this means that
– they can offer more information about each item in a photo (tagging images with Thinglink)

– they can link promo images of Tikau homes right back to their new web store or to the crafting community where things are made (linking a tag to a web address)

– they can follow what photos and products are most viewed (Thinglink statistics on image and tag views)

– they can follow online press coverage for their photos (Thinglink statistics on image embeds)

What’s the cost?

For using Thinglink, nothing. For tagging the photos, 1 hour of the shop assistant Angel’s time. For embedding the tagged photos on the site, 5 minutes of Web developer Luca’s time. That’s all.

If you’d like to copy these images, click the icon in the upper left corner to get the embed code.
















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What’s new?

You may have noticed that we’ve been doing small incremental changes to the thinglink.com web site. We’re not calling this a new “release”, since we keep releasing every few days or even daily (actually, we released twice today and it’s not even noon over here yet) and you probably wouldn’t want to see me post a blog entry every single time. But I’ll recap  some of the changes we’ve been making lately.

First of all, we’ve concentrated on improving the service overall. We released the first version right before my holidays, and that means that there was a considerable backlog of issues when I came back… (Rule #17: never release before holidays. You’ll ruin them.) Anyway, thinglink.com should now work a lot better for people using Internet Explorer, and there should be no longer duplicated images on the front page. Linking to pages that have hashes now works, and you should no longer get a handful of cookies when you use thinglink.com.

The second thing you may notice is that we added the embed code directly to the editor, so you no longer have to hunt for your photo after clicking “done”. Just copy and paste it directly from the editor. Yay!

Big thanks to all who have been testing thinglink.com so far and been supplying good feedback. Seriously, I don’t think we got one useless piece of advice, and even though we haven’t implemented and probably won’t implement all suggestions, we do read and think about every single one. Keep it coming – info@thinglink.com.

Oh, one more thing… We’re currently thinking about adding Facebook integration. How would you like to see us do it?

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Thinglink in Wired UK


The September issue of Wired UK is running a cool story on Thinglink – check out the online version.

“The things that have the most personality — art, craft and vintage objects — can’t be easily recommended, because they can’t be easily identified,” says Ulla-Maaria Engeström. With her start-up, Thinglink, the Helsinki-based design consultant plans to bring visibility to this “invisible tail” of hard-to-find objects. Users can embed Thinglink’s photo-tagging tool on their websites and set up info-packed hot-spots on their images. “People love to share images — and data,” explains Engeström, 36.

Perhaps the coolest part of the story is the photo: it was shot at design boutique Do Shop in London’s Soho, and all the things are available online through their web store. My favorite piece is the resin Moon Wolf statue I’m actually holding in a leash — you can’t see it in the online version of the image, but look for it in the print magazine!

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Launched: simple photo tags

Exciting news: thinglink.com has just been released to the public.

It’s a simple, free photo tagging tool that makes it easy to add clickable tags to any image on the web.

Any blogger or website can use Thinglink to make the objects in their images clickable. For example, have a look at how the Finnish edition of the world’s largest fashion magazine Elle is using Thinglink to enhance images of travel accessories and cosmetics; fashion and design tableware examples on Hobbyprincess.com; and vintage toys on the blog of an antiques TV show.

Why tag your images? Well, to drive traffic. Pictures invite clicks. According the New York Times, users are 5-15 times more likely to click on tagged images than other web ads.

Your images can contain anything: fashion, sports, interiors, news, a map… and your tags can lead anywhere: link to an online retailer you have an affiliate partnership with, or an article containing more information. You decide.

The cool part about this is that many publishers we’ve talked to love the idea that their images can be re-embedded freely with the tags (select “Embed” from the pulldown on the top left corner of any Thinglink-enabled image).

The tags work on any standard image. Simply copy your image url from your website and paste it to the Thinglink tag editor to add tags. When finished, copy the embed code we provide and paste it to the html of your website. It’s like embedding a YouTube video. Your image file remains untouched. Our JavaScript simply displays your tags when viewers move their mouse over the image.

The embed code works on any website or blog that allows Javascript: Blogger, TypePad, Tumblr, your own WordPress installation. Thinglink tags are standard Javascript, so they work on all standard-compliant browsers (although we still struggle a bit with Internet Explorer) and require no plugins. The tags work for everyone, including users who access your site on their iPhones and iPads.

We love it and hope you will too! Let us know what you think and how you would like us to improve. (Tip: we’re already working on stats for tracking your tags).

To our 4,000 lovely beta testers: we’ll continue to run an invite-only private beta as a test bed for new ideas. If you’re already a member of the private beta, your data is safe and you can access your account at beta.thinglink.com. The new tagging tool lives on thinglink.com.

Happy tagging!

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Am I suitable for this job at Thinglink? Start here.

We’re looking for a talented web developer to join our team! Route your way through the flowchart, and send us a short free-form application with your resume attached to ulla@thinglink.com.

Job ad flowchart

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Janne Jalkanen joins Thinglink as CTO

We’re delighted to announce that Janne Jalkanen will join Thinglink as its new Chief Technology Officer on May 10th, 2010.

By training, Janne is a physicist and rocket scientist. During the past eight years he has held various positions within Nokia.  Most recently, Janne was the leader of the Services Early Technology Validation team.  His previous positions include the Program Manager for Near Field Communications and a technology specialist for Corporate Strategy and the Nokia Ventures Organization. Prior to Nokia, Janne worked as a Software tester for Space Systems Finland, and a Virtual Reality Researcher for Helsinki University of Technology.  As his highest achievement Janne counts a piece of code which is orbiting the Earth aboard the ENVISAT-1 spacecraft.

Janne has several academic publications and holds 51 patents in various technical fields. He is an active Open Source developer, a member of the Apache Software Foundation, and a contributor to Apache JSPWiki and Priha.

As CTO, Janne will be responsible for planning and executing Thinglink’s technology strategy as well as preparing the Thinglink production environment for launch.

For us Janne is one of those rare friends in Helsinki who have been hands on the Internet of Things for as long as we can remember. We have debated about unique product codes since 2005, produced podcasts about web 2.0 as well as explored the possibilities of tagging things with NFC technology. We are therefore excited to welcome Janne in the team and look forward to having lots of fun in the Internet of Things!

Follow Janne on Twitter and the Butt Ugly Weblog.

Picture 62

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RRW on Social Networks for Things

iot_dld1

Over at ReadWriteWeb today, Richard McManus has a post out on Social Networks for Things. It is a writeup of the DLD panel Ulla-Maaria was on last week. Richard outlines the ideas behind Thinglink and two adjacent services, ThingD and a new startup called rezz.it. He ends with a prediction:

If web 2.0 was largely about social networks for people (which you can certainly argue it was), then the new generation of the web will add things to those networks and create new networks.

It’s good to see people are starting to recognize the emergence of new startups in this space, and advances in image recognition, mobile handsets, product identification, and social networking technologies all combine to make this an exciting time to be working on the “social graph of things.” Read the full post here.

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The internet of things revisited

Update: Live notes from the panel have now been posted by the DLD10 team here. Here’s the full video.

Charles Eames, the iconic American furniture designer, once observed:

“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality.”

It has taken a good while for the world to catch up with Eames. Things are changing though. Ulla-Maaria will be discussing the shift on a panel on the Internet of Things, hosted by angel investor Esther Dyson at the DLD Conference in Munich tomorrow. Tune in to more videos of the sessions here.

See also Ulla’s account of the loss (and return to) connectedness and quality in her recent TEDx talk.

Ulla-Maaria Engestrom at TEDx Helsinki

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One Thing leads to another

Now, the verses are a little bit off topic, but The Fixx appear to have been visionary with their chorus refrain:

I think we have a front-runner for the official Thinglink jingle.

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