LEAD: How did you come up with the idea for your start-up?
Philipp Baumgaertel: Cherrydeck was created out of a personal need. In the past, I’ve been looking for new creatives for a variety of topics, and have always been upset that Instagram can not be sort of clever. It is actually a first-class portfolio tool. The frustration went so far that we built a prototype. He then received a good response, so that we continued to pursue the topic.
For whom is Cherrydeck mainly intended?
It should primarily help creative people and people who work with creative people. As it sits on Instagram, it automatically appeals to visually driven creatives, such as photographers, models, filmmakers or illustrators. Although we do not yet represent all industries on Cherrydeck, the platform should be an international gathering point for the scene. 85 percent of our users are not from Germany.
“At the beginning there was the classic skepticism, especially in Germany.”
So it’s only 15 percent – why so few Germans?
I would say that we are very strong in Germany. But: We have been in English from the beginning. We want to implement a global idea, so you have to be global too. Our international team creates things so that they are automatically limitless.
What were the biggest challenges?
Financing and “Make a good team” are always challenges. If you have that, you can overcome any hurdle. Finding my team, I consider my greatest achievement for our company. The few people who work for us are extremely willing to learn, ambitious, understand the users and think internationally. Only two out of eight have a German passport. Without them I would hopelessly fail.
What reactions from the photography world existed?
At the beginning there was the classical skepticism, especially in Germany. “You can not find real photographers on Instagram” or “You are too small,” for example. But there were also many people who got involved – especially internationally and in our network. Companies like our service because they save a lot of time and we have really good people on our platform.
Also interesting: Instagram: finding new audiences with a graphic novel
How is the startup developing?
Interestingly enough, we are growing steadily month after month. Actually, I’ve always been in start-ups or have founded, already at university. I already have a bankruptcy behind me, I know the start-up life from various perspectives.
That things work according to plan is a strange feeling to me. By mid-2020, we want to have half a million users and fundamentally align our business to global success. Then we want to turn up the right way. For this we will now set up another round of financing, part of which is already covered.
Do you have direct contact with Instagram?
Yes, we use the official Instagram API, which is a technical interface. We also know the people there and are in regular exchange. We are lucky that the office is right around the corner. I’m also friends with two guys there, so we have a short lead. Still, working with Instagram is a challenge because things often change. But we all feel that way.
In December 2017, you said Cherrydeck was “completely free for both sides.” How are you financing now?
There is already a paid membership for creatives, and this year we will also start paid membership for businesses.
Is there a minimum requirement for the photographers to come to you?
Yes: 99 followers and 9 pictures on Instagram, so we can rule out fake accounts. Otherwise, every user must go through a screening process. The styles of the selected photographers are different, as every company has different target groups. In order to ensure the quality, we also have a tendering process that you can request. There we look at the people very carefully, based on criteria from the customer briefings.
Also interesting: “Instagram has become more commercial”
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