There's a plethora of mobile apps for sharing, editing and discovering photos out there, but few have garnered as much praise as the smartphone and tablet applications made by Berlin-based EyeEm.
By focusing on the photographer community aspect and a superb design and user experience, EyeEm has long evolved beyond its former moniker, the 'Instagram of Europe', and is now completely carving out its own path.
In addition to all that, EyeEm last year released a nifty iPad application and made a number of key technical, product and management hires, including recently tapping former iStock, Fotolia and Getty Images vet Dittmar Frohmann to serve as its new VP of marketing and sales.
Also worth noting are the major improvements EyeEm has made when it comes to the core part of its offering, its smart search and tagging technology. No wonder EyeEm has doubled down on recruiting the best engineers and product people it can get its hands on, in Berlin and beyond.
What will 2014 have in store for EyeEm?
EyeEm co-founder and CEO Florian Meissner considers all this only the start of something beautiful. We caught up with the entrepreneur in EyeEm's swanky offices in the heart of Berlin to talk about the roadmap, and how the startup eventually plans to turn its sizeable user base into a viable business.
In the beginning of last year, EyeEm had roughly 1 million users, a milestone it had reached partly because, at the tail end of 2012, rival Instagram got caught up in a PR shit storm after changing its terms and conditions, something Meissner reflects on in our interview.
Another thing EyeEm's affable CEO discussed during our interview is monetization, which the company will not be doing by plastering its mobile apps with advertising, or giving brands access to users' photos without prior consent.
Instead, EyeEm aims to transform into a veritable content marketplace, where its users can effectively sell photos to select interested parties in search of beautiful, distinct imagery. On the other hand, brands and marketers can tap EyeEm's growing community to shoot and share photos on demand.
In both cases, EyeEm takes a cut, while its apps for iOS and Android - available in 20 languages and counting - remain completely free to use.
Its next areas of focus in terms of geography include the US, Brazil and parts of Asia, including Japan.
Meanwhile, publicly-listed photo marketplace operator Shutterstock (note: a tech.eu partner) is about to open an office in Berlin, bringing the heat to EyeEm on its home turf.
It will be interesting to watch EyeEm's move into a flexible, user-driven marketplace for photography, and whether they can compete with the big boys on that front.
(Editor's note: Thanks for checking out our this tech.eu video interview, the first of many. We realize refinement is in order - yes, white logos against a white backdrop are indeed a bad idea, as opposed to investing in a decent external microphone of some sort - and thus we welcome any feedback you may have for us.)