A PHOTO-BLOGGING website started by Edinburgh entrepreneurs 11 years ago which has since gained millions of followers worldwide has collapsed with all jobs lost.
Blipfoto had attracted almost £1 million of investment from the likes of Scottish Enterprise and looked set to hit the big time after a partnership with US group Polaroid in January saw it re-launch in 170 countries.
However, it has emerged that the hoped-for revenue boost from new paying members never materialised, leaving the company desperately short of funds.
It emerged yesterday that Tom MacLennan of FRP Advisory was appointed as liquidator to Blipfoto in recent days. He said the company was suffering from “funding issues” and all 11 staff had been laid off. The website has been kept up and running while discussions take place with potential buyers.
“We don’t expect any disruption to members of the community who use it, and we hope to get something resolved that will protect their position and use of the site,” MacLennan said.
Blipfoto started with a single image of autumn leaves in an Edinburgh park, captured by site founder and chief executive Joe Tree in 2004.
The appeal was instant, with “blippers” flocking to the site in such numbers that two years later Tree and his co-founder, Graham Maclachlan – then running a photography and design company in the capital – decided to get more serious. Subscribers were invited to upload a single image every day and look at others’ journals. Initially free, a higher-grade membership was later offered at £25 a year.
Outside funding was attracted and Tree and Maclachlan went full time with the site, the old business falling away.
Writing on the site yesterday, Tree said he was confident “a viable, long-term future for the Blipfoto platform, community and content will be secured in the coming days.”
He added: “There is a preferred bidder and final discussions are taking place.”
In a post which attracted dozens of messages of support from users, Tree also spoke of the site as “one of the most vibrant and supportive communities on the Internet”.
He added: “I am optimistic the lights aren’t about to go out and know many people are working hard behind the scenes to make sure they shine even more brightly in the future.”
The company, chaired by technology entrepreneur Ian Ritchie, raised about £900,000 through four fundraising rounds to accelerate its expansion. Scottish Enterprise’s most recent accounts show it had £430,000 invested, for a 29 per cent stake.
At the start of this year, Blipfoto rebranded after forming a partnership with Polaroid. No money changed hands as part of the deal.
Ritchie said yesterday market research had suggested that the strength of the Polaroid brand would ensure a leap in subscriber numbers, but it did not happen.
He said: “Because of that some other funding that was due to come in was no longer available and the company found itself in a position where it could not continue trading. The loyalty of members was very strong, but we didn’t have enough of them.”
He said it was unlikely that a new owner would be based in Edinburgh or maintain its Scottish connections.
He added: “The technology scene in Edinburgh is very vibrant so I think the staff will get new jobs very quickly. But it’s very sad for the founders.”
Blipfoto boasted more than five million days of human history on its pages and attracted 18 million visitors every month. High-profile fans include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, plus Scots politicians Mike Russell and Stuart Maxwell.
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