“We live in an amazing Era of exponential growth. The technology for all of this exists already, it’s not fantasy. I cannot wait to make it part of my life and being able to contribute to it.” A statement given by Stefano Cutello to summarize what he experienced at “Mobile Photo Connect” in San Francisco end of October 2016. — That’s smart. Because Stefano already contributes a lot. — The conference attendees liked his approach: “Send your pictures on FB Messenger at PastBot, and you’ll get a beautiful PastBook photo book automagically created for you! Meet our PastBot: http://past.io/2ePYg8g”
Great timing to be able to run a ValueDialog to get the full story of PastBook. And it’s a real success story!
By Şükran Ceren Salali and Andreas Weber, Head of Value
We have thousands of photos online. We might even forget some of those exist since they are all scattered around different social media. In order to collect and relive our precious moments with our loved ones, photo books are unique and personal. Founded in 2012, PastBook specializes in turning social media memories into high-quality, hassle-free photo books. PastBook developed Photo Book and PastBook for Instagram Photo Book apps in 2016; apps geared specifically for mobile users, that collect Facebook or Instagram photos and create high-quality digital or printed photo books in less than 60 seconds. Also, you can upload photos from Dropbox, Picasa, Google Photos and Flickr.
Short after its foundation, PastBook has been nominated for various awards. In 2015, PastBook named the 3rd fastest growing tech company in the Netherlands. Later in May 2016, the company was featured by Facebook as a business success story. Also, in September 2016, PastBook has been nominated for the prestigious Rising Star Award 2016 which is part of the Deloitte Technology Fast 50.
INTERVIEW: Let’s hear the company’s success story from the founder and CEO of PastBook, Stefano Cutello!
Turning social media memories into high-quality, hassle-free photo books: How did you come up with the idea for PastBook?
Stefano: One day my father was showing me his photo album of him in his younger days and then I asked myself that “will I ever be able to provide that same emotional experience to my children?” The answer was of course “no”, because despite I have plenty of more photos than my father – all of them are scattered everywhere on different social media and devices. I was using Facebook, from the days it has launched, and I realized almost a big part of my life is there. That’s was the problem I wanted to solve for myself and it turned out to be a problem that many other people have. So PastBook was born with the mission “to help people to relive their memories”. At that time it was all still just an extra time project for fun; the first product we made was a huge poster that users were able to create in 1 click: you select a year and you get 12 columns with everything you posted that year; so, it was in the same way we create the book of one year that you can relive your Facebook and Instagram moments of a selected year, by that we provide you a unique place where you can easily rediscover them online and offline.
We asked a few friends to try it out and it all became viral in 24 hours, we received many e-mails from journalists and it ended up at, for instance, Wired and Corriere della Sera. That was the moment I felt that this was my next train, and I jumped on it.
How did you end up in Amsterdam?
Stefano: When I decided to jump on that train I had to make the tough decision to quit eBay.
Rationally, there was no reason to do that: I had my nice long term job, and high salary – and just a few months before I just moved to live together with my girlfriend to a new house.
Still – I didn’t want to live with the regret to do not have tried. So went all in with PastBook: worst case, I would have learned plenty of new things.
So I started to apply for any kind of accelerator and incubator around the world, I didn’t care that much where to go: I was not looking for the money, I was more looking for getting in an environment that would have supported me to build my company. My plan B was to move directly to US and find my way there.
In March 2012 I got into Rockstart Accelerator that was based in Amsterdam and within one month from my resignation – everything started.
What kind of challenges you faced during this process?
Stefano: Almost everything. (laughs). — Before my decision, all my friends were telling me “don’t do it”. But, I prefer to try and see than to regret not trying.
I had this big mission: I wanted to grow bigger and bigger but not much was concrete. Then I said, well, a powerful way that I can make my big vision happening is that I have to make it clear for my customer what the product is and what we expect from them. We shifted by making a super clear proposition; “making beautiful photo books less than 60 seconds”. That’s when we actually started selling and growing.
I think, in 10-15 years, people will ask “if something happens to me, what will happen to my memories on Facebook?, “Will I ever be able to allow my kids one day to go back to the memories of me online which even I don’t remember where I have all of them that right now?”. That’s why my goal now is to build up a big, solid and sustainable company that can be there and this is why we have this motto: “Relive Your Memories with PastBook”.
Even though I faced big challenges, my passion and hard work enabled me to handle it in the best way, and it works well right now. It’s still the same challenge, even though you grow, you still embrace the challenge. There is always bigger goals that inspires me to work more and more. One thing is to go from 1 to 10 customers, when you get there then you have to go from 10 to 1000, and then 100K and so on: you never stop and the challenges are always there at any stage – you just keep raising the bar.
What advice would you give to people looking to start a company?
Stefano: I don’t like to give advice but one thing is for sure; you can’t start a company if you are not passionate about what you do.
I would have had thousands of reasons to give up. It would have been easier if I’d stayed in eBay rather than working 14 hours a day. But I have a passion that drives me. We set this vision, worked hard and we think big now, but compared to where we want to go, we are still at the beginning. I’d say keep pushing, never give up. Always think big, but move a small step at the time – fast.
PastBook has a culturally diverse team. How important is this that your customer profile and workforce mirrors this diversity?
Stefano: The diversity we have now was not my intention in the beginning, that somehow happened during the way but I really liked it. I was working with an international team in eBay as well. It is nice because if you want to build an international company, it’s core to have different point of views and culture. That’s also why I keep asking people to talk in person rather than using our chatting system at the office, the personality of each of us should interact. I don’t really care where somebody is from, male or female, and younger or older. I just tried to get the best people that I can get. I want to make this company bigger and I cannot make it happen if everything has to depend on. I only have 24 hours a day and I cannot be the expert of every single area. So I need the best people around me for each of those areas to complement me. If you want to build a top class company, you need to have top class people who work for you.
What are the future plans for PastBook?
Stefano: Our long term vision is providing a place where all your memories are, and you can relive them in every way that you can think of, now is a photo book, but soon might be something else, even not printed.
About the interviewee
Can we learn who is Stefano Cutello?
Stefano: I’m a product guy and an engineer inside. I opened my first company – a web agency specialized in web site design and IT consultancy – when I was only 18, in Italy, but I started working in IT way before since my first years at high school. My education background is in computer science, but I dropped the university because I was learning way more in the real world working for big IT companies than studying theory – that I knew already – on books.
Almost all the companies I worked for were offering me to join them as an employee, but I was always refusing because I liked switching from project to project, making my own career and learning new things every time.
One of the companies in my client portfolio was eBay. After just a few months of consultancy, eBay also offered me the opportunity to become an employee and that was the only time I said yes: the team in eBay Italy was still small, international it was a kind of a dream job for me, and a new experience. So, I sold my previous company and started to work for eBay only. Moving from having your own company with a lot of different clients, working for 24/7 weekend and night to satisfy each customer – to becoming an employee, I ended up having a lot more free time than before.
As a techie, I like to spend my free time building things, just for fun. I had no intention of building a start-up. Problem is that when you have plenty of ideas and you are able to make them, you keep moving from one project to the other, ending nowhere. One day, with a colleague of mine who has a similar background, we said: let’s share our ideas and pick one to work on, promising each other that we’ll stick to it until we make it done. That idea was PastBook.
About the company
PastBook collects all your memories in one –safe– place, detached from each social network, providing you with a unique experience to easily relive and share, either on-line, through a tablet or offline through a pdf or even in a tangible way, a printed book. PastBook’s algorithm automatically highlights your memories based on their vibrancy, keeping them chronologically organized. PastBook will let you easily rediscover and customize your past in an easy, fast and time saving way. You can create photo books in different styles for weddings, memorials, graduation and so on. PastBook’s new PastBot feature is very cool: You can send your pictures on Facebook Messenger at PastBot, and you will get a beautiful photo book automagically created for you!
Read PastBook’s blog, follow PastBook on Twitter and Facebook, or learn more at https://www.pastbook.com. Also here you can find one of the videos of the series of Ceren’s Tips on PastBook’s YouTube channel.
For more information about the company, please contact: Stefano Cutello, CEO and founder of PastBook, +316 38123898 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Stefano’s analysis of “Mobile Photo Connect” conference is worth to get added.
One of my favorite quotes by Robert Scoble: “Mind blowing shit is coming. It’s here”
Tonight [25 Oct. 2016] I had the luck to assist to the Tech in Motion fireside chat between Robert Scoble “Scobleizer” and Myriam Joire and I saw how the future is gonna look like. Sooner than you imagine.
- Mixed reality experience that will make impossible to your mind to understand what’s real and what’s not – you’ll have to remove your glass to get back to earth.
- Space sensors that will be able to feel the pressure of your hands on the floor from 50cm distance or that will be able to detect the heartbeat of the person you are looking at.
- Eye sensors that will look at your eyes instead of looking at what you’re looking at to enhance the experience of what you are focusing on
- Drones that are able to map a 3D model of a room in a matter of seconds and be smart enough to do any action in that room recognizing not just walls, but any objects in the room and be autonomous in handling them
- Ecommerce experiences where the moment you “walk” to a shop, you’ll not find any shelf; you’ll just ask for a pair of Levi’s and a any possible model will appear in front of you already fitted by your size and preferences; or where you walk into a supermarket, you watch a tomato and you’ll see the supply chain of that tomato, letting you make a more wise choice on the most healthy one, also better understanding the difference in prices
- Brands that will embed VR experiences in each of their product, so that the next time you’ll watch at your Nike you’ll see some special things coming out of your shoes
- TVs that will mainly have the function of getting a 3D sensor in your home so that your living room can be mapped
- Entertainment will be watching abut of your windows and see a “live” show happening in your garden
- Driving will be sitting on the main seat in a Tesla (that you don’t necessary have to own) that will bring you wherever you want. Uber, Lyft, taxi and truck drivers will lose their job, but with the right regulations they’ll be able to have enough time to learn new things and get back to market: AI will destroy plenty of jobs but AI and VR will also create plenty of opportunities, unlocking learning experiences never possible before (think about Matrix)
- You will not need a monitor anymore, you’ll have as many as you want, virtually
- Market insights: It will be a war between Apple and Google, maybe Microsoft too. Facebook with its Oculus has to catch-up. Apple new upcoming Siri will make “virtual assistant” finally an everyday thing. The new iPhone will not be a phone anymore and most probably will be a glass that will interact with whatever you’ll point it to.
- Memories will always be available for you to literally relive them like the first time and be part of them, interact with them, change them.
Last but not least: We live in an amazing Era of exponential growth. The technology for all of this exists already, it’s not fantasy. I cannot wait to make it part of my life and being able to contribute to it.