Vaibhav Srivastava Podcast Transcript

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Headshot of CEO Vaibhav Srivastava

Vaibhav Srivastava Podcast Transcript

Vaibhav Srivastava joins host Brian Thomas on The Digital Executive Podcast.

Welcome to Coruzant Technologies, home of The Digital Executive Podcast.

Brian Thomas: Welcome to The Digital Executive. Today’s guest is Vaibhav Srivastava. Vaibhav Srivastava is a technology leader and the founder and CEO of PhotoSpot. Before establishing PhotoSpot, he worked with Silicon Valley companies such as Meta, Pinterest and eBay for the last 13 years, leading database decisions to deliver products that are still used by millions.

His experience in building consumer products at these companies helped him shape the user experience for photo spot. In addition to being a tech leader, Vaibhav is also a photographer who shares unique photo spots from around New York city on social media. The idea for photo spot originated when his followers began asking about the locations of those photo spots.

At photo spot. Vaibhav has combined his technical expertise and passion for photography to create a platform where photographers can share and discover unique photo spots. As a technology leader, he is striving to realize the vision of a world where travelers from all over the globe can assist each other in exploring beyond the well-trodden tourist paths and in capturing beautiful spots.

Well, good afternoon, Vaibhav. Welcome to the show!

Vaibhav Srivastava: Thanks for having me, Brian. Excited to be here.

Brian Thomas: Absolutely. I appreciate it. We get to jump in and talk some great stuff about your company tonight. So, I’m going to jump into your first question Vaibhav, after a successful career at leading Silicon Valley companies, like Meta, Pinterest, and eBay, what inspired you to make the leap into entrepreneurship and found PhotoSpot?

Vaibhav Srivastava: So, Brian, starting PhotoSpot wasn’t exactly a planned move. I just saw a gap in the market or what we call an unmet demand from the consumers and decided to build a solution for it. So, after my last job at Meta, I just wanted to take it easy for some time, enjoy the summer of 2023, and focus on my photography.

I used to walk around New York City posting photos from the non-touristy locations. And some people started reaching out to me to ask about the location of these photos. But most importantly, they started sharing their unique challenge with me. They were basically trying to connect the dots between the photos that they saw on social media and the recommended things to do that they saw on the travel planning websites.

So, I talked to a number of other travel influencers in New York City, and all of them had actually heard about this challenge. In fact, some of them run their own tours to take users to those Instagram-able photo spots that they cannot find on travel planning websites. So, this made me realize that there was a gap happening in the travel industry.

People are getting inspired by social media posts of photos and videos of travel, yet when they go to the travel planning websites, there is no way for them to find those photo spots that they saw on social media. So, the result is that most travelers actually stick to the well marketed tourist spots and not go to those Instagram-able photo spots that they see on social media.

Let me give you two examples. In New York City, Skip Park Overpass and Pier 51 are two of the best photo spots that you will find. You get an amazing view from there. And yet, if you go there, you will not find many tourists there because they are not available as places to visit on travel websites. Now, influencers are trying to fill in this gap by sharing the location in the travel posts on social media.

But if you are a tourist, you probably have to follow dozens of influencers to find what are those good spots for taking photos. And there is no systematic way of taking photos or consuming that information. And this is where PhotoSpot comes in. In the consumer product development world, we call this situation an unmet demand, where you have clear evidence that users are looking for something, and it’s not being provided by the current solutions available in the market.

The solution was actually pretty easy. If you think about PhotoSpot, it’s just a heat map of photos on a map, showing where others are taking their pictures and what exactly are they taking pictures of. Users can save their favorite photo spots or photos that they like on a map so that when they are traveling, they have a handy map of all the best photo spots in the area.

So that’s the short story of how from just taking a few pictures in New York City, I actually started PhotoSpot.

Brian Thomas: Love the backstory. Really do, obviously, New York is a very visited, well-traveled place. And I’m sure there’s just amazing photo spots to take those amazing photos. So, I appreciate the backstory that helps.

And obviously your career there with Meta helped kind of bridge that gap as well. Having that amazing experience working at such a large tech company. So, I appreciate the story and Vaibhav, with your background in leading database decisions for products used by millions. How have you leveraged this experience to shape the user experience and technical capabilities of PhotoSpot?

Vaibhav Srivastava: So having experience in leading data driven product decisions offers a very important benefit. You don’t become nervous as soon as you see your metrics going down. If you are in the consumer startup world, people often expect your product to go viral as soon as you launch it and all the metrics should be pointing upwards.

However, if you understand metrics, you know that just because your metrics are flat or negative, it does not mean that your product is not providing the intended value. The issue might actually be in the execution, and then it becomes important for you to be able to separate out the impact of execution versus what value your product is providing.

So, when we launched our MVP, we did not experience the strong early adoption that we were hoping for. After interviewing a few adopters, we came up with a few hypotheses on what might be the friction in adoption. And we started running a series of experiments around our ad creatives, our messaging, and our landing pages.

And we had a lot of really good learning from those experiments. For example, our users prefer photos over UGC videos in our advertising instead of trying to sell the platform or photo spot. Users actually wanted to see more about photo locations, like what are the interesting photo locations available on our platforms.

And lastly, because we were new, we were a new product, our users actually wanted to try out the product in a guest mode before actually signing up on downloading the app. The end result was that we were at about a few hundred active users per week. And when we made these changes or the learnings that we had from experiments, we quickly grew to 30, 000 active users just within a few months.

Another area where my experience of building a consumer product was very useful was understanding the user intent. Now, every user who comes to PhotoSpot does not immediately has a travel destination in mind. Therefore, we launched a feed for our browse users, a place where people can just simply browse those PhotoSpots that everybody is sharing from around the world.

What we saw was that our browse users or people who were using the feed had twice the engagement rate and much higher retention compared to our earlier users who were landing on a map with photo spots. So essentially what I’m trying to say is that taking a data driven approach to incremental product growth has actually brought us to this point.

Even though we did not have that strong start that everybody expects from a consumer product.

Brian Thomas: Thank you. That’s so helpful knowing your data, obviously, and then knowing the customer intent. I think that’s so important. I loved how you reached out and garnered feedback from the people that were starting to use your app.

And I think that helped make you move to that next level within your business. So, thank you for sharing. Bye, Bob. As a photographer yourself. How do you see technology evolving to further support the creativity and discovery process for photographers at all levels?

Vaibhav Srivastava: So, Brian, we have witnessed an incredible growth in the world of photography over just the last one decade.

The stat that I have is that we are now taking 5 billion photos every day and improving that experience of taking pictures is now a massive business opportunity. Filters for photos or increase increasing the resolution of photos, they are just part of the solution of how we improve users experience of taking photos.

What people capture and how they capture it, or what we call composition, is another crucial, crucial aspect of taking a photo. So, for example, a photographer might be standing in Times Square and still not be able to capture a good photo depending on how good they are at identifying a composition. So, I think we all have that one friend who consistently takes bad pictures every time we ask them.

So, this is what I ask, what if we can make this experience of taking photos much better by helping people discover what to capture and how to capture it? Actually, a lot of my professional photographer friends do not agree with me on this because for them, finding what to capture or that discovery part is actually the joy of photography.

However, I believe that if you are an amateur photographer who is trying to navigate a new city or trying to figure out a dozen of things that you have to when you are traveling, then having some kind of guidance in capturing a good picture can actually go a very long way. Let me give you an example from New York City.

If you visit New York City in the holiday season, a number of restaurants and bars have dedicated photo spots, place where their customers can take good photos because they have realized that every time people go out taking photos is a significant part of the experience. So, I believe that creativity in discovery will always be part of the photography, but enhancing users joy of photography by helping them in discovery, I think is becoming a massive opportunity now.

Brian Thomas: I really love that. And, you know, we talk about this a lot on the podcast is there’s a lot of free information that helps your community engage. And again, move from awareness. Through consideration to conversion, right? And that’s at the end of the day. And you can do that through by helping your community with these tips and tricks around photography, like you’d mentioned.

So, I appreciate the share by Bob looking forward. What new features or expansions can users and photography enthusiasts anticipate from photo spot? Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re particularly excited about?

Vaibhav Srivastava: Brian, we are very excited about the next stage of PhotoSpot. In my experience, the best way to encourage users to adopt your new product is by aligning it very closely to their current behavior.

So, what we want to do is to help our users plan their trip in the same way that they do today, with the added feature where they can add PhotoSpots to their travel plan. So basically, prepare your itinerary in the same way that you do today. But at the same time, we recommend them what are the photo spots close to where they are visiting.

There have been previous attempts to help users find photo spots on the map. And I think the reason why we haven’t seen a widespread adoption of this method is because of the inconvenience of navigating two separate systems. where users are trying to plan their travel on one platform and have photo spot discovery on another platform.

If we can merge these two aspects of travel, like travel planning and photo spot discovery, I think we can provide users with a very seamless experience between trip planning and photo spot discovery and that then we can start seeing a better adoption from users. So, what we are going to do is we will integrate an AI based trip planner that will help our users create their travel plan just like they do today.

And at the same time, this AI based trip planner will recommend them the photo spots which are close to the places that they are going to visit. In addition, a lot of people who travel have questions about their travel, right? Those small details that you have to figure out, and there will be an AI assistant to help users answer, answer those questions.

In addition to this, we are also trying to build partnership with the local tour guides who can take users to those photo spots. And we are also building a platform which will be sort of a community where everybody can discuss travel related topics. So those are the next few steps that we have planned.

Our final goal with PhotoSpot is to facilitate a seamless integration of the three aspects of travel, which is travel discovery, travel planning, and travel photography, all of it available within a single platform, PhotoSpot.

Brian Thomas: Thank you. appreciate that. You know, there’s a lot that can be said about bringing all that stuff together into one place.

And that’s what you’re doing. And you’re obviously going to make this just an amazing consumer experience. So, we’re excited to hear the future and what’s coming up next within PhotoSpot. So, I appreciate all the share this evening. And it was such a pleasure having you on today. And I look forward to speaking with you real soon.

Vaibhav Srivastava: Thanks for having me, Brian.

Brian Thomas: Bye for now.

Vaibhav Srivastava Podcast Transcript. Listen to the audio on the guest’s podcast page.

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