Get to Know... Joe Cuccinelli, Co-Founder and COO at Photo Butler
“I ended up developing my skill set from both of them. My father had a very ‘work hard, play hard’ kind of mentality, and I learned the ins and outs of how to run a business from him,” Cuccinelli said. “My mother, who was on the accounting side, was actually the influencing force in having me focus on accounting in college.”
Cuccinelli studied at Seton Hall University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. His heart, however, was elsewhere.
“I studied accounting in school, and I was good at it because I have a very analytical mind, but I didn’t have much of a passion for debits and credits. I pivoted into more of a consulting role in order to transition into something a bit more solution oriented. That’s when I worked for Deloitte and switched from audit to their consulting group.”
After six years at Deloitte, Cuccinelli ended up working in NYC for Viant, one of the premier web consulting firms from the dot-com era. One of the company’s main clients was a startup in Boston called Upromise, which hired him directly and moved him to Boston in 2000.
“I went to Upromise because of the people and culture there. It was just a great opportunity to get involved in the startup scene, and I stayed at the company for five years.”
Cuccinelli says that Upromise gave him the opportunity to learn from a variety of different mentors, like Sheila Marcelo, now the CEO of Care.com, Jeff Bussgang, now General Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners and George Bell, who was CEO of Upromise at the time. Upromise was also where Cuccinelli met his wife, who was working in the company’s marketing department at the time.
“Of all the amazing things that happened at Upromise, that’s definitely my number one.”
While at Upromise, Cuccinelli led the launch of the nation’s largest grocery platform, with the technology still being used by SavingStar (which spun out of Upromise) to this day. He was also there for the launch of a co-branded credit card, as well as an online shopping mall (this business model was the foundation for another spin out company called Cartera Commerce). In addition to all this, Cuccinelli’s team was doing card-linked offers a decade before it was popular to do so.
In 2005, Cuccinelli was introduced to Jeff Glass and his team at m-Qube, and there was an “instant connection,” assisted by the fact that Cuccinelli was looking to get into the mobile space at the time. Cuccinelli was responsible for m-Qube’s Gateway product, and he was there when Verisign acquired the company. That was when he met both of his Co-Founders at Photo Butler, David Benaim (Director of Client Solutions, m-Qube) and Andy Goldfarb (board member, m-Qube).
Following the Verisign acquisition, Cuccinelli joined Eswar Priyadarshan and Andy Miller (one of the founders of m-Qube) at Quattro Wireless, where he led product. Quattro was a pioneering company in the mobile web, building sites for organizations like the NFL and NHL, and helped bring mobile advertising into the present.
“At the time, people wanted to advertise on mobile websites – WAP sites – but there wasn’t a ton of good content out there. What Quattro did was put a lot of focus on hooking up with these premium brands and publishers to turn their website content into rich, engaging mobile content.”
Because Quattro was building mobile websites for premium content publishers, this piqued the interest of advertisers, as many big brands launched exclusively in Quattro’s network. Turnkey solutions made it easy for agencies to divert their online marketing dollars to mobile.
Quattro found itself in a really good position as the iPhone had just launched, with a stable customer base of brands and agencies. Apple was looking for opportunities to expand its mobile capabilities and acquired Quattro in early 2010.
“When we were acquired by Apple, we still didn’t know what we were going to launch with them. There were two-and-a-half weeks where we were working on pitches for rich media ads. Andy Miller did our first presentation for Steve Jobs, and after a couple of iterations, we knocked it out of the park.”
Working with Apple’s creative team, the group at Quattro was responsible for designing and launching the company’s iAd product.
Cuccinelli worked with Apple until November 2010, when he took an opportunity to become VP of Product at Bluefin Labs. An MIT Media Lab spinout, the company was a social TV analytics platform that measured how consumers respond to advertisements. The company was later acquired by Twitter.
Cuccinelli went on to work with Sheila Marcelo again at Care.com as their VP of Product, while they were still privately held. During his time there, he led a number of strategic initiatives. He re-launched Care’s mobile strategy, grew the product management team, and helped set their strategy around organic growth on social.
Cuccinelli was interested in getting deeper into Facebook advertising, and an opportunity to do so came along with Nanigans; they were one of the first companies to have access to the Facebook ad platform. While heading up product, he helped turn their business from a managed service to a SaaS business.
After nearly two years at Nanigans and over twenty years of professional experience, he decided it was time to start his own business.
“My wife and I were talking about it for years. I really started to get infatuated with the live, interactive elements of Periscope and Meerkat. I really wanted to find a way to bring commerce and live, interactive, video streaming together.”
This resulted in a year spent developing iWannaSeeIt, Cuccinelli’s proposed solution to this market. He bootstrapped the company, and launched a number of pilot customers.
“It’s hard to start your own company. It’s an emotionally, taxing process, and at the end of the day, even though we had some success, I was talking to Andy Goldfarb, and his vision for Photo Butler was so compelling that it was time to press pause on my project.”
Photo Butler’s team is comprised of fifteen people, including the three co-founders, Goldfarb (Chief Butler), Cuccinelli (COO), and Benaim (CTO). Goldfarb is also a co-founder and managing director of Globespan Capital Partners.
“Andy provides a lot of the direction, while David and I are really focused on defining what it is we’re building, and executing it along with our team.”
Photo Butler, which launched last week on iOS, is a free mobile application that allows you to share photos in real-time, collaboratively, at public and private events.
“The average person takes 2-3 seconds to take a photo and 30-45 seconds to share a photo. We eliminate that second part of the equation because we make it happen automatically. This allows people to be present and free of distraction.”
In the app, event hosts set up a photo-sharing stream and invite whomever they want to join it via invite code or SMS. When the event starts, all invited parties are instantly notified that the stream has begun. From there, photos are shared to the stream instantly, as soon as they’re taken.
It’s Photo Butler’s algorithms that really kick the app into high gear. For example, at a wedding, a guest might take between 500 - 1,500 photos. Photo Butler will automatically detect the top 200 - 300 photos. This ultimately leads to a greater level of engagement, in terms of the average number of photos that consumers will view and save to their phones.
In addition to saving photos, users can share them on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The event owner is given complete control over photo streams; only they can decide who gets to view or contribute to the album.
Cuccinelli says that Photo Butler is focused on growth in 2017 and monetization in 2018, considering different B2B and B2B2C options. However, at the moment, the company is ultimately taking a measured approach to growth.
“At the end of the day, if you have a good product, those opportunities will present themselves.”
Cuccinelli wants Photo Butler to transform the event experience.
"Imagine never having to ask someone to text you a photo. And think about all those group shots where you have to ask the person taking the photo to take just one more with my camera. With Photo Butler, everyone is connected, collaborating, sharing and contributing. Everyone stays in the moment free of distraction. We’re delivering an app that's changing the way the world shares memories."
Alexander Culafi is a contributor at VentureFizz. You can follow him on Twitter @culafia.