Ryan Jacobs, MBA ’12: Taking Photo Sharing to a Professional Level — And Helping Pandemic Job Seekers
Ryan Jacobs, MBA ’12, started his latest entrepreneurial journey by noticing how people love the instant gratification of sharing photos from their phones right after taking them. As the founder and CEO of SpotMyPhotos, he has extended that idea to professional cameras: SpotMyPhotos delivers instant event photos directly from the photographer to those photographed — automatically, privately, and with greater control than previously possible.
Jacobs knew he was “in business” when he saw a customer immediately receive their photograph at an event from a professional photographer.
“The first time I saw the awe in someone’s face when they got their photos from the professional photographer within seconds, I got chills realizing we were pioneers in methods that would inevitably become the standard; that we had something big. Even today, seeing someone’s excitement upon being ‘spotted’ and receiving their photos automatically never gets old,” he says.
SpotMyPhotos allows professional event photographers to, in real time or at a time of their choosing, send attendees custom versions of their photos. Originally accomplished pairing a phone with SpotMyPhotos’ own WiFi SD Cards, SpotMyPhotos now has broader adoption thanks to an integration with Canon camera systems.
The ability to stream photos creates efficiencies that save the photographer time and money, as well as offering that instant gratification to customers. “When we launched the business, we built a photography services business alongside the technology development team to accelerate a product development feedback loop,” Jacobs notes.
SpotMyPhotos is committed to maintaining the privacy of their clients and event attendees. The cornerstone of its mission is to ensure “a privacy-first approach to enabling frictionless photo delivery.”
Pandemic challenges — and solutions
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, in-person events largely shut down — but Jacobs did not. He acted to improve his own products and to help others affected by the crisis.
“We took this time to double down on our technology and address features that had long been on our product roadmap. We even built out functionality that addressed the new needs of the pandemic, such as mask detection,” he says.
In addition, he and his team got busy meeting the needs of professionals who had lost job opportunities during the pandemic. Jacobs co-founded the 10,000 Headshots Initiative, which provides professional headshots to job seekers displaced by the crisis.
“I’m most proud of our participation in building the 10,000 Headshots initiative. We repurposed our platform and team to focus on delivering headshots — and confidence — to job-seeking Americans. We partnered with Brookfield Properties in pop-up studio locations across the country with 200 headshot photographers participating to deliver 10,000 headshots on a single day, July 22, 2020,” Jacobs says.
“The initiative was featured on the Today show and on local news stations across the country and we are excited to be doing it again this spring.”
Roots at Michigan Ross
Jacobs credits the Ross School of Business for developing the capabilities, confidence, and creative thinking that led to his successful initiatives.
“The Michigan Ross family has been an incredible source of support and feedback as my team has built our product and company. Beyond every metropolitan area of the United States, SpotMyPhotos is now in 55 other countries. A great deal of our early geographic growth was the result of my own personal network. And among my personal networks, one with the strongest has been the U-M Ross community,” he says.
Jacobs believes that the foundation he’s built through his Michigan Ross education and his business experience will ensure that SpotMyPhotos remains relevant, even through the frequent technological advances in the photography business.
He offered a piece of advice: “There have been very few moments in life when I was not an entrepreneur,” he says. “Founders should be paranoid about the success of their business, but also know that their vision can evolve as technology and customer needs change.”