App aims to ease photo selection

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"Exciting time" . . . Happy Moose founder and chief executive Alex Dong displays a collage poster created at his photo printing business, which is housed in a decommissioned foundry near the waterfront. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

The tears of overwhelmed mothers drove a Dunedin businessman to start developing a smartphone app to tackle a “universal problem”.

Happy Moose founder and chief executive Alex Dong, of Maori Hill, said the Crown entity Callaghan Innovation had approved $100,000 funding to help his team develop the app.

“Which is wonderful . . . It’s an exciting time.”

To get funding, his business had to pay for at least 60% of the project cost.

“This is a significant investment for us.”

The idea for the app came after interviewing 18 Dunedin mothers, who were customers of his online photo printing business.

Each mother liked the printed photos but found selecting which photos to print took too much time. Many people had thousands of photos on their phones and many of them were similar because they had snapped several in a bid to capture a magic moment.

“Two of the mothers cried.”

The mothers cried because they felt guilt for failing to print more photos of their children as they grew up.

To make it easier for people to pick which photos to print, he lodged a funding application with the Government to help pay for the development of an app.

Now the funding was approved, his team was writing software, slowly improving an algorithm, so it could group similar photos and automatically pick the best one by pinpointing its best qualities, such as better lighting or people having their eyes open.

The choices the app made could be reviewed by the user before they were deleted.

He hoped the app would be ready for the market by March next year.

The online printing arm of the business was making twice as much revenue as it was this time last year.

Two new inkjet printers – which would triple the printing capacity of the business – were scheduled to be delivered today, he said.

He launched his business about four years ago, initially running it from his home.

In June last year, he moved the business to a smoko room in a decommissioned foundry in the industrial area near the waterfront.

He now employed eight staff – five full-time and three part-time.

He planned to have a wall removed in the smoko room to free up space for the staff to use.

“So we have a place to eat ramen noodle and other people don’t have to smell it.”