Product managers on the lookout for up-and-coming ideas in the tech space might welcome news that New York City is about to have a new resident: ThingLink, a startup currently based in Helsinki which lets users tag different features inside an image with links to video, music, notes, etc. It’s just bagged a handsome $2 million in additional funding and plans to invest the money in relocating to the Big Apple, where a new sales team is already being built (customer support will also be expanded in New York).
Physical to virtual
The idea for ThingLink was hatched by Finland’s Ulla Engeström in 2008. She wanted to link physical-world objects to online content and began by sewing special physical tags to clothing and other objects. The tags could then be activated to reveal content with NFC-enabled mobile phones. That’s where the name of the company she eventually founded in 2010 would come from. Engeström took a suggestion from her friend Eric Wahlfloss (co-founder of SoundCloud) and called the NFC-activated tags “thing links”. The canny product manager will probably agree that every now and then, an improvised phrase can make a great company moniker.
Gradually, ‘thing links’ evolved from physical tags on real objects to virtual tags in digital images. At its public launch in 2010, thinklink.com allowed users to add digital content to online images and then spread them across the internet.
Since 2010, it’s attracted some serious interest from brands, businesses and digital marketers and has worked with brands like Britney Spears (yup, she’s a brand as well as a person), Mercedes-Benz, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, Vogue, Home Depot and Xerox (to name but a few). It now has over 200,000 publishers on its client list, including 10 of the top 50 international brands and four of the top ten newspapers.
Lifestyle brands, Engeström says, achieve click-through rates of about 10 percent on ThingLink, but music comes out on top. As she explains, “We have not seen a popular campaign from a popular [music] brand which would not see an over 50 percent click-through rate. Fans love discovery, and if there’s a chance there’s exclusive content hidden in an image from a band, they’ll hover; they’ll overturn every stone.”
Don’t ya just wish you were product manager there?