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Photos Come Alive: Thinglink Tags Music, People & Products in Images

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Thinglink

Quick Pitch: Thinglink changes how people interact with photos by transforming them into a navigational surface for search, commerce, and social connection.

Genius Idea: Turning photos into interactive stories.

“Every image has a story,” says Ulla-Maaria Engeström. Engeström is the design blogger-turned-entrepreneur behind Thinglink, a Helsinki-based startup that makes image interaction tools. These tools help bloggers, photographers, bands, creatives and companies tell stories by tagging photos with music, people, places and products.

Thinglink’s image-tagging tool can be enabled on WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Drupal and Typepad sites. Users add a small snippet of code to their websites to enable Thinglink tagging. Then, they’ll be able to revisit photos to tag content with links, music tracks, Amazon products and even Twitter users.

The music piece is part of a recently inked partnership with SoundCloud. Users need only copy SoundCloudtrack URLs and paste them in the appropriate field to add music to their photos.

“Images and sounds make a natural and powerful combination. Both online and offline, they create inspiration and context for consumption,” Engeström writes on the SoundCloud integration. “We make decisions about what to buy, where to go and who to see, based on images. Music inspires fashion designers to create collections, and visual stories inspire those who make music.”

Thinglink for personal use, especially if for Tumblr or WordPress users, is an interesting experiment in image storytelling. Adding the required code is a simple exercise of copy-and-paste, and adding tags is merely a point-click-and-type process.

In testing, I tagged an image with a SoundCloud track and tagged my friends with their Twitter handles. In both cases, I simply pasted URLs into the “Link URL” field (as seen above). The original image simply showed two friends signing karaoke. The Thinglink tagged-photo became akin to an interactive story complete with music and context.

Professionals, retailers and publishers might find more business opportunities than storytelling in the image-tagging practice. Thinglink promises to help convert image viewers into product buyers. Atlantic Records, Paper Garden Records and Elle Magazine have each experimented with the startup’s image-tagging technology.

Thinglink has raised $1 million in funding from Nordic investors Inventure and Lifeline Ventures. The startup competes with companies such as PixazzaGumGumStipple and Thingd in an ever-expanding image-tagging space that’s been slowly evolving for the past few years. These technologies have not yet become widely adopted by consumers or companies, although venture capitalists continue to make investments in the space.

Thinglink serves more than 30 million image views monthly for its clients.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

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