By Joey Ferguson
Scott Paul, chief executive officer of Voto, an mobile photo polling app.
MIDVALE, Utah — Photo voting startup Voto is looking to raise $1.2 million after the company’s installed user base shot past 300,000 in less than six months.
The iPhone app allows users to submit two to four photos that others can vote on. The funding will help the company relocate and increase the number of employees, develop an Android and web version of the app, Scott Paul, chief executive officer of Voto, said in an interview.
“I think we’re already on the radar of some major VC’s because of the growth we’ve have and also the fact that in the small space of photo polling apps, we are by far the largest,” Paul said.
Paul funds Voto out-of-pocket. There are 11 employees working for the company, six of which are contracted developers and designers.
The app gained about 20,000 users after it’s launch in December 2012. That number jumped to 300,000 after the company introduced a feature that allows users to login in through Instagram.
The funding “would give us the runway we need to finish up our product road map, which is pretty intense and include a lot of great features requested by users,” Paul said. “We’re doing a very agile development methodology where we are just building as features get requested.”
Paul also owns Armor Active, which manufactures tablet enclosures. Despite this, Paul spends most of his time making the app a success.
“Voto has one year, no more, to put its stake in the ground and say ‘we are what we are’,” Paul said. “I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It would be a first for Utah. I really want to put that on the map for Salt Lake City.”
Though the company has done well in its short lifespan, Paul says doing business in Utah is proving to be difficult. A lack of mobile app talent in the state is causing the company some grief, Paul said.
“We aren’t resource rich with mobile designers,” Paul said. “UI, UX and Ruby on Rails designers are a scarce resource. It’s hard for startups to get resources here.”
Utah VCs’ fear of risk makes it hard for companies like Voto to find funding, Paul said.
“They are looking for the next Skullcandy and Qualtrics,” Paul said. “The appetite for risk seems to be really shallow, and we’re a very risky app.”
Venture capital firms that Voto approached in Utah wanted the company to demonstrate how it can generate revenue.
“That would change our direction,” Paul said. “It would quickly divert us from what we think we could really become, which is becoming a true social network.”
But the need for funding won’t change the company’s desire to stay within the state.
“Even if we were funded elsewhere, I would want to keep the HQ here,” Paul said. “That’s one of the requirements I’m really going to press as we go out and make our ‘Sand Hill Road’ round.”