After Kodak emerged from bankruptcy in 2013, the iconic brand went through some soul searching. The company surveyed photographers around the world to find that, in spite of its missteps in the early digital era, photographers still had strong, positive associations with it.
"We realized there were three things very important to them," Eric Mahe, who joined Kodak as president of software and solutions in 2015, told ZDNet. "They associated Kodak with photography and motion pictures. The second one was trust in the brand, and third, there were a massive amount of memories associated with the Kodak brand."
Mahe has used that insight to chart the course for Kodak's digital reinvention. While learning about photographers' strong allegiance to Kodak, the company also realized photographers needed help finding clients and managing their business. All of this added up to Kodak's decision to launch a digital platform, called Kodakit, which allows photographers to connect with clients. Mahe serves as CEO of the in-house startup.
After launching Kodakit in Singapore last year, Kodak announced at CES 2017 last week that it's expanding the business to 92 cities in 37 countries. Additionally, Kodak has decided to spin off the business sometime this year, Mahe said.
"There is a massive opportunity for financial and business partners to come with us and deploy the platform," he said.
Kodak's research into the photography business suggests the platform is tapping into a $30 billion market, which currently lacks any global provider to quickly and efficiently set up photography gigs. With Kodakit, a customer sends a request through the platform with the date, time and location at which they need a photographer. The platform taps into its pool of photographers in that city and promises to find one who is available within an average time of just six minutes. That efficiency is the major differentiator between Kodakit and other photography platforms, Mahe said.
Kodakit enables photographers and their clients to sync calendars and send messages to each other. It serves as a conduit for guidance from clients and offers cloud space onto which the photographer can upload pictures. Kodakit has a team of photographers who edit them and conduct quality control.
Last June, Kodakit decided to focus its energy on B2B opportunities, specifically targeting three verticals: real estate, online travel and e-commerce. It's already partnering with some big brands in travel and e-commerce, including Airbnb, Groupon and Agoda, and is now pushing more aggressively into real estate.
Kodakit is also working this year on optimizing the platform, to improve capabilities like scheduling photographers on the most efficient route from one gig to the next.
Additionally, Kodakit is in the process of hiring community managers in every single region of the newly-expanded business. These managers, Mahe said, will tap into that sense of loyalty that Kodak has enjoyed throughout the decades to build up strong networks of photographers.
"Their job is to bring the community together around the Kodak brand," he said. When he's spoken to photographers, Mahe added, they have told them they feel "abandoned" in the digital era. "There is a strong need for a community of photographers," he said.