Inside The Haus: Molli Sullivan, Director of Communications

By on October 8, 2013

Molli, what, exactly, is your job at Hipstamatic?

My title is Director of Communications, but I do quite a bit more than PR. With our team, everyone wears multiple hats, so to speak. My day-to-day role is more closely tied to brand work, marketing, community engagement, and of course, PR. Then, there’s Snap magazine, of which I’m Editor in Chief. So yeah, kind of a full plate, but I love how I’m able to touch so many different parts of the business.

What’s also super cool about Hipstamatic and my role here is that we are truly supported by such an incredibly awesome community. So many creative, talented people have embraced Hipstamatic in ways we never thought possible, and I get to work with them quite a bit.

What is your professional background?

Before Hipstamatic, I was working at big PR agencies, Edelman and Ogilvy. I’d always known that I wanted to work with a start-up and it kind of happened serendipitously. I basically got pulled into a new business meeting of which Lucas was a part. We had some prior interaction because of an old client of mine, but we never met in person.

Once we met, we ended up hitting it off. We grabbed coffee one day, and he ended up asking if I would come and join their team. I was already a huge fan of Hipstamatic and was using it in my own life — I really loved the product. So I was more than happy to come and join "my boys" — that’s what I call the five of them. It’s been an awesome ride ever since. I join the team a little under 2 years ago. Time flies!

Some people get really upset when they have issues with Hipstamatic, like when the Brighton Pak (the Pak was released on Oggl and 2 weeks later on Hipstamatic Classic) came out… How do you deal with these kinds of reactions?

When challenges like that happen, it’s always important to ask the question — what we can do to make sure this never happens again; and how can we make sure that people understand that we heard their grievances? How do we acknowledge the frustration and help them understand that we will do better next time? I’d like to think we did a pretty good job in how we handled that situation, and the following month we released free gear. We also put a system in place to make sure we don’t have any timing issues in the future.

So yeah, it’s always difficult when we feel that our community has been disappointed, but then through that challenge, I often get to forge new relationships with the community. Which in the end, is a total positive. And, as a company, we get to learn how to improve.

So what really happened with the Brighton Pak?

We submitted it to Apple as we normally do, with the same amount of time allotted for approval. The Paks are usually approved very quickly, but for some reason, Apple did not approve it in time.

In the meantime, we’d been working on another Hipstamatic Classic update, and submitted that a short time later. Apple ended up approving both the Brighton and the new update at the same time, which was very odd to us since the Brighton Pak had already been submitted long before. We’re still not entirely clear on what happened on Apple’s end. That’s never happened to us before, so we were just as perplexed as the community!

In general, most people were really patient, but there was definitely some confusion as to why it was released on Oggl before it was released on Hipstamatic. Once you’ve subscribed to Oggl, that transaction has already happened in the App Store. And once it’s done, it’s over and paid for, so we’re able to release Paks immediately to those people. With Hipstamatic Classic, it’s a little bit different because those are all one-off, in-app purchases in the App Store. Anytime there’s an in-app purchase, Apple is involved and has to approve that. So, that was the big hold-up. With Oggl, the purchase — the subscription — already happened, so the gear becomes a download that we can immediately release in the app.

That being said, we knew that our community was very frustrated, so we figured out a creative solution to make sure that that doesn’t happen again. Then we gave away a FreePak this past month, to thank people for their patience, because, at the risk of repeating myself, we are a community-based product. We’re very grateful to have such a supportive community that sticks with us. Few companies, especially startups, can say that.

With Oggl, the plan is to release new gear every month. You haven’t promised anything similar with Hipstamatic. In other words, is there the possibility of, for instance, a new filter for Oggl one month, and nothing for Hipstamatic that same month?

Right now we’re on a pretty good schedule. However, for example, what you’re referring to, is if a film or a lens is released only on Oggl one month, and then it becomes a HipstaPak in Hipstamatic Classic at a later date.

That’s definitely a possibility, so I don’t want to rule that out. Currently, we’re still figuring out the rhythm of what works best for the community. What we’ve been doing has been working well so far, but there may be some experimenting along the way! We’ll see.

There are different Paks: Hipstapak, Freepak, Snappak... What are the differences between them?

A HipstaPak is the general name for a lens and a film — and sometimes a flash — that can be used in any kind of setting. A FreePak is a Pak we give away because we love you guys… it’s a thank you for being awesome! A GoodPak is for charity, a SnapPak is developed specifically for particular photography situations, for instance portraits or food shots. A RetroPak is when we bundle all of our retired gear together and make it available again. We release RetroPaks every so often, so people have to stay tuned to see when that happens!

Do you sometimes encounter negativity from the "photography world" with Hipstamatic, in that people think you’re not a "real photographer" because you use an iPhone to take pictures?

We certainly do, but it’s interesting to see how times are changing. It was definitely a more prevalent argument when iPhone photography was first becoming popular, when Hipstamatic first came out. But now, here we are, it’s 2013 almost 2014, and the medium is maturing. We’ve come a long from the time when, for example, we developed the Jimmy. The Jimmy lens was designed to make photos even blurrier so that it looked more artistic, of course, but also the quality was really poor. There has since been incredible leaps in the hardware world. So, now you have all this powerful, handheld hardware, and really talented photographers who shoot exclusively with an iPhone.

It really boils down to who is taking the picture. If Annie Leibovitz takes a picture with her iPhone, does that mean she’s any less of photographer? Absolutely not, it’s just her tool of choice for that moment. Now you have people like Ben Lowy, who’s an amazing Hipstamatic photographer; his Hipstamatic photograph made the cover of Time Magazine, I mean, that is huge! When that happened, I was really proud of Ben and of our entire community. It made me proud to work for Hipstamatic, because these guys have created something that has completely changed the course of photography. And of course, I’m biased, but I really think we have the most talented photography community in the world. So much creativity.

Where do you see the place of Snap magazine?

Snap magazine is definitely surpassing any expectations we could have had. Again, going back to how talented our community is, we wanted to give them a more beautiful, cohesive platform to showcase their work. Yes, we were posting on Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter, but the life of a tweet or a Facebook post is at most 24 hours and then it kind of disappears into the internet abyss. We wanted something to better commemorate and archive their work, because we know how much effort goes into nailing some of the shots we receive. Because Snap has done so well, it’s become an even bigger part of what we do. And we usually hover around the number one spot of all photography magazines in the App Store, which is exciting for us. We’re over 400,000 right now, and it’s growing every month.

What are your favorite lens, film, flash and combo?

I actually like the G2 with the Blackeys Extra Fine for Black and White. As far as colour goes, I really like Mabel and Dixie a lot. I love the feathering round the edges.

I’m also a huge fan of the Pop Rox Flash with the Wonder lens. It works well in low-light situations. I use it a lot when I’m at concerts and out with my girls!

Oggl or Hipstamatic?

On a daily basis, I shoot with Oggl now. Although, sometimes I still snap with Hipstamatic Classic because I still love the whole idea around the plastic toy camera experience.

Photos: Molli Sullivan [button color="black" link=""]Oggl[/button]

Previous meetings: Lucas Buick - Ryan Dorshorst -  Aravind Kaimal - Mario Estrada

 Next meeting: Doug Lambert

© Eric Rozen - Hipstography

This post is also available in: French

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