Photo sharing applications have been the rage for the past year. There’s not a week that goes by where you don’t hear about the next Instagram or the next Burstn. With the dozens of photo sharing applications available on the iTunes store alone, is the market ready for one more such application? Well, it depends.

While the newly founded Pictagram is yet another one of those photo sharing applications, their offering comes with a bit of an interesting twist. We sat down with them to find out what’s up:

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William: Hey guys, thanks for sitting down with us.
Kevin: Our pleasure!

William: So what exactly is Pictagram?
Kevin: Pictagram is a new way to share experiences. At the moment, the only way you can share an experience with a friend is in the past. Let’s say you’re out to dinner and you take a picture of an awesome steak that you’re having and you share it with your friends on Facebook. That’s an experience you’ve already had. The experience that you’re sharing with your friends is not a present experience, it’s a past experience. So Pictagram is about involving your friends in the experience in real time through photo pools.

For example, let’s say your girlfriend is trying to decide what to wear before she goes out. You can take two pictures; one of her in a red dress, the other of her in a black dress and then title it, “What should she wear tonight?”. You can then send it to her best friends who will vote on it and give you social feedback in real time.

In the same way, you could say “What will I have for dinner tonight?”. You then take a picture of pasta and also take a picture of a steak and then send it to all your Twitter followers as a link and then they can vote on it and give you real time shared experience on what you should do.

William: How did you come up with the idea?
Kevin: Horace and I came up with this 2 or 3 weeks before Startup Weekend and it spurred from the idea that the web is going mobile and will all be based on visual stuff. The future is sights and sounds and we wanted to focus on sights. So we started thinking about what people really want to do with photos that they can’t do. People can do a lot of stuff to photos right now like apply a filter to it or distort it but you can’t really get any form of social feedback.

William: What differentiates you from other platforms out there like Instagram or 500px?
Horace: I would say that right now photos live separately. You take a picture and then you look at the photo but there is no feedback. Photos don’t live. So for me, the idea of Pictagram is that I can connect with my friends through photos and have them interact through photos.
Kevin: From a user interactive experience, let’s look at Instagram. You take a picture with Instagram and then you add a cool filter to make it look older or brighter. It gives context to the photo. With Pictagram, you can take photos you’ve used on Instagram and you can take photos you’ve taken with Pictagram and combine them to give them more social context to your experiences.
Horace: So it’s the social feedback that makes us different. For example, I’m an avid sports fan. I love Nike and I love Nike shoes. So for me, what I want to do is be able to influence a design. So what Nike can do, is reach out to their clients and say, “we’re thinking about making a yellow shoe, a green shoe and a blue shoe, which one do you like?”. That’s what differentiates us. It’s not just a standalone app; it’s the social component to the photo that we’re providing.
Kevin: It’s what you can do with it as opposed to what you can do to it.

William: What are your thoughts on Startup Weekend?
Kevin: So far what we really want to do is come out with a really good video demo that demonstrates all the stuff that you can do with Pictagram so that people can easily connect with it and so that when we come out of our private beta, everyone will have a heads up.

William: Where do you see yourselves 6 months from now?
Kevin: It would be great if we can gain an even larger team and if we can go out and pitch to an angel investor or venture capitalists and then build up a great mobile app experience that everyone in Canada can be proud of.

William: Are you prepared for the roller coaster ride of being an entrepreneur and the long hours?
Horace: I work in finance at the moment and the hours I put in there are phenomenal, so I’m no stranger to long hours.

William: Are you willing to walk away from the stability of having a job in finance to the instability of being an entrepreneur?
Horace: Absolutely. If this thing goes the way we want it to go.

William: Really? You believe that much in your product that you’re willing to walk away from all of that?
Kevin: Let me put it this way: We had a pitch meeting last week with the CEO and executive digital team of MediaComGlobal. If we didn’t believe in what we’re doing, do you think the CEO would have picked up the phone?

William: I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for sitting down with us, we really appreciate it.
Kevin: Thanks William.

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Yesterday evening, 300+ entrepreneurs gathered on a cold November evening to meet fellow developers, designers and budding business owners to pitch their ideas. The Burroughes building,  PayperLead.ca home to Playground Digital, The Working Group, Cost Certified and The Toronto Standard (among others), was the setting for what would be a 54 hour competition, in which the participants have one weekend to build and launch a startup. No small feat by any measure, so we expect that there will be a healthy dose of caffeine and RedBull consumed this weekend as the teams coalesce and start developing their products.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Startup Weekend this event is a “weekend-long, hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can find out if startup ideas are viable. Their mission is to educate entrepreneurs and build communities around the world, and are committed to delivering the world’s premier experiential education for entrepreneurs.”

StartupWeekend kicked off with a bang (and some loud speaker feedback), featuring a video by EighteenEighty, a creative branding and cinematic storytelling agency located in downtown Toronto:

Following the video was a panel on venture capital in Canada, featuring Peter Carrescia from OMERS Ventures; Senia Rapisarda from BDC; Farhan Thawar from ExtremeLabs; Matthew Leibowitz from BEST Funds; and Mark Faucher from the Blackberry Partners Fund.

The pitches, approximately 90 of them, kicked off just after 9pm, and lasted well over an hour. Ranging in focus from lifestyle applications for the iPhone, to property management web applications for tenants and condominium building owners, the quality of the pitches was impressive.

One of the pitches that caught our attention was MyClosingCosts.ca. “When you purchase a house, you have to put down a down payment. There are additional closing costs that some buyers don’t account for, which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. To help buyers keep track of all these fees, we’re building a web app that will download all the data about the house you’re interested in purchasing, like square footage and number of rooms. The application will map out for you how much your real estate lawyer will cost, how much your home inspection will cost, and how much your monthly home insurance will cost”, explained Alyssa Richard, founder of ratehub.ca, a mortgage comparison website. “We’re taking this application one step further and connecting you with local service providers, so you can compare home inspectors and pick a company you would like to deal with. Our application will be mobile friendly and built in HTML5, so that you can track all your costs and manage your tasks on an iPhone, iPad or any other mobile device.”

In the end, only 24 startups made the cut, including the recently launched Ladies Learning Code, a monthly workshop series targeted at women who want to learn how to code. Their pitch? Code With Friends. Heather Payne, founder of Ladies Learning Code, describes Code With Friends as “Codecademy meets Words With Friends. We’re building a game to teach beginner-friendly code in a social and collaborative way.” They’ve launched this morning at http://codewithfriends.com/, on Twitter @codewithfriends and on Facebook.

Stay tuned for continued coverage of Startup Weekend Toronto by following us on Twitter or subscribing to our RSS feed. You can also follow the #swtoronto storify we’ve embedded below:

PDATE: We’ve been advised by Shelagh O’Donnell, Head of Communications that the Royal Ontario museum iPhone application is a prototype ONLY. The ROM is actively soliciting feedback and would be interested in hearing what you think of their offering. Feedback can be submitted to mobile {at} rom.on {dot} ca.

Earlier today, the Royal Ontario Museum released a prototype of their iPhone application. Being that I’m a big fan (and a member) of the museum, I decided to take a look at their offering and see what’s inside.

Upon launching the application, the user is presented with a splash screen with 5 options:

What I like about this application is that if I’m not sure of what’s going on at the museum, I can check out their calendar to see which exhibits are currently open to the public, and where to find them.

Another interesting feature of the ROM iPhone application is the addition of audio guides. Currently, there are only three available, but we’re told more will be coming soon. The audio guides range between 20 and 30 minutes in length. What’s unclear is if the audio guides are stored locally once they’ve been downloaded. (We’ve been in touch with the Royal Ontario Museum’s PR department, but didn’t hear back from them at press time. When we hear back from them, we’ll make sure to issue an update.)

UPDATE: Julian Siggers, Vice-President of Programs & Content Communication at the Royal Ontario Museum, had this to say about the audio guides: “You may download the audio guides to store or your iPhone or stream them if you have access to a 3G network. WiFi is currently not available at the ROM so if you are travelling from out of town, we encourage you to download the gallery guides before you come to the ROM. We are currently developing a new digital strategic plan for ROM and we intend to include additional audio guides – but have no timeline for them as yet.”

If you’re an infrequent visitor to the ROM, it’s easy to get lost trying to find an exhibit without a map. This application makes it easier for all visitors to find the exhibits they’re looking for. The map can also be customized to show or hide specific way points, such as bathroom, elevators or even artifacts. Bonus points for doing a good job of integrating a customizable way-finding mechanism.

Finally, the ROM has included important information about visiting the ROM, including driving directions and accessibility information, as well as ticket pricing and hours of operation.

Overall, I’m impressed with their application. From a content perspective, they’ve done a good job of integrating audio and video into the overall experience. If I had to offer any feedback, it would be to offer a customizable events whereby I could choose which types of exhibits I’d like to check out, and receive push notifications for those exhibits. I’d love to see an augmented reality experience that would allow me to use my camera to see which exhibits or artifacts are nearby and provide a quick summary to pique my interest. Finally, I’d like to be able to submit feedback of my experience as a patron of the museum.

If you’re heading to the Royal Ontario Museum this weekend, make sure to download the ROM iPhone application before heading out.

Note: The Royal Ontario Museum iPhone application is compatible with iPhone® and iPod® touch. Requires iPhone® OS 2.0 or later. Streaming video features require access to the Internet and may result in charges which vary dependent on your wireless carrier. Wireless is not available at the Royal Ontario Museum at this time.

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein.

A few moments ago, TransitHub, a location-based platform for TTC commuters launched at Startup Weekend.

“TransitHub is a new way to explore the city, one stop at a time. Our platform lets transit commuters discover and share local insider knowledge about the places to see and things to do around the subways stations and transit stops with Toronto”, said John Krissilas, the creator and visionary of TransitHub.” “Transithub helps local, independent businesses get discovered by way of advertising and sponsored deals. In addition, local businesses can also sponsor stops in their neighbourhood.”

Of the experience Krissilas had at Startup Weekend, he said: “We had a fantastic team; we’re all passionate about transit in the city, and we’re very keen on making this happen.”

More to come as StartupWeekend Toronto continues.

Expecting or new parents have often found themselves confused or even frustrated about what to buy for their newborn child. With the hundreds of websites devoted to selling items for newborn children, sometimes it’s hard to determine what you should or shouldn’t buy.

BabySimplify takes the mystery out of shopping for these items. Launched a few moments ago at Startup Weekend. “New parents are overwhelmed by the choices available to them, as well as the suggestions they receive from friends and relative. At it’s core, the purpose of the BabySimplify is to help you determine what you need”, said Gavin Schulz, one of the developers who worked on the site. “First-time visitors to our site are prompted to fill out a short survey that asks questions about the size of your living quarters, your budget and whether or not you’re a first time parent. Based on the answers, our site makes suggestions for what you should consider purchasing and what you should avoid.”

BabySimplify is an interesting concept in that their platform connects you with other parents to help make buying decisions easier, and keeps you up to speed on which items you’ll need as your child grows.

More to come as StartupWeekend Toronto continues.

This, our 3rd and final day of coverage for Startup Weekend Toronto, was much quieter than our experience from day two. Upon our arrival at the Burroughes building, we found each team was heads down, wired in and working away diligently on finishing their projects, putting together their final presentation and troubleshooting technical issues. During the course of the day, each team drew a number to determine the order in which they would present.

A number of companies launched their initial offering today, including StartupFuel.ca, BabySimplify (covered here), TransitHub (covered here), as well as many others, such as Vizualize.me and Bakstage.me.

(Author’s note: We opted not to conduct any in-depth interviews today as we did not want to disrupt any of the teams working to meet the 3:30pm deadline.)

At approximately 3:30pm, a hard stop was declared, and each group convened in the main room was given four minutes to present their idea to a panel of judges. The judges were a varied group, representing such organizations as Rogers Ventures, Blackberry Partners Fund, TorStar Digital and Extreme Venture Partners.

I was impressed with a few of the pitches while others seemed to be relatively light on content. In some cases, a few teams had only a powerpoint presentation to show. Standout performances included ClubdIn (a mobile app for nightclub patrons), ProIntern (a service where busy professional can crowdsource their tasks to students looking to earn additional income), and OneCalMe, a web application that synchronizes availability of all calendar types (Outlook, Google Calendar, etc) into one interface. I liked the TransitHub pitch for a few reasons; they took the time to print matching t-shirts with their logo, and had also printed and bound a business model and financials for each of the judges.

In the end, there were 3 winners. Reputate.me, a “cross-platform reputation engine for establishing trust” (think Klout, but for trustworthiness instead of influence) took third place. BabySimplify, a platform that provides product recommendations for new and expectant mothers, took second place. First place went to Vizualize.me. Their application parses your LinkedIn profile and turns it into an infographic. Of note: within 36 hours, Vizualize.me received over 5500 signups and began generating revenue after only 12 hours.

“Startup Weekend was a dream come true for me”, said Alison Gibbins, founder of BabySimplify. “This event gave me the motivation to take our newly-formed company seriously and move forward with it. I met some great people and had fun, and I hope the rest of the team did as well. As far where it goes from here, I don’t know right now. I’m going to reconnect with the mentors and the judges, as well as a few companies in the parenting goods field.”

I suspect that we’ll be covering these and many other startups over the next few months as they continue to build out their startups and improve their products. Congratulations to all the winners and participants on a job well done!

Stepping off the elevator onto the third floor of the Burroughes building this morning was akin to stepping into battle. The scene was chaotic; the kind of organized chaos that you would only find at an event attended by developers hacking away at HTML5, discussing their customer development findings, or building high-level social media strategies to create buzz around their product.

The 2nd iteration of Startup Weekend continues today as the teams worked towards building their startups. To recap from yesterday’s coverage, 20 teams were selected by the attendees through the use of an online voting tool. During the course of the night, two teams merged as they had similar ideas, bringing the total number of teams down to 18. ProfessorPass and StudyGig, pitched as online education and studying tools for college and university students, were the first and only mergers of the event thus far.

We took a tour of the working space to meet with a few of the startups being built, and met up with Alison Gibbins, a professional marketer for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. “I’m here to hopefully kick-start a new business for myself and work with some great people to build that. The idea we’ve come up with is BabySimplify; it’s a website to help you determine what kinds of things you’re going to need if you’re having a baby or have already had a baby. Help figure out which items you need and which items you don’t.” One of the biggest problems with shopping websites that cater to new and expectant mothers is that they try to sell you everything. As an expecting parent myself, I agree with Allison’s statement. What’s interesting about this site is that the site tracks and measures how their users behave and which products they purchase. As more user behaviour data is gathered over time, the predictive engine will tailor recommendations based on users with similar qualities. “The long term goal of this site is to give users the ability to share product reviews, build a baby registry, and create a community around parenting and product recommendations”, said Allison. When asked about how they’re going to generate revenue, Allison said they intend revenue though affiliate marketing. “If a user purchases a product we recommend on our site, we’ll take a percentage of that sale.”

Another interesting startup being developed right now is StartupFuel, a platform that democratized crowd-funding for startups through a Kickstarter type model. Their offering allows entrepreneurs to create a project, choose the incentive levels and describe their project through the use of text, images and video. Geared towards Canadian startups, StartupFuel services the void and market for entrepreneurs looking to generate capital for their business idea. We interviewed Trevor Guy and Max Meilleur who joined together with Matt Skilly and Aron Jones (formerly from Connectsy), as well as a few other entrepreneurs to build out the platform. “If you think of Extreme Venture Partners, Mantella, Velocity, GrowLab, all these things that are happening territorially around Canada, there isn’t a platform that allows entrepreneurs to promote their projects and attract funding from public backers, instead of private investors and venture capital firms. Our platform would give local entrepreneurs an idea as to what’s coming out of Toronto and other Canadian cities and what people are working on”, said Trevor. “There are other companies out there doing what we do, like ProFunder; this reconciles the difference between the donation aspect versus the private investment aspect, and the legal or business implications that comes with that type of funding. One of the things we’re talking about internally is how a user would structure those offers that bridge both the public donation and private investment worlds.” (Disclosure: Pixel to Product is an ecosystem partner at StartupFuel.)

Ali Asaria, arguably one of Canada’s most well-known entrepreneurs and the CEO of Well.ca. Ali kicked off his presentation by speaking about his career at RIM, where he developed BrickBreaker, a paddle-and-ball genre game where the player hits a ball towards bricks on a wall with the intent of destroying them before time runs out. Ali left his job at RIM and started Well.ca because he “wanted to be excited about going into work everyday.” He shared insights into his company’s culture, a culture based on kindness, caring, exceptional service, integrity, honesty, transparency, trust, and other important core values. Ali summarized his presentation with this: “For the first time in my life, I get to do something I love, and that’s kind of amazing.”

Andrew Angus, founder of SwitchVideo was up next and spoke to the crowd about the challenges of building a business in the heart of rural Ontario. SwitchVideo, based in Collingwood, is a video animation company that creates “explainer videos that explain what you do.” While his presentation didn’t feature any pictures of his cat, Andrew did share a few things he’s learned about building a business. “Start in a small town, sell to the world, and don’t be constrained by borders. Never have 7-19 employees. Never fail, and always remember that it is really hard to finance success.”

The last presentation of the evening was Mark Reale, co-founder of BNOTIONS and the Yorkville Media Center. Mark spoke of the importance of collaboration (“Everything we do at @BNOTIONS is about collaboration”) about how people reacted to their idea of inviting clients to their office to watch their collaborative work in action (“People thought we were nuts when we said we wanted to invite our clients to come and see what we do”). He also spoke about the risks of collaboration (“The person you’re working with not up to par, might harbour suspicious motives, or simply be in it for the quick grab”) and the importance of transparency in any partnership. Mark wrapped up his presentation with a few tips about collaboration, one of which really stuck with me: “Have a strategy in place for dealing with any new surprises in a partnership.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. (View Mark’s presentation on collaboration)

With the end of these presentations, the 18 teams quickly went back to work; a number of them working till 2am at the Burroughes building, or at local coffee shops. One thing that has struck us over the past 24 hours is the enthusiasm, passion and energy participants have for their ideas. We’ve spoken to a few participants who’ve each stated the competition will be tight this year, and that each team will have to create a solid pitch to win over the judges and bring home first place. Our live coverage continues tomorrow evening with the final presentations and the awards show.