March 19, 2024

Interview with Peter from photoINTERNATIONAL

Since 2005, the photoSCHWEIZ brand has been the principal photography exhibition in Switzerland. Over the years, thousands of curated photographers have exhibited, and hundreds of thousands of visitors have bought tickets. What’s next? photoSCHWEIZ goes INTERNATIONAL. The business wants to expand to other major cities, accompanied by the digital business model.

photoINTERNATIONAL has initiated the crowdinvesting campaign together with OOMNIUM. Learn more about their business plans and the investment opportunity in our latest interview. 

Hi Peter! Who initiated the photoSCHWEIZ exhibition? 

Together with Michel Pernet, I am the founder and co-owner of the photoSCHWEIZ exhibition. 

Why did you decide to foster the photo industry? 

There is no digital platform for curated photography worldwide that is simultaneously connected to live events internationally. Despite billions of images circulating online, photography as an art form is still not mainstreamed and therefore not accessible.

What solution have you found to solve this problem?

Our live events and their digital twin allow us to bring curated photography to a wide audience. This hybrid form generates a huge amount of exposure for photographers that they cannot generate themselves. Photographers can use paid profiles to promote themselves to a wide audience and sell their work. 

It sounds like a really interesting solution. How do you make it work?

Our product is a showcase for curated photography. Around 250 photographers exhibit their work at each event each year, resulting in around 1000 individual photographs. The exhibited work is viewed by over 10,000 visitors each time. We have translated these parameters to the web and use them on a hybrid basis, which in turn allows us to achieve very high economies of scale.

How do you generate revenue? 

Our revenue streams are diverse. We make money from ticket sales, exhibition space, photography seminars, masterclasses, photographer profiles, portfolio reviews, image placement and various photography industry engagements or sponsorships, local appearances and finally advertising in an arts-related environment.

What market do you target and who are your competitors? 

Anyone can become a customer with us. As the external evaluation of our company has shown, there is no comparable model in the world. There are either only events with catalogues or only digital catalogues. 

What's your traction so far?

In recent years, we have successfully developed photoSCHWEIZ into a strong brand. We financed the digital platform from our own resources and took the first step towards internationalisation with photoMUNICH. These successes motivate us to multiply our model in other international cities.

How much would you like to raise at the end of your crowdinvesting campaign?

We would like to raise at least CHF 250,000.00 with our crowdinvesting campaign, which would allow us to expand to five more international cities. With CHF 1.42 million, we would have achieved full expansion to a total of 12 cities.

Do you think that crowdinvesting is a game changer? 

Definitely. I think that people who invest will split into two clear groups in the future:
a. those for whom the greatest possible return is the most important thing. The classic investment vehicles will be available to these people.
b. those who want to generate an impact in addition to a return. They want to bring about change with their investment. This can also be on a small scale. The bridge to this is crowdinvesting. You become part of a community with the same interests. In return, you are prepared to accept a more manageable return because other values come into play. This does not mean that companies financed through crowdinvesting cannot generate a great return. On the contrary, I reckon that companies with a strong community will be more profitable in the long term, as their own community will always be their customers.
The group of traditional investors will have to adapt. Digitalisation, AI and other technologies are causing so much disruption to existing business models that investments will involve much greater risks. New business models will pop up and behind them are more and more young founders who are also keen to look for new forms of financing and no longer want to deal with tedious shareholder management. This is where I see the game changer. New generation = new forms of financing.

Is crowdinvesting an alternative within cultural funding?

Not yet. In principle, many cultural workers still see the state as having a duty to promote culture. On the one hand, I see state cultural funding agencies under pressure and a great need for change. On the other hand, there is enormous potential. At the end of the day, it's not about playing off one against the other, but about creating the best possible mix. For example, I would like to see a completely new foundation system (keyword: impact investing), adapted government funding structures and content-driven corporate sponsorship models (away from pure KPI thinking). And this is exactly where I see the position of crowdinvesting. It connects the interests of institutions and companies with the general public.

Crowdinvesting means expanding your community. How will you manage this?

In the crowdinvesting process, I now realise that I have not been living my own community management for a very long time. The investors I had traditionally considered did not move in the direction I had categorised them. Instead, people appeared who I could never have imagined as investors. Realisation: Live your community every day, look around and get to know your community better! You have more friends you don't see than you think you do. Make the real friends in your community visible and live the exchange, even if it's sometimes very time-consuming - it's worth it!

What was the problem or challenge you faced before you approached OOMNIUM & Aktionariat?

Until 2019, we could have financed internationalisation from our own resources. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and we had no income for three years. Nevertheless, we completed the digital platform and funded the core team.

The pandemic was challenging for everyone. What did you do to overcome the challenges caused by it and why did you choose to launch a crowdinvesting campaign with OOMNIUM and Aktionariat? 

For us, the key factors in external financing were to create the broadest possible ownership and to ensure that the customers who have supported us over the past almost 20 years have access to our company. Crowd investing is the best alternative for this. At the same time, this form of financing helps us to expand our community.

Why would you recommend OOMNIUM / Aktionariat to other start-ups and SMEs?

That depends on the success of our campaign (laughs!). Well, I see the two platforms as serious alternatives to traditional forms of financing. Start-ups in particular are less exposed to the whims of their investors. Crowdinvesting helps strong founders to focus on the product, customers and employees, as shareholder management is highly digitalised and easier to organise in terms of ownership structure. In addition, companies that want to finance themselves via crowdinvesting are forced to face a broad public, which in turn sharpens their marketing and communication skills, which they can translate into operational business.

To learn more about photoINTERNATIONAL and their crowdinvesting, you take a look at their investment pitch.

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