This Startup Aims to Get Snapchat Users to Actually Pay for Brands’ Geofilters

FilterPop wades into unchartered waters

Alex Kehr started a self-service website for Snapchat geofilters called GeofilterPlace on a Friday night last summer and then ditched it for two months. He basically acted like it didn't happen. 

"And then sales started organically taking off," Kehr explained. "I shifted my focus to it full-time, and it hasn't stopped growing."

Such is life, at times, in the burgeoning Snapchat marketing ecosystem, which is slowly-but-surely becoming a multibillion-dollar space. Later in 2016, Kehr rebranded the site to FilterPop and participated in the incubator/investment program Science, Inc., which has produced notable alums such as Dollar Shave Club (purchased by Unilever for $1 billion last year), HelloSociety (acquired by The New York Times last spring) and Famebit (bought by Google in October). 

Next week, he's debuting a marketplace-styled feature where designers will offer their geofilter ideas for roughly anywhere from $9 to $49 (weddings are supposed to be representative of higher-end sales). The designers can set their own prices, and they'll typically split the revenues 50/50 with FilterPop. "However, we can adjust this, if needed," Kehr said.

The startup founder added, "Once a person buys a design, there is an additional fee that they pay for us to activate their design within the Snapchat app."

"For example," he theorized, "a movie such as Star Wars could create Star Wars designs on FilterPop and send traffic to the landing page. From there, Star Wars fans can pay to launch their own designs where they want them. This accomplishes something pretty amazing—it crowdsources media buying. It crowdsources media buying since fans of a brand decide where the geofilter ad can be found—they put the geofilter design where they want to use them or think others will enjoy them, too. Additionally, this allows brands to generate revenue when their fans buy their geofilter designs. So fans not only pay for the ads, but actually pay the brand to launch Snapchat ads for them."

FilterPop recently worked with YouTuber-turned-pop-singer Austin Mahone to promote his new album, For Me + You. Kehr created a landing page for the campaign, and, via Mahone's sizable social media channels (he has 10 million followers on Instagram alone), he sent fans flocking to concoct customized geofilters before proliferating them on Snapchat, where their teenaged and/or college-attending friends saw the promotional material at home, in school or at the mall.

A limited-edition Mahone design performed the best, Kehr said, "so we've now built limited-edition functionality into the marketplace."

He added, "We also have another option where brands can offer their geofilters for free to fans, but then tell us what their budget is for the promotion. This means that a brand could say that their budget is $10,000, and fans could launch $10,000 worth of geofilters designs for them."

Kehr envisions FilterPop expanding its services to Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp in future months or years, and that's probably a smart idea since it's a bit unclear how Snap Inc. will treat entrepreneurs in its ecosystem going forward. Snapchat, of course, already offers geofilters to brands on a custom basis and is expected by many to extend the features to be created and sold by its ads API partners. So, it's possible that FilterPop could get squeezed out of the business if Snapchat expands its geofilter services to the more do-it-yourself, low-budget crowd. 

Additionally, another startup called Makeshake attempted a similar platform to FilterPop's last summer but has decided to pivot its business in another direction. Therefore, Kehr's territory remains relatively unchartered and definitely appears to have potential pitfalls. 

UPDATE: A previous version of this story stated that Makeshake had gone out of business.