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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

October 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Zillow and Redfin vets launch insta-sharing network

It’s a scary time to be launching a startup, especially one in the crowded photo sharing-messaging-social networking space…

But the founders of Seattle’s Allyall must have a good sense of timing – they left real estate startups Zillow and Redfin to start their new venture in Spring 2007, before housing went south.

They’ve also built an easy and useful Web service that could be addictive, especially for people who share a lot of photos and links with friends and family but don’t like the megaphone effect of communicating via social networks. Allyall’s surfacing today, after closed beta testing.

Founders include Chief Executive Michael Dougherty, who co-founded Redfin and worked at Zillow, along with Zillow veterans Greg Whelan; Logan Bowers and Sam Rayachoti (who met Dougherty at Redfin).

The company – which has been operating under the name “Fridge Door” – now has eight employees in the same Pioneer Square building above Salumi where Wetpaint, Jotspot and WhatCounts were hatched.

Allyall’s standout feature may be its friendly solution to inviting others into a network without burdening them with another registration and password process.

Let’s say you want to share a photo with relatives. Instead of emailing the pictures around, or making everyone join a particular sharing service, Allyall users can upload the images and then email invitations to the relatives.

When relatives get the mail, they can click to accept an invitation to join a group, which consists of all the people who were invited to see those photos. They can discuss the messages in a chat pane, which also relays the messages via email.

It’s a little bit like using an online party invitation service, but the party is really a session where photos, documents or Web screenshots and links are shared and discussed.

Allyall probably won’t be a significant challenge to message services, social networks or even photo sharing sites such as Picasa and Flickr. But it would be a great addition to one of the big services, if the Internet giants get acquisitive again.

In the meantime, Allyall’s hoping to just build a business. The basic service is free, but the next step may be adding printing services and fees for extra storage.

They also hope to make money from Amazon affiliate commissions, since people can use the service to remotely “shop together” online, sharing and discussing screenshots from online stores.

Dougherty’s not ready to talk about selling.

“None of us are the ‘build it, get a bunch of users and monetize it later’ school,” he said.

“We see the potential to create a profitable comany here.”

Allyall raised $850,000 through a venture capitalist and angel investor and hope to raise more soon; they’ve got enough to make it through February.

For additional cash flow, they may have to start reselling the Aerobie mechanical espresso devices that Dougherty’s relatives brought from Italy. Seriously, they have one of the best equipped coffee stations of any startup – including Aerobies, a coffee roaster and a stack of green beans.

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