While web-based video streaming and digital audio has become increasingly sophisticated, the quality of photograph images viewed online has lagged behind.  At the moment, if someone was to try to upload a high quality image for viewing on a PC, tablet or smartphone, the size of the image would compromise the delivery speed.  So, what usually has to happen is that the quality and size of the image is reduced, to make it easier to view.  However, this ‘trade off’ means that at the moment, many electronically-displayed images are disappointing compared to the original.

However, that is about to change, thanks to a breakthrough from BizSpark One company Prodibi, which has achieved the best of both worlds.  Based in Geneva, Prodibi’s innovative technology enables native-resolution images to be easily viewed on PCs, tablets and mobile devices, without compromising either image quality or delivery.

The primary target audience is the business-to-business (B2B)market, including professional photographers, artists, galleries, museums and brand owners for whom high quality online images is important.  Says Olivier Hamel, co-founder of Prodibi: “Here in Geneva we have a lot of luxury brands, such as watches and jewellery makers.  For companies like these, the quality of photography is very important.”

The inspiration for Prodibi came from Olivier’s co-founder and brother, Frederic Hamel, who as well as being a professional software developer, is also a keen and talented photographer in his own right.  Says Frederic: “The camera market is huge – not just at the professional end of the market, but with the growth of camera phones too – yet there was no way of displaying them properly on the Web. Now, with our solution, an image’s important details, size and resolution can be maintained, while at the same time still making it viewable on all kinds of devices.”

Olivier could see the huge potential of Frederic’s idea, so the two brothers decided to pool their experiences and Prodibi was formed in early 2011.  Olivier has a strong marketing background and is still employed as an analyst by Nielsen, the market research giant. Although Fred and Olivier have to date mainly focused on perfecting a stable platform, Prodibi already has around 60 active accounts, mainly in France and Switzerland, including www.studio-contraste.ch , olivierchapelle.com and alexandredeschaumes.prodibi.com

Prodibi is 100 per cent based on the Microsoft technology stack, including the Windows Azure cloud platform to enable the image-viewing service to be offered to any customer worldwide.  Says Frederic, “We are using almost all the features within Azure and with great success.  It gives us a Content Delivery Network (CDN) that means we can deploy images and top-speed, by bringing content geographically closer to the end-user.  The speed of the platform is really impressive.  With Azure, we can provide top-grade enterprise services that are highly available, scalable and secure.

While there is some competition, Prodibi’s approach is unique.  Says Fred: “We are the only ones using HTML5 and are optimised for smartphones.  All the other competitors are dependent on Flash.  Also, we are the only company bringing this to the mass-market, rather than restricting ourselves to offering a tailored solution to individual customers.  With our secure and robust service, high-quality viewing of photographic images online is available to anyone.”

we are looking for a strong development in Europe with very quickly a multi-language support vs. the more North-American focus of our competitors".  Initially, Prodibi is offering its picture-viewing service to professional photographers, artists, art galleries. Likely future markets are fashion and luxury goods brands.  We will have different pricing and licence options available to suit different customers, as well as a choice of add-ons, social network support and an e-shop.

Prodibi co-founder Olivier Hamel

Both Fred and Olivier cite Microsoft’s support as integral to the company’s early success.  Says Olivier: “Without Microsoft, I don’t think we’d be where we are today.  BizSpark has been amazing for us and the team here in Switzerland has been so supportive, helping us with any queries and inviting us to useful events.   Being accepted for BizSpark Plus means that we can scale our cloud-based service from 60 to over a 1000 accounts straight away, without any additional investment.  Becoming BizSpark One has taken us up to another level, giving us great technical support, networking and marketing opportunities.”

Buzz around this start-up is growing fast and it was also a finalist in the Microsoft Swiss Technology Award in 2012.  With its existing customer base, Prodibi is already generating revenue and unlike many start-ups, is therefore not too worried about external investment.  “When we need to expand globally, then that may be the time to think about investors, but at the moment that is not a concern for us,” says Olivier.  “While we are still a young company, we are very confident that we are going to have a very successful 2013.”