Thinglink buys Pixboom for ‘tricky’ fashion play

If you can’t beat them, get acq-hired by them. That appears to be the lesson for Pixboom, a fashion-oriented interactive image-tagging service that has just been picked up by larger rival ThingLink.

We’ve covered Finland’s ThingLink a couple of times before. To recap, they (and, until today, Pixboom) provide a layer of interactivity for photos. Hovering over marked points on the image brings up links to whatever the tagger wants – websites, sounds and so on.

It’s a useful way for publishers to create infographics, for example. A number of big media sites are trialling ThingLink in this way, and there are also myriad opportunities for people to create original e-cards and the like. But fashion retail and blogging also provide an obvious use case, and one that Thinglink was missing out on.

But no longer. Sweden’s Pixboom, founded in 2008 by Jonas Sujkerbuik and Daniel Aspers, has given up on going it alone, and it’s brought a potentially lucrative Swedish fashion blogging scene with it.

“Jonas is a serial entrepreneur,” ThingLink CEO Ulla Engeström told me. “He called me one day and said, ‘it takes too much money to compete with you, let’s join forces.’ We didn’t really have expertise in fashion, and Pixboom has the best connections with the largest fashion brands in Sweden and good connections with the Swedish blogging platforms. I realise fashion tagging is probably the trickiest area — it’s about curation and you don’t want to disturb the experience.”

Here’s an example of the kind of thing we’re talking about here:

Sujkerbuik has now joined ThingLink’s advisory board, and Pixboom marketing chief Matilda Larsson is ThingLink’s new community manager. The financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Defensive plays

ThingLink’s last big move was in February, when it created something called ThinkLink Tabs -– effectively a way for advertisers to embed ThingLink images in Facebook pages.

But the company is also working on a new feature, inspired by Facebook Connect and named, well, ThingLink Connect. It’s a way for third-party platforms to integrate ThingLink functionality, and it’s a damn smart defensive move.

“We believe that a lot of services that are image-intensive will offer interactive image tagging,” Engeström said, explaining that ThingLink would prefer not to see such services developing rival technologies. “We wanted to get a good start there and offer ThingLink Connect.”

The service is in developer preview mode right now, so it’s not ready yet, but Engeström claimed it would only take a platform a day to integrate ThingLink functionality into its music or photo-sharing service.

And ThingLink Connect would be free too, as long as the service using it is free. “If the third-party platform charges their users to tag images, then it would be an interesting revenue-sharing opportunity for us,” Engeström said.

So there are a couple of handy lessons in there. First, it’s great when a rival decides to add their niche to your arsenal. And second, if you’re not sure that someone out there won’t be able to make you redundant, come up with a flexible and attractive way to make yourself indispensable.