10 to Watch 2015: Flytographer

“I really want people to understand it’s not just about a photoshoot. It’s much deeper than that — it’s about capturing moments that you don’t want to escape.” — Nicole Smith

Flytographer Business Profile
Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet.

Travellers love to capture vacation moments, but many people invariably come home disappointed in snapshots and selfies.   

Several years ago, Nicole Smith was spending a weekend in Paris with her best friend. “When would we ever be in Paris alone with no husbands and kids again?” Smith says.  “…We thought, ‘This is like the opus of our friendship so let’s capture it in photos.’”

But selfies and photos of them taken by strangers were disappointing so they asked an acquaintance to hang out with them to capture candid moments.

“When I looked at the photos after,” Smith recalls, “I got goosebumps. [Our friend] had chronicled the spirit of our trip in a way we never could have. I thought, ‘I’d pay money for this — this is the best souvenir.’”

So Smith launched Flytographer, the world’s first photography concierge service and left her consulting job with Microsoft a year later. Support through Accelerate Tectoria and $650,000 in seed financing from nine B.C.-based angel investors helped Flytographer to soar and get a headstart on copycats. 

Today, Flytographer works with local, well-vetted photographers in 140 countries to capture the spirit of travellers’ vacations. Customers range from couples to girlfriends to families. Flytographer has also formed a global partnership with FRHI Hotels & Resorts (Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel) so guests can buy Flytographer services on FRHI websites and through concierges.

Q&A With Nicole Smith of Flytographer

When did you really begin to think this idea had legs?

…NBC heard about Flytographer and called to interview me, but I was at the doctor with my son. I literally couldn’t talk to them! I’m like, “Can I call you back in an hour?” Fortunately, she said sure. We did the interview and that Monday the homepage of TodayShow.com and NBC.com was Prince Harry, Angelina Jolie and us! It was a big moment and we got a lot of [web] traffic from that.

What scared you most about starting a company?

Fundraising. Trying to raise money is really hard. The company is kind of like your baby — you’re putting it out there. People react to it, and some don’t react in the way you hope they will … Then, when you get the money, you have to make sure you’re doing the right things with it to grow the business.

Flytographer Business Profile

Type of business: Photography concierge service for travellers

Year founded: 2013

Owner/principal: Nicole Smith

Employees: 5 FT and 3 PT

What sets you apart? We are literally the first company in the world to offer travellers the ability to easily book a great photographer in cities across the globe for short, candid vacation shoots.

This article is from the April/May 2015 issue of Douglas.