When Patrick Ip joined Google in 2014, he was quickly introduced to a man named Meng.
Meng, whose full name is Chade Meng-Tan, was an early engineer at Google turned full-time motivator for the company with the memorable job title of “Jolly Good Fellow.”
In one of their first meetings together, Ip remembers Meng pondering a new idea: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information. What if we tried to organize the world’s goodness?”
Meng’s idea would eventually lead to a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.
For Ip, it was a formative lesson about the power of innovative ideas and technology.
Ip, along with his co-founder Jacobo Lumberas, created Catalog to help small to medium-sized brands get unique, high-quality product photography at a lower cost than what was available before.
“It just shows how arcane the process is, where the only thing that is really a substitute [to Catalugue] are stock images that everyone already has access to,” Ip explains. “On the high end, the only other substitutes are in-house studios and agencies.”
One of Catalog’s first customers — an all-natural cosmetics company named Naked Poppy — was quoted $7,000 for 15 photos by an agency.
Catalog’s product shots, by contrast, only cost $20 per photo.
Ip said he saw the problem first hand while he was at Google. Not having quality photography was one of the top reasons smaller companies weren’t able to find success on Adwords — Google’s search advertising service — and ultimately left the Google platform.
“What separates these highly saturated markets is the content you have, the photos that tell your story to connect with people,” Ip says. “I got to see the problem at Google’s scale, so I know it’s huge.”
To achieve lower costs, Catalog connects brands with independent photographers around the country. They hope their two-sided marketplace will create steady work for the photography community.
“[Photographers] can’t quit their [day] jobs on one-off deals. They need to know that work will continue to come,” Ip says. “[Catalog] could become a way for [them] to do this full time.”
If it can create more jobs for photographers and help small brands grow, Ip hopes that Catalog could ultimately represent its own act of good.
The project at Google — One Billion Acts of Peace— didn’t ultimately win the Nobel Peace Prize, but it did gain the support of 14 Nobel Laureates, including the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Over 53 million acts of peace have been documented by the project thus far.