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How Geofilter Studio went global overnight with Snapchat filters

Winnipeg company explodes into the tech world with local and international clients.

Social media is relatively new in the tech world, and although there are countless networks, apps and ways to connect, companies still tend to think of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram when it comes to their online promotions.

But among the youngest, and arguably trendiest, demographic — those aged 18 to 34 — Snapchat is a mainstay. That’s something that Chris Schmidt, Founder and CEO of Geofilter Studio, knows for certain. The uniqueness and novelty of the platform is something that drew his interest.

Chris Schmidt Geofilter Studio

Chris Schmidt, Founder and CEO of Geofilter Studio

“I love the emerging tech world. It’s truly exciting to be on the cutting edge, and it’s where the team and I like to explore.”

What exactly does Geofilter Studio do? With a team of more than 85 people led by the 24-year-old CEO, it’s not immediately clear to new clients. But with a design portfolio that includes celebrities, the NBA, Carl’s Jr., McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and the Oscars, they quickly get the picture.

Digital decorations for an expressive platform

Geofilter Studio specializes in creating custom Snapchat geofilters for events, advertisements, special occasions, holidays and more. Think of the graphic overlays they design as digital decorations for your pictures and videos made in Snapchat. They add personality and your brand to a very expressive platform.

“The beauty of Snapchat is that it’s raw and authentic, allowing for people to really own what they put out through the app,” says Schmidt. “Whereas Instagram and Facebook are really polished, Snapchat is all about what’s happening now. It’s light and easy, since the snaps disappear, too.”

Geofilter Studio example video

That light and easy approach describes the office culture in terms of happiness, but this team knows how to get down to business. That’s the essence of the company mantra, and it’s what guided them through their earliest days — which wasn’t always a pretty picture…

Seizing an opportunity

Snapchat first released the ability to create geofilters on February 2016, and that opened the door to explore a new idea.

Chris Schmidt and his business partner, Martin Bshouty, were working on a completely different project and needed capital to keep their servers running. So they decided to try their hand at creating a Snapchat geofilter in March of that same year.

“I asked Martin to create a filter for Assiniboine Park — he manages the visual identity and I manage the business side of things. It came through, but not without some hiccups. For instance, we spelled it wrong,” Chris reveals.

“At first, this was just to help finance other projects we had going in the digital sphere. Martin thought it was a shot in the dark. [Then] April rolled around…then May — and then we have another order for a St. Vital business. We started thinking about where this could lead.”

Soon after that, Chris and Martin put more resources into the business and went international.

“I remember just out of the blue, we had an order come in from a fraternity in Alabama,” Chris noted. “So we went international really early, within the second wave of orders. It really is how we turned the corner in this niche market.”

Emerging as a global leader

After that, orders started to come in from all over the world. Though business was good, it came with its own set of challenges.

“The barrier to entry was so low, so to stay ahead of the competition, we had to go into a hyper-growth phase. We reinvested revenue back into our company and marketing,” said Chris. “We knew we had to work on quantity, which meant we needed efficiency. If we could become the most reputable and recognizable company first, we would be in a good place.”

Geofilter Studio corporate examples

Focusing on Google AdWords and a multi-pronged digital marketing strategy, the push paid dividends. They captured the market and became a global leader in the field. That’s not to say that being a pioneer was a walk in the park.

“We were near the ground floor, and being one of the first in the world to make these [Snapchat geofilters] was uncharted territory without a benchmark,” says Chris. “We just had to navigate this new age on our own and 18 months later, we’re on top and still aiming higher.”

“Combining a great a product and workflow with good systems, and a pinpoint digital marketing strategy, we saw competitors come and go,” he adds.

Normally success like this would also bring a lot of press, but Chris and company felt it was best to keep the work a central focus and future success would come in a (relative) snap.

“We never sought press. My philosophy for us was to just keep our heads down and keep working,” says Chris. “Each of the fantastic team members here all love tech and know we’re doing this with a purpose in mind from the start.”

Looking toward the future

While geofilters are their specialty, there is more on the horizon for this unique company. As they’ve grown, Chris mentions a couple of core values, citing foresight as the most important.

“Over the year and a half, we’ve seen growth because we minimized things that we could fail. We did our best to know what we offered, to build our strengths,” says Chris. “Everything from the ad plan in the hyper-growth phase to finding efficiencies, was all about ‘what can we do best in class?’ and ‘how can we get that quality in front of more people before others?’ ”

Not only have they carved out that niche and leadership in a brand new arena, but they’re also ready to go beyond their comfort zone. “What we’ve done is exciting, but I also think the coming months are going to be very interesting,” Chris says.

Every Studio iMessage stickers

“We’re all about 17 to 31 years old, so we’ve got a lot of drive and momentum on our side. We also live for the cutting edge,” he continues. “We’re in the research and development phase right now for things like augmented reality packs for the iPhone, as well as iMessage stickers. Overall, we want to become one of the biggest full-service digital agencies when it’s all said and done.”

While they plan to have a good time doing it, this young group is ready to put in the work. “The nature of our work allows us to have nearly 99 per cent international business. We have the largest cities in the world in our network, and we cater to massive city centres. That being said, we also go over and above to take care of customers locally,” says Chris. “That’s still the goal, and we’ll always try to be one step ahead of that curve so that they will be, too.”

Michael Badejo

Michael Badejo is a communications professional and entrepreneur based out of Winnipeg. His diverse body of work has appeared in Canadian and international outlets covering technology, transportation, commerce and more. When he’s not writing, he’s running his boutique communications shop or finding out the latest in current events and technology.

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