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Storehouse tries to make everyone a storytelling star on an iPad

Storehouse app launches new features to help discover other storytellers.

SAN FRANCISCO — Earlier this month, an iPad app called Storehouse received one of Apple's top design awards at its annual developers' conference. 

Launched in January, the app aims to make it easier for users to create compelling stories using their photos and videos on the iPad, which can then be shared anywhere on the Web.

But if you're going to turn thousands of people into storytellers, then you've got a new problem on your hands: How do you cut through the clutter and find the best stories? 

On Wednesday, Storehouse launched its latest update with new features to help people do just that.

Previously, users could "follow" other users, and their stories would appear in their feed. 

With the new update, Storehouse adds an "explore" option which makes it easier to search for other users along topics of interest. And the company will now highlight a "Story of the Day" that is curated by the company's staff.

From the start, Storehouse has tried to address one of the chief criticisms leveled at the iPad (and other tablets): That the device is better for consuming media than it is for creating it. 

That Apple loves the look and the mission of Storehouse perhaps shouldn't be so surprising. The company behind the app was co-founded by Mark Kawano, who was previously a lead designer at Apple for almost 10 years, where he worked on products such as the iPhone and Aperture.

A couple of years ago, Kawano became intrigued by the notion that there had to be a better way to present the huge number of digital photos people are now taking in a more compelling way. 

"There have been so many new creative platforms focused on writers," Kawano said. "We wanted something that focused on visual and multimedia storytelling."

Kawano said the key for Storehouse was Apple-like simplicity, offering fewer rather than more features. The app lets users pull in photos from the device as well as accounts like Dropbox and Instagram. It then offers a few templates and basic design options to move photos and videos around, re-size them, and write text that links the images into a narrative. 

In just a few months, Kawano said Storehouse has "hundreds of thousands" of users around the world.

Storehouse's fast start has caught the attention of Silicon Valley. 

Last month, Storehouse announced it had raised $7 million from Sherpa Ventures, True Ventures, Lerer Ventures and Designer Fund. That money comes on top of $1.5 million in seed funding the company raised last year.

Those new investors also include Stacey Bendet, fashion designer and founder of the online store Alice + Olivia. Bendet had been using Storehouse for several months to highlight her designs and the site's product and decided to become an investor as well. 

Kawano said he plans to use the money to continue expanding his 10-person staff and to bring the app to the iPhone. For now, the company is focused on growing users and not developing a business model. Though the use by Bendet shows the potential it might have to work with certain types of brands down the road.

Follow me on Twitter @obrien.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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