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GadgeTell Interview: Drew Martin, Founder of MeCam

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Mecam packagingWhether you’re ready for it (or if you even like it,) wearable tech has its cross-hairs set on it to be the next big breakthrough.

Smartwatches have been rolling out by the dozens and Google Glass has been making waves all over the nation since it’s debut. Wearable tech isn’t really ‘new’ per-se, but the application of current innovation and design is what makes it pretty exciting.

And we might only be in the infancy stage of this next push, too.

Earlier this year, the MeCam made it to the scene and ended up finding it’s own rightful place as a piece of wearable tech with consumers. I recently had a G+ hangout with Drew Martin, the founder of MeCam, to talk about his thoughts on the wearable tech trend and where he looks to go forward with his product.

Stan: Drew, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

Drew:Thanks for having me.

Stan: So your product, the MeCam, launched back in January and has been a big success. Everybody might not be familiar with it, so could you please describe what MeCam is and who it’s good for?

Drew:Sure. MeCam, at the very simple level, is a wearable video camera. Basically you can pin it to your shirt or pin it to your hat, anything that you want to take first person point of view. Pin it to your baby, put it on your pets, anything under the sun. It took me about a year to develop, and it launched in January. Originally, it was really meant for the 18 to 30 demographic – younger people to record their lives for college, festivals. The idea was the proliferation of all these huge music festivals. I thought it was a really good chance to target 200 thousand people over a weekend, and they’ll learn about it at the festival and go back and take it with them wherever they came from. A good chance at organic growth. But since I launched it, I haven’t really done that side of the marketing, and it’s been more tech-driven with an older audience. But I found that people have been using it a lot for professional purposes with their jobs.

Stan: So you haven’t gone with your original idea of launching it in front of an audience of people at a concert? So that’s still waiting in the wings for you to go into at a future point?

Drew:Exactly. That’s coming next. My plan was to really promote it through celebrities and international DJs. That, unfortunately, takes a lot of time. There’s a lot of legal and you have to come up with an agreement for them to promote the product and use it. In the meantime, thankfully, it’s been somewhat of a success with the tech crowd. There’s been a lot of press from tech blogs and outlets like that. So it’s been going well so far. I’m excited about the future because I didn’t intend to have that segment of the demographic so much, but they reacted really well with it. It showed me every age, every background has a use for it.

Stan: Very cool. Lets talk about wearable tech just for a little bit. There’s been a lot of excitement surrounding it recently, as we all know, but it’s not necessarily new. You and I both grew up with wearable tech. So how about we take a quick trip down memory lane. I’ll name some things, and you tell me if you ever owned it, and if you did, describe it. Ready?

Drew:Sure.

Stan: Casio calculator watches, which came out around 1985.

Drew:One hundred percent. They were amazing. You wore them to school and they were awesome. You could control a TV, which back then was a big deal. It was like, oh my god. It was a cool thing to have.

Stan: Did you ever bring one to school and get caught, and then had it taken away?

Drew:Ummmmm, yes. I did.

Stan: [laughs] I think it was pretty common with us.

Stan: Next one. A Nintendo Power Glove.

Drew:I didn’t have an original Nintendo, but obviously at least two or three people had them in the neighborhood. Very cool for the first couple of uses, then not so practical or good. [laughs]

Stan: It was one of those things that was more of a status symbol than anything you were really going to try to win a game with.

Drew:Well, I think it was from that movie, The Wizard, that really, really got it so big. Because you were like, wow, look at that dude. It’s the best marketing tool I’ve seen, better than any commercial. After that movie, I think everybody was going to have to have the glove. And then you got it, and you’re like.. this is not great. [laughs]

Stan: Next wearable tech. The Skip It with the built-in counter. This is around 1989.

Drew:People in the neighborhood had them. Yeah we used them. Again, you realize after an hour you’re just really sitting in one place skipping, which gets a little monotonous. It’s like a glorified hula hoop I guess!

Stan: Next one. This one is good. Electronic game watches, either by Tiger or Nelsonic. We’re talking about the little ones with Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Grand Prix, Altered Beast, Double Dragon, Ninja Gaiden.

Drew:I do slightly remember those. The graphics were so bad. It was like stick figures more or less. [laughs] But, any kind of novelty like that when you’re at that age was a big deal. Anything you could take to school and show to your friends and say “look at this.” It didn’t matter how good or practical it was.

Stan: It was a good smartwatch! One of the first.

Stan: Next up. Tamagotchi. We’re now in 1996.

Drew:I never used Tamagotchi. I don’t want to say it was more of a girl thing, it wasn’t. But I didn’t use it.

Stan: I saw adults playing with it, back then. Grown men and women alike.

Drew:I think they made a comeback recently, right?

Stan: They have. They re-released it along with the Furby as well.

Stan: Next one, Hit Clips. This is around 1999. It was a little cartridge that played about a minute of popular songs. Like a lo-fi MP3 player of sorts.

Drew:Hmm. I don’t think I had that one.

Stan: Lets see. Oakley Thump MP3 sunglasses. We’re in 2004.

Drew:Are those the ones that had little earplugs coming off the sides?

Stan: Yes.

Drew:I never had those either. Just because.. maybe I wasn’t into Oakleys?

Stan: They were pretty expensive too.

Drew:[laughs]

Stan: Last one. The Microsoft SPOT Watch, also from 2004. It’s recently been discontinued.

Drew:Hm. SPOT Watch? I don’t think I’ve seen that.

Stan: It stands for smart personal object technology. I think they also tried to integrate that kind of technology into appliances, coffee makers, microwaves, something like that.

Drew:Never saw that.

MeCam white

Stan: Ok. So what do you think of all that old, antiquated technology today?

Drew:Regardless of how inadequate it was when they came out, they were all very exciting. Any small advance in technology, I think paves the way forward. I think that we are now entering a time where in a two to four year period, wearable tech is going to be huge. Really, up until every device is integrated into one. And I hate to say it, but eventually it looks like we’re going to where something is going to be implanted into your arm or something crazy. Something that we think is crazy now, but in four or five years maybe it won’t seem so crazy. It’s starting with Google Glass. Once that technology gets cheaper – it never takes long, about two to four years – then I think that wearable tech and everything will eventually be integrated into one device. That’s why I like to say we’re kind of in a niche period, where a product like mine can really take off. But it might be phased out by one or two devices in the future.

Stan: I’d say that the biggest tech everybody is focused on right now are all these smartwatches. Everybody is starting to have their own brand of smartwatch. Nissan just recently announced they’re making their own version of a smartwatch. So what’s your take on the smartwatch, which is more or less a reinvented technology?

Drew:It’s yet to be seen how useful they are. Like how will people be able to use such a small screen, and what can it do to take the place of what your smartphone can do? For me it’s great, because we’re releasing a new camera that has an app for your phone, from which you can control the device. So a smartwatch is great for MeCam, because if people can control the device from their watch, it’s really the perfect device. You’re wearing it. You can control everything from your arm.

Stan: So before you invented MeCam, you were just a guy who had graduated college, and then worked in finance, and then also a spyware company, right?

Drew:Yeah. After college I was in New York doing finance. And then after 2007 and everything that happened, I wanted to work for myself. So I actually opened two retail stores in Manhattan and had those for two years. Then I sold those and invested in a spyware company. It didn’t work out with that company, but in the time there I learned about their technology available and thought it was a very cool, useful stuff. But it’s being used for spyware, which is kind of creepy to the average person. It’s not really approachable to the average consumer. So I thought I could take the technology and put it into packaging that’s really accessible to the public. It appeals to a broader demographic. And that’s really how MeCam came about.

Stan: I would actually consider you a regular consumer, because of your short time working with anything tech-related. So why do you think that consumers are more receptive to wearable tech today than in the past? Is it just hype, or are we being fed some Kool-Aid and we’re all just loving it?

Drew:No, I think that people are actually finding uses for it. It’s no longer just a novelty cool thing. These devices are very advanced now and they’re actually useful. Like I said, when I launched MeCam it was meant to be more of a novelty, fun, whimsical product. After selling it and speaking to people, I found people are using it to increase their productivity and using it for their work. I have real estate agents using it on walkthroughs. I have sales people using them for training. It’s really morphed into something that is a little bit different from before, where it used to be something to show your friends or show your colleagues.

Stan: Tell me how you would respond to this statement. A recent study found that only three in four people are currently aware of any wearable computing device and that of those people only one in ten are interested in using it.

Drew:And that’s in the United States?

Stan: Correct.

Drew:If you run those numbers, it still leaves you a huge market. It takes a huge company to really come out with a product that people can use. Like, at first, the iPhone was a little intimidating. Not everybody wanted it, not everyone wanted to switch from their Blackberry to the iPhone. I didn’t. My friends didn’t. I thought it was too hard to use, too hard to type. But more people started buying it and then even more people started buying it. And I don’t want to say that people follow other people, but they do. Once something becomes more mainstream and normal, then other people will buy it. That’s where wearable technology is going and this stuff happens very fast. We live in a day and age where social media spreads trends so fast, unlike the past where something might take three years to catch on. When something catches on now, six months, we’re talking about moving hundreds of thousands of units. It’s a unique opportunity in a unique time.

Stan: And you would know this exactly because you had gone through it with the MeCam.

Drew:Exactly. I’m not quite there yet, but hopefully! The next six months should be really exciting with the release of our new camera. And in general, like you said, people are becoming more open to wearable devices.

Stan: Tell us about the inspiration, the complete “ah-ha” moment that eventually led to the creation of the original MeCam, which, of course, has completely changed your future. Now you’re in the tech industry.

Drew:Correct. We live in a very unique time where you don’t have to have a background, necessarily, in something to do something. And maybe it’s more of a silly entreprenurial thing, but I think anybody can do anything they want. With internet you can educate yourself on any subject you want. If you want to take the time, you can go out there, take six months, and really learn any industry you want. So, for me, when I invested in that spyware company I did the research. The spyware was focused on nanny cams and GPS products and stuff like that. That’s a huge market. The nanny cam market in general is enormous. Getting into that market and seeing all the different, cool technology out there that’s not being used but being catered to a very small niche of people who are interested in spyware, I thought it was pretty useful. I was seeing a lot of people who were going through divorces coming in, wearing secret pens and stuff. When you’re getting divorced, sharing custody, and situations like that, the technology is very useful. And it’s not just a novelty technology, but it’s actually helping people. I was living in New York and was going out a lot, and I really wanted to capture my nights to watch the next day. Or I thought I did. [laughs] But that was kind of the ah-ha moment for me with MeCam. I thought I could put one of those spyware cameras into something that’s not a secret, but slightly discreet. Something trendy and cool-looking that would come in a lot of different colors, bright colors. I want people to know that you’re wearing something, but they don’t necessarily know it’s a camera at times. So they’ll ask you “what is that” and you tell them, and hopefully the MeCam brand spreads. So I just did it.

Stan: Very cool. So why didn’t you use Kickstarter to launch the MeCam? A lot of companies use that these days, not only for getting the product out but more so for promotion and the kind of focus group that you get from all the backers from their suggestions and everything.

Drew:Right. This is something that I totally bootstrapped myself. To be honest, I did try Kickstarter. They didn’t take the project at the time because it was right after Pebble. I guess they were.. weighing if they wanted to become a tech fundraising platform for pre-sales? Or if they wanted to become more of an artsy platform? And it was literally like a week after Pebble. They brought me back and told me that they weren’t taking projects like this anymore, because it just was not the focus they wanted. Anyways, I did Indiegogo, which is a rival platform, same difference. The thing with these crowdfunding platforms is that they require  a lot of pre-marketing, which I didn’t know. So if you don’t pre-market and you don’t get a big push in the first five days, then it’s kind of like a wash and it’s not worth it. So, now today if I did it, I know and I’d do a lot of pre-marketing. But everything is a learning experience. So I actually did try. It just wasn’t successful.

Stan: Tell us something interesting that you’ve recorded with a MeCam, during or after the development process. Maybe something outrageous? Something that has a viral potential? Something that could possibly be worthy of being featured on Tosh.0, anything like that?

Drew:[laughs] Um, well, myself. You could get a horrible video of that. I won’t talk about personal videos, but I will tell you about stuff that my users have sent in. A woman pinned it to her baby for six months. Recorded from the newborn stage – the first six months from the baby’s perspective – and made it into a video. She sent it back to me, and I posted it and that actually generated a lot of buzz and people really appreciated that video. I’ve had all kinds of different user-submitted videos. Like people going paragliding. Some guy attached it to a kite and flew it everywhere. Somebody just contacted me yesterday, called from the Indy Racing Experience. So what they do is they give two-seater Indy car tours, or racing experiences, at the Indy 500. So they bought a whole bunch for that purpose so they could provide their customers with an in-cockpit view. Going forward, content is a big issue for us. We haven’t had the time or resources to focus on content. But it is going to be a big focus, because our users are getting really cool videos and we’re trying to get them more into editing their videos. And that’s a little daunting at first. But with the release of our new app, we’re going to have something to kind of help that along, which is very easy.

Stan: Yeah, you mentioned that you are developing and are soon to release a second-generation model that is going to be having an app. What are the highlights of this new model and why should someone choose to buy it, the MeCam, instead of something else?

Drew:Sure. So the new model just takes the original MeCam with all the user feedback, so far. And I just gave them all the features my users asked for. You kind of see, I actually have two of them here [holds them up for the camera]. Here’s the new one. Here’s the old one. Roughly the same size. They’re each two inches by two inches. The new one has a lens that’s four times better. It’s a glass lens, which doesn’t really exist in the market. Even a GoPro uses a plastic lens. MeCam is a full 1080P HD. It has a lot of cool options, such as timelapse photography. It’ll take a picture every 30 seconds or 15 seconds. You can set how long you want the timelapse. I have buttons on there so you can take Vine and Instagram videos and upload it. It has image stabilization technology, a gyroscope inside to stabilize the image when you’re walking around, which was a big issue with the first one. And really, the ability of the app to control the device. You can see what you’re taping. You can zoom in and zoom out. Then you can upload your video to whatever social media you want. So there’s a lot of big advancements. About the video editing software; we teamed up with another company. My users can take their videos, and through the app it sends them into this program, this software that these geniuses have developed. The program is more of an artificial intelligence, where it is able to be programmed to find the highlights of your footage and put them into a movie. So you take all your footage, send them in, and you can pick parameters. So you can say that this is a movie of a football game, and so it’s sports. And you want it to be one minute long. And you want these certain special effects. And it’ll shoot back in an hour a completely edited video, taking all the highlights, and can even have music added to the background. It gives you a fully professional video, which I think is very easy for user content. The big issue with GoPro and all these wearable technologies with video cameras is that you have all this content. Sure, an hour or two hours of you skiing sounds like a good idea, but when you get it it’s literally an hour of you skiing. [laughs] And it’s boring. So I think this app will really change the user’s experience and provide much better content for people to upload.

Stan: That sounds pretty exciting. I know that I’ve spent my own personal time editing videos, and it’s a lot more fun when you’re actually recording and doing what you’re doing, than to go back and spend all that time editing and just trying to make something so everybody else can see it.

Drew:People don’t realize just how much one hour of video is.

Stan: Yeah.

Drew:It’s a lot.

Stan: So what thoughts have you had about possibly expanding beyond a video camera and maybe into some other wearable tech companion or accessory to MeCam?

Drew:An accessory that I’ve seen and been speaking about is motion technology with your hands. I’ve been trying to think of a way to incorporate it where you can control the MeCam with your hands and hand movements. Not like a glove, but something like a sensor on your hands. It’s hard to say where the next pivot can be and what this can morph into. The company is only seven months old. Even the progression from the original MeCam into what it’s become now has been exciting. So hopefully the future holds something big and profitable. [laughs]

Stan: [laughs] Lets make a prediction together. Lets assume that it’s 18 months from now, maybe a little bit more, and smartwatches are mainstream. Possibly boring, because they’ve been around for so long and everybody has one. So what new wearable tech might big companies go for to recapture all the love and all the attention from the masses with a new type of product. I’ll let you go first.

Drew:Hmm. That’s a good question. The natural progression is something like Google Glass, but isn’t so invasive as to having to wear glasses on your head. Nobody wants to wear Glasses around, it just seems silly. Maybe something that is more like a wristband instead of a watch? Who knows? Maybe a contact that goes in your eye that you can control everything from. Really, you look to the movies to see what is cool and what you think is impossible now that can hopefully become a reality. So like Mission Impossible, with the contact that you put in your eye that lets you talk to someone and see everything. That could be a huge advancement. So what do you think?

Stan: My guess is, uh, I’m probably going way out there, but I’m thinking a SmartBelt. By then, screens, circuits, they should all be flexible enough for that. A smartbelt can change color to coordinate with clothing, or your bare skin so maybe it just looks like you’re naked when you’re really not. Or you can set it something totally obnoxious like the Nyan cat orbiting your waist. Take it off and hold it vertically, and you can see your see your entire Facebook feed all at once. You know, the semi handy-things like that [tongue-in-cheek grin].

Drew:That’s really wearable tech [laughs].

Stan: [laughs]

Stan: So last question, and I ask everybody this. You can answer in any way you choose, either personally or from the perspective of this interview. The question goes: If you could choose any one person, past or present, real or fictional, to be your closest sibling or your best friend, who would it be and why?

Drew: [thinks] I would say, probably Ben Franklin. Just because, while this is really the first thing I’ve invented myself, I’m hooked. So, you look around your daily life and you see so many things that can be improved on, and that’s really exciting for me. He’s obviously the best inventor of our time, and it would be really interesting to see how he viewed the world back then how he’d view it now. To see, from then until now, what he thinks.

Stan: Very cool. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Drew:Well, wait, what’s your answer?

Stan: Mine? [caught off guard] Jeez, I think it changes on a weekly basis.

Drew:[laughs]

Stan: Um. This week. [thinks] It would be Christopher Nolan. Simply because of the way that I see him work his movie magic and storytelling. In a way, it’s something that I feel is a bit ahead of the trend of what a lot of other movie producers are doing. At the same time, a lot of his own ideas seem advanced, like when you take a look at Inception. Just to have that kind of creativity right next to you and get the feedback of what’s going on in his head. Especially anything that might apply to tech that sounds cool or possibly futuristic. I can foresee hours and hours of brainstorming or fun conversations with him. So that’s my guy of the week.

Drew:I like that answer. I think your Chris Nolans and James Camerons really stand out, and not just in making movies. These guys have a lot of thought into what they’re doing. I feel like a lot of things they put into their movies, we strive to make a reality. So good answer.

Stan: Last thing. Plug the MeCam.

Drew: Sure. MeCam is available direct to consumer at http://mecam.me. Right now we have the original MeCam, which is $49.99 to $69.99. And in about a month we’ll be releasing the newer MeCam. That will be available in retail. But the original one is just online for now.

Stan: There you have it. The next generation MeCam is arriving soon, better than ever and with more features. Visit mecam.me (soon) for details. Drew, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Drew:Thank you. I appreciate it.


 

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