Here's an article from Content Magazine (Issue 9.3) about our founder Justin and how get got started on PhotoBloom AR. Special thanks to Daniel Garcia at Content. You can purchase the entire hardcopy issue HERE.
JUSTIN LEMUS - PHOTOBLOOM AR
Article and Photography by Daniel Garcia
After graduating from Willow Glen High School, Justin Lemus found his way to Los Angeles and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising to pursue a career in fashion. His ultimate dream was to launch his own clothing line. After working for several brands and helping others design items and accessories, he found himself working in sales for Alternative Apparel. Although it wasn’t what he’d set out to do, the money was good, he was in the industry, and he was learning a lot about business from the company’s founder, Greg Alterman. He figured he’d only stay a couple years, and then launch his own line.
Seven years later, Justin was no longer enamored with the fashion scene. With some money saved up, he knew it was time for a change. “I was obsessed with Shark Tank and Kickstarter and just felt like I needed to invent something.” So, he began tinkering and decided to move back home to San Jose. At age 32, he felt it was time to take the risk before another seven years blew by. “So I quit. I really didn’t have any idea yet what I wanted to invent.”
Once back at his parents’ house, Justin was going through some old knickknacks and came upon one of those photo cubes. You know, the clear plastic cube that you slide images into of you and your siblings bathing together, with big smiles and Santa soap beards. at faded, forgotten cube sparked an idea that merged with Justin’s experience from design, sales, and having been around his parents’ print shop while growing up, and he began to develop and launch Cubee, the first backlit photo cube that displays your Instagram and mobile printed photos.
In October 2014, even as Cubee was wrapping up a successful Kickstarter campaign, Justin was already thinking about and tinkering with what would come next. Amid the daily hustle of personally assembling thousands of Cubees for individual and bulk sales—for clients like Google, Microsoft, and LinkedIn—Justin saw a news story about a Pixar designer who had made a children’s book using augmented reality. “Honestly, I hadn’t really heard of it before then, but I saw its potential for images and video.” So, although Cubee had just begun, Justin began researching technology for an AR platform and looking into the viability of this approach.
He discovered several augmented reality services that focus on software as a service (SaaS) and on business to business (B2B) relationships, as well as advertisers looking to reach consumers with that technology. Justin thought, “What if we combine the consumer-friendly features of an online photo-making platform with the cutting- edge tech of an AR interactive print platform.” In collaboration with a developer who specializes in augmented reality, he prototyped “CubeeAR” to play off the growing platform of Cubee. The goal was to figure out a way an AR interactive print platform could bring an individual’s videos that sit hidden on a mobile device to a real-world product with a tangible showcase.
When he reached out to venture capitalists, angels, and funders here in Silicon Valley, the concept received an overwhelmingly positive response. “No one’s ever told me no,” Justin says. “It’s more like, ‘Hey, you’re onto something. You’re just not quite there.’” But Justin wasn’t discouraged. His sales experience had taught him persistence. Also, he’s learned that VCs actually offer good advice and that he should consider their suggestions and pivot if he needs to.
One of the suggestions investors gave him was to not focus on one product but on a platform, which is more diverse and scalable, and which has other markets that can be developed. So Justin has done just that and renamed his product PhotoBloom AR. Driven by Justin’s vision, PhotoBloom AR has been in development and stealth mode for the last year and a half. His belief in himself and desire to give it his all matter more than what others think. “My own family members were like, ‘Dude, you’ve been doing this way too long. Come on, man, you’ve gotta give this up. It’s time to get a job.’ But I’m like, ‘Dude, I can’t give up now. I’m so close.’” Three days later he was accepted into Santa Cruz Accelerates. Justin excitedly explains what a great step this is for bringing PhotoBloom AR to market.
Recently, after connecting with several supporters and one main angel in particular, someone who has advised several Silicon Valley tech companies, Justin is poised to make his project more visual and hopes to launch this summer. Seeing the potential of a $5 billion ($9 billion by 2020) market and with an eye on the progress AR technology has already made, Justin isn’t looking back. “I worked in an industry where I was making a lot of money but wasn’t happy,” he says. “Now I’m the most broke I’ve ever been, but I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.” In the next four years, AR and VR together will have a predicted $120 billion industry. With his passion and ideas, and with the AR interface, Justin Lemus’s product line can be expected to bloom.