It all started in 2014 when a project of mine called, "Cubee: The Illuminating Photo Cube" was successfully funded through Kickstarter. The campaign made just enough for me to get started, but it wasn't until after that the real orders started rolling in. People loved these things! Aside from regular customers, I had a ton of corporate clients included Google, Microsoft, Applied Materials, and more. I even drew interest from the Home Shopping Network by winning their "American Dream's" nationwide product search.
But even before I had shipped a single unit, I was already researching the follow-up product. About 90% of the feedback I was getting was, "Your next Cubee should play video!". This made perfect sense because video recording/sharing was starting to skyrocket (and has continued to do so). The problem was I didn't have the know-how or capital to even attempt to prototype that, so I continued researching...
Fast forward 6 months, I saw a news story on TV about a Pixar developer who had created a children's book that "came to life" using this new technology called Augmented Reality (AR). This was the first time I had seen this tech and was BLOWN AWAY! My first thought was, "I wonder if there's a way to make my own pictures come to life... this would be perfect for Cubee!". After a little research, I learned it wasn't easy for a guy like me (an everyday consumer). I needed to find someone that specialized in AR who could help me...
Literally, the next day I was exhibiting Cubee at a show and there was a young woman with a booth who had create a bunch of Augmented Reality demos by herself. It was like it was meant to be! We met, I told her about my idea, and within 2 weeks we had a working prototype for "Cubee AR". The idea was that a user would go to our website, customize a Cubee AR using 5 videos, then have it shipped ready to be scanned right out of the box.
Over the course of that summer we met with a few angel investors, incubators, and VC's. The reactions were great, everyone really liked it, but nobody signed a check. Then, one of the last investors we met with gave us a piece of advice, "Cubee AR is cool, but you're not thinking big enough... but, the idea of an entire consumer-focused AR platform - that's more enticing to a guy like me. Focus on that...". He was right. Why limit ourselves to one product when we can create an entire platform where users could customize anything?!
The rejections got the best of my AR developer, but I was determined to continue - alone if I had to (I did). Taking that investors advice, I dove into more research. 6 month later, I was ready to present "PhotoBloom AR" at my first startup pitch contest. My opening statement was, "Hi! I'm Justin, founder of PhotoBloom AR: the first, full-service interactive print platform that allows you to create incredible photo products that come to LIFE with movement & sound - using your videos! All through the magic of Augmented Reality. Simply put, we're the Shutterfly for video & easy AR print"... I ended up in 1st place at that event!
That was about 1.5 years ago, and we've come so far since then (there's 6 of us now). And even though it sometimes feels like we're just getting started, that was the very, VERY start of PhotoBloom AR.
Justin Lemus - Founder / PhotoBloom AR