Time machine, baby monitor, hassle-free camera: Benjamin Button – the first startup to join the 2015 Berlin Startup Academy. We talk to key members of this Slovakian startup about their brilliant idea and aspirations.
Last week GTEC’s early-stage accelerator, the GTEC | Berlin Startup Academy (BSA), welcomed the first startup in our new cohort for 2015 – Benjamin Button, the Slovakian team set on bringing to market an intelligent, wearable, social camera. Innovative, design-driven, and genuinely wanting to create something which makes the world a better place, we talked to Dominik Orfánus (Founder & CEO); Andrej Špánik (Founder & CTO), and Michala Lipková (Brand & UX) and have the pleasure of introducing them here.
The nuts and bolts
Dominik: “Benjamin Button changes the way we remember, especially our first memories. We are building an ecosystem, based on an intelligent wearable, hassle-free camera, which captures the most precious memories from your or your child’s perspective, selects the best ones and enables you to share them with the people who matter. We have two working prototypes and now need to make more.”
Michala: “The idea is to create a social camera that enables you to live and treasure the moment, rather than creating a physical barrier between you and what’s going on around you.”
Andrej: “You can choose between making a video or time-lapse photos, every 10, 30 or 60 seconds. The technology picks the best shots or footage of the day, intelligently analyzing movements and faces. And, together with its base, it serves as a super-sophisticated baby monitor – with a live-stream, humidity and temperature sensor, fire alarm, and speaker.”
Where did the idea come from?
Dominik: “I’ve worked as business journalist and set up an adventure tour company which takes people round Chernobyl exclusion zone. Then last year I was in Berlin feeling homesick for my wife and two daughters in Bratislava when I got chatting to someone about wearable devices at the Hy! Conference. Back in Bratislava, a few weeks later, my mother-in-law was really sick. The last time she got up was to walk to the balcony to see our children playing outside: two weeks later she died. I felt that being able to somehow watch the children would have made her final days happier. The idea came together for a device which lets you record and share precious moments, even when you are not there. I started playing around with the idea of a wearable camera, even using lego to create first mockups.
What was the journey from early idea to prototype?
Andrej: “Dominik and I went to school together. He started talking to me about the idea in April 2014. I’d studied engineering at university and then founded an advanced technology solutions company. I knew my company could deliver a good technical solution for Dominik’s idea and wanted to stay involved.
Michala: “I joined in September 2014. I was talking to Andrej’s colleagues about creating the first FabLab in Slovakia. They told me what Andrej and Dominik were working on. I studied product design, and, at the time, was doing my PhD in product design at the Slovak University of Technology. Andrej and Dominik needed someone to work on the visual design elements – logo, website, visual communication, how people interacted with the product and app. That was me.”
Dominik: “What she is not telling you is that everything Michala designs is truly mind-blowing: she’s amazing … Anyway, then we started surveying parents about what they wanted to capture for their children and for themselves. Bootstrapping, we developed a prototype, got more people involved- mostly part-time – and we developed a few rules for how we work together: a set weekly meeting; if you’re late for the meeting you have to sing everyone a song (as this video shows); and when Benjamin Button starts making money, we’re going to give half of what we make to charity.”
Why Berlin, why Berlin Startup Academy?
Dominik: “I know Benjamin Rohé (MD of GTEC) from interviewing him a few years ago. We connected: he’s a parent too. I sent him a link to Benjamin Button and asked him for advice on how to scale it. His advice: apply for the Berlin Startup Academy! Christoph (GTEC Director for BSA) liked the idea. Right now, we need as much feedback and expertise in the wearables-space as we can get. At BSA, we get access to the sorts of ideas we can’t get in Bratislava.”
Dominik: “It’s all about creating more prototypes and getting feedback on how people use them – starting next weekend with a friend’s wedding (he’ll wear one and so will a couple of the kids) and then moving onto kindergartens.”
Andrej: “That also means negotiating with suppliers in the Far East and Eastern Europe to build those prototypes.”
Michala: “And working on building a fan-base via social media, to get pre-orders and to generate interest for a crowd-funding campaign.”
Dominik: “So far we’ve self-financed and we’re talking to investors in Bratislava, but a crowd-funding campaign is the next big thing. Then launch … whether in Germany or Slovakia. We don’t know yet, but we’re so hungry for real success.”