Saturday, January 18, 2014

Kickstart Success Stories - Olloclip

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Patrick O'Neill, founder and CEO of Huntington Beach, Calif.-based olloclip, has two great passions: photography and technology.

An entrepreneur for more than two decades, he got into the mobile-accessories business in 2000. At the time, he was designing products for other companies, but his idea for an iPhone camera lens was already bubbling up. "I thought, wouldn't it be cool to put camera lenses on the phone like we do with our big cameras? The problem was," he recalls, "how do you elegantly mount it?"

His solution: attach lenses on either side of a small plastic sleeve that could be slipped over the iPhone's camera lens. "I felt more strongly about this than anything I've ever done in my life," O'Neill says. "I put everything into it. I put my whole house on the line."

Using his own money, he brought on his director of design, Chong Pak, and a marketing expert. Though O'Neill "knew basically how it would work," the team spent the next year creating hundreds of prototypes using a 3-D printer.

"Just OK" wouldn't do. There would be no moving ahead with production until the three-in-one olloclip--featuring fish-eye, wide-angle and macro lenses--was just right. The final lens set weighs less than an ounce and fits in a pocket.O'Neill says he never thought much about the company's growth potential. "I knew there were other people as crazy about photography as I was, and with the iPhone 4, the camera was amazing compared to any smartphone that had come before. That combination of factors--this was the right time for this," he says.

A Kickstarter campaign seeking $15,000 brought in more than $68,000, enabling him to ship his first product in 2011. Growth came quickly. The company, which started out of O'Neill's house, now has about 50 employees. Revenue was $11 million in 2012 and projected at $20 million for 2013.

The company has more than 30 distributors throughout the world, and its products are sold in chains such as Best Buy and Target. Late last year, it introduced an update to the original olloclip--a sleeker unit with four lenses--as well as products for the chunkier iPhone 5c and a macro-focused lens set.

But the biggest coup has been getting olloclip stocked in Apple stores. "When we were developing this product, we said the best place we could be is in the Apple store," recalls O'Neill, who sent the company's merchandising team samples, telling them to "play with them over the weekend." O'Neill says he "believed in this product from the beginning. I knew they would love it."

And they did. Shortly before the iPhone 4s was announced, the merchandisers' review came in: "Wow, that's amazing."

"In the big Apple stores, we're on 10 pegs right now, and we've been there for two years," says O'Neill, who won't reveal what percentage of revenue comes from the retailer. "It's hard to stay in there. Apple is the pinnacle. If you can get in there and stay in there, you're doing a lot of things right."

[Via - Entrepreneur.Com]

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