Drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are no longer just science fiction. They are used by the military, startups and other commercial ventures. While this startup story is not about a drone, it’s closely linked with a drone startup. It all started six years ago when Amardeep Singh graduated in Aerospace Engineering from IIT-Bombay and founded ideaForge with his college mates.
His journey developing drones and flying them took him from Kashmir to the Andaman Islands, from Rajasthan to the Bangladesh border, and from the Naxal regions of Jharkhand to performing rescue operations during the Uttarakhand floods. He would spend most of his time shooting and documenting everything he saw and most of the images would be captured via camera phones, DSLRs, FLIPs, and GoPros.
Sharing but not owning
But in the process of carrying all the camera equipment on every trip and transferring the data to a hard disc, he found he never had the time to look at the raw footage, select and edit it at ease. He soon realised that this was a common problem. So about a year ago, he began discussing the problem with his friend Rahul Vats. When they dug deeper into videotaping and recording lifecycles, they found that while people are consuming videos on mobile devices more than ever, they were not sharing their own videos as much.
This led them to build NexGear, with a focus on developing seamless wearable tech devices.
“We conceived our first product Frodo, a strap-on intelligent adventure camera. It can automatically edit your captured footage into smart summaries by intelligently picking interesting parts from the video,” adds Amardeep.
Cracking the hardware-software play
He adds that it is a hardware-software product that comes with challenges on both sides. Hardware challenges occur when things start breaking down, components get delayed, and mechanical fitments start having issues. Most of them cannot be pre-empted and have to be tacked with smart solutions as they happen. The software challenges include getting the backend and bug fixes right.
So how does the product work? You strap on the camera the way you like: it could be anywhere such as on your wrist, your bike handle, or your forehead. Then, just press a button to record. With a boot-to-shoot time of just 0.7 seconds, the Frodocam starts collecting footage in a blink. The camera can record close to a 1.5 hours of HD video on a full charge, which is good enough for most outdoor excursions.
Next, you need to start the NexGear app on your phone and it will sync the footage from the camera automatically, and take it over the air. The app detects the device and syncs the media automatically and creates crisp ready-to-share stories based on different pre-installed editing styles such as Genius, Action, Slow, Faces and 15-second Instagram. Frodo uses motion data, face detection, sound analysis and computer vision to figure out interesting parts from a video.
Getting the right blend of people
To build NexGear and Frodo, Amardeep says they didn’t need a fancy workspace, but needed a team. Both Rahul and Amardeep were clear that they wanted to build NexGear as a company with transparency, trust, integrity, and humility as its building blocks.
When they were looking to hire, they were competing with other startups to attract the right individuals. “And fortunately, our alma-matter IIT Bombay gave us our first team members. Once the team began to take shape, things started moving. Fortunately, all our team members happen to be into photography, video making and adventure sports, so it was relatively easy to share our vision with them,” adds Amardeep.
Apart from Rahul and Amardeep the core team also comprises Tarun Gupta, who was an investment banker and marketer; Vishal Shah, who was working on his own venture prior to NexGear; and Rohit Tandon, who has over ten years of experience in branding, user interface and art direction.
Hitting the market
The team announced their first product Frodo at the Consumer Electronic Show, Las Vegas to rave reviews. The team is looking at starting a crowdfunding campaign shortly. Their revenue model is based on sales of their adventure camera, battery packs and accessories through international whole sellers and retailers.
The team has raised angel funding from Powai Lake Ventures and growX Ventures. The immediate plan is to put Frodo into mass production and to create a brand. The team will be working to make the product better and even more intelligent, pushing their development in Artificial Intelligence. “Going forward, we see NexGear coming up with more products in the connected devices space with a good hardware-software play,” adds Amardeep.
According to a report by the Market Realist, close to 5.5 million units of action cameras were shipped globally, giving it a market valuation of over $2 billion. The most popular camera in the segment GoPro has a market share of 47.5 per cent, Sony Action Cam has 6.5 per cent, Polaroid close to 1 per cent and ION 12 per cent.