Friday, February 23, 2007
Interview with Paul Minor, Founder, iPhotoMeasure
iPhotoMeasure (www.iphotomeasure.com) is a Tarzana-based company which has recently been getting attention for a new software product that measures the dimensions of construction products using just a photograph. Paul Minor is the founder of the company. Paul also told us about where the idea came from, their experience working with angel and venture investors, the problems with being too early with a company to pitch investors, and the "Slashdot" effect. socalTECH's Ben Kuo talked with Paul, and his co-founder Pete Robbins:
Tell us a little bit about the company and the product?
Paul Minor: The product simply is software that allows ones to escape the use of a measuring tape by automatically determining dimensions of projects--any projects--through software, through taking a photograph of that project and measuring anything in that photograph. So, for example, a housewife wants to hang some curtains, and she doesn't know how to measure or doesn't have the capability of reaching out there, she places our digi-target marker in the picture, snaps a photo, and uploads it into our software. She can then measure by drag and drop to find the dimensions of the curtain rod or window, and then she can print it out with dimensions in the picture and walk it down to Home Depot or a drapery shop. The salesperson can not only see dimensions but visually see the picture, and can match color. That's just one application.
What's the story behind the company and why did you decide to start it?
Paul Minor: I'm a general contractor in my other life, and have been involved in real estate, doing projects, investing, and fixing up houses, and things like that. I gave presentations at real estate clubs and selling online home study courses. During those events, people used to ask me questions like "what should I do with the front of this house" or what to do about a house they were considering buying. Being bombarded with those kinds of questions, I told them -- just email me and I'll get back to you. That was the genesis of iPhotoMeasure. I wanted to give a fair and accurate description of what I thought would be a plausible and money making renovation to a particular home. I'd email that back with my comments. It got to the point I got so many requests, I said -- I can't do this anymore -- so we came up with the idea to take what I already did --which is to take certain icons or items in a picture and knowing the dimensions. For example, a 2x4 is a 2x4. So coming off of that we could hypothecate what a dimension was. Sitting down with my partner Pete, who is CTO of the company, he came up with a solid plan of executing on the need to be fulfilled, and directing it in the way we are today.
How far along is the software?
Paul Minor: It's 2007, this thing started in 2003, in 2004 we formed a corporation and capitalized it with our own funding and family and friends. We went to a friend who helped us design the product, and usability. In 2004 we came out with the software and beta tested it for a few months and changed a few things, and then we got our sales team together--a sales team for the United States from a company called AB&T out of Connecticut, and we also have Canadian representation. We launched last November and have had a hell of a ride.
You've been making the round of the venture capital and pitch competitions, do you mind talking about your experience there?
Paul Minor: I'd love to. It's been really quite an interesting experience. In 2004 I first got solid team together--a part time COO, and Pete is the strong technical side, and we specifically went to the venture markets and pitching. We started shaking hands and getting some eyeball time. This was my first experience in that arena. So we started in 2004 and actually the truth is, looking back, we were a little bit too early. People kept saying to us -- where are you in cash flow, and there's also different levels of angel funding and venture capital. I also got the sense people wanted a full fledged company and that was where we were not. That was quite an experience. Since then we've been out there pitching again, and there's been a lot of time now where we've been out there developing our company and marketing our product--and we're think we're ready.
Pete Robbins: What we did is taken to heart what those guys said, which is we've developed software which is a working program out in the market. We have a fulfillment house, and hired an outside company to do fulfillment and support, have products on the shelf, have cash flow and a website generating cash flow, and have a sales company out there to get our products on the store shelves. We have affiliates, and have laid the groundwork to have a company that they do want. We're now at a point where we're thinking that maybe we don't need the angel investors and ought to talk to the VCs, though their might be room for the angels. We're trying to figure out where to go next. We're hoping coverage over the last month will help push VCs and angels to us.
You mentioned you'd been "Slashdotted" -- your product mentioned on the popular web site Slashdot. Tell us what happened?
Pete: We got a post on a blog, jkOnTheRun, and the next day it was picked up on Slashdot. We saw a huge amount of traffic come to our website and generated lots of sales. What was really interesting was it did generate lots of comments on the software. It generated lots of interest in the product.
Paul Minor: That post just validated our marketing study a few months earlier, and the questions that came to us are the questions we're addressing with the software coming down the pipe. I believe we've hit the nail on the head. We're not in the blind -- before it was just a vision or an idea--now we see where it's going to go. We're pumped up and we're ready to go.
Thanks and good luck!