Marc Barros knew that people loved taking spectacular photos on their smartphones, but even he was blown away by the demand for the mini lenses his company introduced earlier this year under the Moment brand.
In February, Moment successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign, blowing past a $50,000 goal and raising $451,868 from more than 4,500 backers.
Now, Barros — who previously founded the helmet-mounted video camera maker Contour — has found support from another group of backers. This time, prominent angel investors and venture capitalists.
The company just scored $1.5 million in seed funding, raising the cash from a big syndicate of investors that includes Maveron, Founder’s Co-op, Foundry Group, Vayner RSE, Lux Capital, Concur CEO Steve Singh, WTIA CEO Michael Schutzler, Bonobos CEO Andy Dunn, Cranium co-founder Richard Tait, Skullcandy CEO Jeremy Andrus and others.
Asked about the new funding, Barros tells GeekWire that the team realized that there was an “opportunity to build a category-leading brand around mobile photography.”
The lenses — which come in wide and telephoto versions and attach to iPhones, Samsung Galaxy and Nexus phones via a metal plate— mark the first hardware forays for the young company. The lenses are available for pre-order for $99 each.
“We are building a family of products around capture,” he said. “We want to take the phone in your pocket, and make it an even better camera.”
Barros said that they started shipping the first lenses to Kickstarter supporters earlier this summer, and now they are turning focus to development for the iPhone 6 (set to be announced Tuesday). The company also is turning its focus to a new smartphone accessory, a project that Barros said will also be crowdfunded.
Given the desire to crowdfund, why did Barros decide to take outside financing?
He said they are working hard to gain a better understanding of their customers.
“We really want to reach market fit,” he said. “We have Kickstarter and pre-orders, but we really only have three months of customer data, so for the next 12 months, you will really see us focus on the brand and brand experience. … We really need to understand the recipe for Moment as a brand.”
Barros cited a former competitor as an example of how a company figures out its recipe, citing the growth of GoPro. “They have been using the same recipe for the past seven years, and it has worked really, really well,” he said. “We are still tinkering with that. What works to inspire customers to use the product and reach new ones.”
In the lens arena, Moment faces competition from OlloClip, which sells a family of lenses for $69 to $99 that utilize a specialized clip to attach to an iPhone.
Even though rivals exist, Barros said that the mobile photography business is massive.
“There are three billion phones in pockets, and they are capturing trillions of photos,” he said. “We see this really, really good wave.”
Looking back at the experience at Contour, Barros said he underestimated the size of the wave, unfortunately watching GoPro capture the opportunity.
“We didn’t have the right investors around the table to help us make it big, so this time around we don’t want to miss the opportunity,” he said. “Part of raising this seed (round) … it allows us to experiment and figure out how big the opportunity is.”