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Rhino Camera Gear CEO Kyle Hart
Rhino Camera Gear CEO Kyle Hart

Rhino Camera Gear is on its way to another Kickstarter success.

The Seattle-based company launched its sixth crowdfunding campaign on Tuesday, this time for its Slider EVO + Rhino Motion that allows amateur videographers to capture live motion and time-lapse footage. Rhino has already raised more than 20 percent of its funding goal in less than 24 hours.

rhinocamera121The Slider EVO + Rhino Motion is the latest in a series of Rhino products designed to improve the quality and versatility of GoPros and small cameras.

Kyle Hart, CEO, founded Rhino after he took up video work as a side job. Instead of buying extra gear and accessories, Hart decided to build his own. That ignited a passion and he spent the next eight months studying product and computer-aided design.

“We started out designing and manufacturing GoPro accessories and ‘selfie sticks’ for action cameras about three years ago,” he said. “Now we build pro-sumer camera equipment, combining hardware and software, for filmmakers around the world.”

Rhino was born and raised on Kickstarter, from its first product, the EZ-Steady Camera Stabilizer to its sixth, the Slider. The company’s first campaign brought in $80,000, crushing the original funding goal of $5,000.

“It was a mess,” Hart said. “But we ended up fulfilling all orders and survived. Now Rhino is a team of 11 building all kinds of awesome gear.”

We caught up with Hart for our latest installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Rhino Camera Gear builds filmmaking equipment that allows filmmakers to tell stronger stories through camera movement.”

Kyle Hart.

Inspiration hit us when: “Rhino Camera Gear was born out of necessity. I built Rhino’s first product prototype in my kitchen and when I realized this DIY solution I’d hacked together was working and holding up just as well as the expensive gear people were buying online, that’s when it became real. That was all the inspiration I needed to get started, but it was really an opportunistic move more than anything. I saw a gap in the market and jumped in head first.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We’re bootstrapped all the way. I went to Kickstarter three years ago and have gone back four times since then. We’ve raised a total of $488,000 through Kickstarter and beyond the money raised for production, it’s given us lots of exposure and a great online community that’s essentially built the Rhino brand.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “In product design, I choose to focus on a perfect blend aesthetics, function, and simplicity in a product category defined by practicality. Our team works hard to make sure the look, feel, quality, and usability of our gear gives it an edge over the competition. We like to think of our brand as the ‘Apple’ of our niche market.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “We’ve grown a brand that people respect and trust. Rhino Camera Gear actually sells our product for us, and that’s not a given among camera equipment manufacturers. We have people asking us when we’ll release a new product because they want to buy it — they don’t even care what product it is, they just want us to make something! That’s pretty special.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We tend to over-promise. Over-promising does help us dream big and work hard, and we do deliver on some of the big promises, but mostly it means we end up working under lots of pressure, and in that same moment we’ve unintentionally created an opportunity to disappoint our customer base.”

Photo via Rhino Camera Gear
Photo via Rhino Camera Gear

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “I’d actually want Steve Jobs, even though that might not be fair to your question. I admire him and have taken a ton of lessons from him in terms of design, especially when it comes to the tricky marriage of hardware and software and doing that the right way.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “We blow off steam and have fun by starting impromptu ‘wars’ at our shop. Nerf guns, rubber product parts, cardboard shields, and office vs. warehouse teams combine for a pretty intense firefight. I’m not sure I’d call them ‘team-building’ activities, though…”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “We value team and culture fit a lot. So much of the technical stuff can be learned on the job and familiarity with the industry is trainable, but finding someone who understands team dynamics, work culture, and thrives in their role — that’s a great find to us.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “You can execute at any scale. You don’t have to have a big team, budget, or office to create good work. If you learn how to execute, and you execute a lot, you’ll move forward.”

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