From Kickstarter to Apple Stores with olloclip

October 3, 2014

7:30 pm

In 2011, with everyone carrying a phone in their pockets, longtime product developer and photographer Patrick O’Neill took it upon himself to make mobile phone photography better. O’Neill decided to launch the product on Kickstarter, called olloclip, that features a simple iPhone 4 lens that houses a fisheye, wide-angle, and macro lens all in one.

In no time at all, he far exceeded the initial $15,000 funding goal, reaching $68,201 total funding from 1,300 backers; olloclip was officially taken past simple concept. Life was sweet for O’Neill and his small team, but it was about to get a whole lot sweeter because they managed to draw the attention of Apple.

“We were getting a lot of press, and Apple found out about us,” says O’Neill. “The Apple Store is the pinnacle, and you only get one chance to get in there. We were able to do it right, send them some products, and we’ve been in the store for the last 3 years.”

Currently olloclip is developing products for the iPhone 6, which will be available by end of November, and the iPad. In the last month, O’Neill has also branched out into the Android world, developing lenses for the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5. And to date there are around 600,000 photos on Instagram alone that use the hashtag ‘#olloclip’. It’s impressive, especially when you consider that most people don’t take the time to put tags on their photos.

We met up with O’Neill and snapped a few photos with the olloclip:

olloclip fisheye photo of founder Patrick O'Neill

olloclip fisheye photo of founder Patrick O’Neill

macro photo with olloclip

macro photo with olloclip

olloclip telephoto photo

olloclip telephoto photo

photo taken without olloclip  telephoto

same photo taken without olloclip telephoto

O’Neill calls Huntington Beach headquarters these days, and his company has grown from a small-time operation in his kitchen to an actual office with 50 employees: they also assemble all the products in their HQ. While olloclip has never raised any outside capital, they did in fact take out a home equity line of credit for $200,000 to keep the business going as they scaled their product line. Pair that with the dozens of patents and continual efforts to expand their offerings, and it’s no wonder that the Consumer Electronic Association (CEA) recently selected olloclip as Small Business of the Year.

“The awards are nice, but they don’t change anything,” says O’Neill. “When we come into the office we’re still the same company. We just have to keep doing what we do, continue to make great products, and then deliver to the customer.”

Every day is a challenge for the olloclip team as they try to scale further and maintain a strong presence in the Apple Store, but they keep pushing. And when the going gets tough, they turn to their demi-god for inspriation; the office is covered in Steve Jobs posters to continually keep them pressing a trend of success.

“When we were initially developing olloclip, I kept saying: ‘If we presented this to Steve Jobs what would he say?’ More often it was that he wouldn’t like it, and we’d push it further,” says O’Neill.

With this amount of traction, and the fact that photography has become such a big part of everyone’s lives, it makes you wonder if olloclip might be acquired before they ever need to raise a round of funding.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups. Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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