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Haje Jan Kamps fills camera accessory gap with Triggertrap
Spotting a gap in the market is only the first step in creating and growing a successful business, and there can be many challenges along the way. This was what Haje Jan Kamps, founder and chairman of camera accessory company Triggertrap found.
Using crowdfunding, Kamps secured the funds to create an innovative solution and turn his vision into a product that could grow the business.
I spoke with Kamps to find out more about how he came up with the idea and the best way to get a new product idea off the ground.
Sarah Shields: What was your inspiration to found Triggertrap?
Haje Jan Kamps: I was working on a do-it-yourself (DIY) photography book, and was trying to build a camera from scratch. It turns out that’s really difficult, and I ended up building small components instead. One of them was a laser trigger, which I liked, but it wasn’t that easy to use. I wondered if there was a commercial product out there that did this. There wasn’t so I decided to start a Kickstarter campaign to see if I could make one happen. We were looking for $25,000 but ended up raising $77,000, and I realized I’d better set up a company, pronto!
Shields: How does the device work with the app?
Kamps: Triggertrap Mobile is an Android and iOS app that turns your smartphone into the world’s smartest cable release, allowing photographers to take pictures without touching the camera. The apps are free, and used with our £30 ($45) Triggertrap Mobile Kit which works with over 350 different camera types.
In essence, we’re using the user interface (UI) from the touch-screen display and the sensors built into the devices, to trigger the camera based on sound, vibration, time, location, and lots of other triggers – all at a price point that’s lower than the manufacturer’s ‘dumb’ remotes.
Shields: You’ve had some great success with your Kickstarter campaigns. Why did you decide to go down this route to get funding?
Kamps: Crowdfunding is a great way of testing a product in the marketplace. If the campaign fails to raise its funding, that may be the best thing to happen to you.
Crowdfunding has some huge pros: You can get exposure for your product, have conversations with your customers earlier than usual, and you can take your most ardent fans along on your journey.
However, it does have some pitfalls. A lot of people don’t realize that product development is like walking blindly through a minefield. A lot of things can – and do – go wrong. Not a problem, except if the product has been crowdfunded, you’re making those mistakes very much in the public view.
Shields: What’s been the biggest challenge getting products off the ground?
Kamps: Hardware is incredibly difficult. Our original product (Triggertrap v1) shipped about nine months later than planned, but we did eventually get it out of the door. Our second project was harder work.
Ada was originally conceived as version 2, but we had a couple of false starts, because we were struggling to define what it actually was meant to do – both for the photographers and for us as a business. Eventually we figured it out, and decided to do a Kickstarter project. This time, we were raising £50,000 ($78,000), and ended up with £290,000 ($452,000).
However, we ran into a series of problems. Our original goal was to ensure that the product could be created with a Bill of Materials (BOM) cost of $11. By the time we finally had a working prototype the BOM cost was $35. At this point, we’d already spent most of the money; including almost 10 times more than we were quoted on the development process. In the end, we had to pull the product altogether. We refunded the remaining money to our backers, and re-focused the business on our core product: Triggertrap Mobile.
It was an extremely difficult time, and the company is slowly recovering from this – but ultimately the way we had to take the view that we had 2,000 very disappointed backers, but if we don’t save the company and go out of business, we’ll have hundreds of thousands of photographers who can’t use their remote control solutions. In the cold light of day, I feel that this was the only choice.
Shields: Triggertrap has quite a following globally. How did you grow the company to reach new markets?
Kamps: We’ve mostly relied on our existing customers: People create awesome photographs and our growth has been almost exclusively from word of mouth. We have now shipped to more than 125 different countries around the world!
Shields: What does the future hold for Triggertrap?
Kamps: We’re focusing on getting Triggertrap Mobile to as many photographers as possible. It’s a fantastic tool, and it’s sad whenever I meet a photographer who hasn’t heard of us. My goal is that every photographer out there has at least heard of us, and when they do need to use a remote release, they reach for Triggertrap as the obvious choice.
Shields: Finally, what’s your favorite photo style on the Triggertrap app?
Kamps: Great question. Historically, people have created some of the most awesome photos with the sound sensor, but recently our customers have been using star trails mode to capture gorgeous photos of the night sky.
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