Swivl lets you have your own robot cameraman for better, ‘hands-off’ photos and video

By Editor May 28, 2013
Swivl logo

Swivl logoA Q&A with Swivl co-founder Brian Lamb. The San Carlos, California–based company announced last week that it had secured $500,000 in Seed funding from Grishin Robotics. The funding follows a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, where the company raised $157,782. Swivl was founded in 2010.

SUB: Please describe Swivl and your value proposition.          

Lamb: Our aim is to make video more natural, useful and engaging. We make a robotic accessory that automates framing and improves audio, making the capture of video more natural and reducing the feeling of anxiety of being ‘on camera.’ Our connected cloud solutions will make creating mixed media video files a snap for end users, and result in video content that is more useful and engaging.

SUB: Who are your target markets and users?

Lamb: Our current main focus in on education, both higher ed and K-12. There is a strong conversation about using video to improve learning and teacher skills, and we’re plugging into that dialogue. Long term, we also aim to focus on some SMB and enterprise applications that have similar needs, as well as photography, and videography.

SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?

Lamb: There are some early-stage robotics companies that could emerge as competition, although most have a different market focus at the moment. In our target markets, it is mostly enterprise SaaS [Software-as-a-Service] and hardware solutions providers.

SUB: What differentiates Swivl from the competition?

Lamb: Our competitive edge is our attachment to tablet computing, our low cost and our end-to-end solution. Users don’t have to piece things together. It just works.

SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?

Lamb: We formed the company in 2010 and are one of the first companies to use crowdfunding to launch a product.

SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Swivl? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?

Lamb: I think the only people who have an ‘aha’ moment with startups are the ones that are not involved in it. Starting a company is hard, slow and difficult. There are always insights gained that give you a head of steam, but particularly when creating hardware, it takes time to realize the solutions and launch them.

SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story behind it?

Lamb: We wanted something that was basic, memorable, fit what the product did and had its own URL. This one fit them all.

SUB: You recently raised $500,000 in Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise funding?

Lamb: We raised this money specifically to bring Grishin Robotics on board. They share our vision of what hardware can enable in terms of services opportunity, and can really help us move the business forward. And capital never hurts to help build a company.

SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?

Lamb: Doing hardware requires more proof of market and revenue for investors to get onboard. The flip side of that is that hardware takes more time and capital to create. So relative to software startups, we’ve had to be far harder working, more creative with how we prove our markets, and with how we bootstrap our company.

SUB: How does the company generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?

Lamb: We already have a significant revenue stream from sales of our hardware. When our services launch later this year, we will also have subscription revenue.

SUB: What are your goals for Swivl over the next year or so?

Lamb: Launch our second version of Swivl with connected services and scale rapidly into education. We believe that we can open the doors of the classroom for educators to collaborate and improve, and aim to get a Swivl in every classroom to do that.

Swivl – www.swivl.com