HWTrek sponsored 30 hardware creators and accelerators to visit Taiwan, Beijing, and Shenzhen on Asia Innovation Tour 2015 in August—and also in April 2014. We’re doing it again this spring. Register on the HWTrek platform and create a project to apply to join the next Asia Innovation Tour 2016 cohort destined to meet manufacturing industry experts, see assembly lines, and gain insights about China’s market in April 2016.
We reached out to Felix Kochbeck (Co-founder and CEO of LUUV), a participant in the tour last August, to learn more about the development of SolidLUUV, for which they successfully raised €324,947 on Kickstarter. They are also currently running a equity crowd-investing campaign: support teamLUUV here. He had this to say about Asia Innovation Tour:
It has been an amazing experience – visiting some of the biggest manufacturers, meeting investors, and getting insights into the uprising Asian market. All of that, together, in a group with other hardware startup founders is priceless. Great connections were made.
HWTrek: Please introduce yourself and your project?
I am Felix Kochbeck, CEO and Co-Founder of LUUV. We have developed solidLUUV, an all-in-one camera stabilizer. SolidLUUV is compatible with action cams, smartphones, and compact cameras up to 500 grams. It’s easy-to-use, robust and versatile. Thanks to its modular setup an electronic gimbal can also be attached to solidLUUV. This makes it the world’s first 2×3 stabilizer of its kind, called ultraLUUV, which combines the advantages of mechanical and electronic stabilization. It’s the best it can get.
HWTrek: What’s the inspiration for your project? What problem does it solve or address?
I am a funsports enthusiast myself and have been filming with actioncams for many years now but was always annoyed by the shaky footage I got. I tried to find a solution among existing systems but could’t find a satisfying one. I thought to myself what’s the point in using an actioncam when you can’t capture the action in a way that you can enjoy watching it afterwards?
And even beyond the focus on sports – with iPhones and GoPros so readily at hand nowadays almost everyone has an HD-capable camera in their pocket. But the footage you get is simply unwatchable. We found out that there’s a high demand for stabilizing solutions and I asked myself what are the features I would like to find in a stabilizer. So we designed it in a way that everybody can use solidLUUV – whether experienced in operating steadycam systems or not. We invented a possibility to change and balance cameras without any effort and added some neat features like the up&down mode that allows you to flip the stabilizer 180° and back. Also, we designed it in a modular way. This means that you can even attach an electronic gimbal to it and enjoy next level stabilization.
In the past, camera stabilizers have been bulky, expensive, heavy, and difficult to setup. A stabilizer was something that was only used by a professional videographer. But with solidLUUV it is our aim to democratize steady filming.
HWTrek: What solutions did you use for hardware design?
We used professional CAD software from the early beginnings as these tend to speak most data file formats which are required are the different production methods. You might start with a consumer 3D-Printer and a wooden workbench but as soon as you switch to professional production methods you need to make sure to be able to deliver the matching data files. During hardware design you often iterate and implement new features and you want to make sure that every detail or change in design fits to the rest of the parts. Without the proper software it’s hard to keep track and you will loose the overview at some point. Documentation is king here.
HWTrek: What solutions did you use for prototyping?
The first polymer parts were printed on a consumer 3D-Printer but as our product is super sensitive and does not allow hefty tolerances or differences in the parts we soon partnered up with the leading player for industrial 3D printing technology, EOS GmbH. With their help and expertise we could quickly produce high precision prototypes with tolerances in the range of the final production method and verify the function of the product in every detail. As soon as we locked a design we used selective laser sintering to manufacture the part and test it in the field. Other prototyping methods include 5-Axis-CNC-machining and laser-/water- cutting to produce high precision metal parts.
HWTrek: What are the takeaways and lessons learned from working on this project that you’d like to share with other hardware startups?
It’s really important to take a comprehensive approach when starting a hardware project. In my opinion, it’s crucial to assemble a team with members from different backgrounds like marketing, finance or sales and not only fields that are directly related to product development. Setting up a strategy and devising plans for each field is equally important as developing the product because you have to be prepared when you get the product on the market. For us, it was the best decision to prepare everything thoroughly and not to grow too fast because we have made a lot of valuable experiences in various fields that will definitely help us in the future.
And we experienced that the saying is true: „Hardware is hard“. You tend to underestimate the duration of some processes and especially when you’re developing a high-quality approach, it’s a long way from 3D-printing the first prototype to actually have a product that is market-ready.
HWTrek: What trend do you see that is changing your sector/industry or what shift would you like to see happen?
For the imaging sector what we observe is that cameras are getting smaller and smaller while the resolution gets better and better. But they all remain having the major problem to produce shaky video footage without using proper accessories. A very interesting field is steady 360° video, especially in combination with VR-technology, we just had the pleasure to produce such a video.
In terms of manufacturing/prototyping, we really enjoy seeing that additive manufacturing gets more and more common and will soon be as feasible as traditional production methods like e.g. injection molding. It is still a long way to go but we are very happy to already being a part of that industry.
HWTrek: What’s next for your project?
After a successful Kickstarter campaign in October 2015, where we raised €324,947, we are currently in the final steps of preparing the production of solidLUUV. At the same time, we are running a crowd-investing campaign on Companisto where investors can invest in LUUV and benefit from the current and future success of our growing startup. Investments start at 5€ and anyone can become an investor.
HWTrek: What are your ‘go-to’ sources for tech information and news? (Do you have any recommendations for a must-read/watch/listen article, book, blog, film, or podcast, etc.?)
There are several great books and articles available but I really wouldn’t want to recommend any as being the one go-to source. Most of them are great in one topic and may be a bit minimalistic in another. As the hardware scene is moving fast and technology is as well I instead highly recommend to talk and connect to other startup founders as these normally tend to be super helpful and are able to give the best and latest insights in their particular field.