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Kick-Starting a New Camera App with $200,000

When undergraduate Kevin Harrington moved into his new apartment complex last year, he had no idea who his roommates would be or what the semester would be like.

“When I got there, the first thing they asked was my major, and when I told them computer science, they were all relieved,” he said. “I later found out that they are both mechanical and electrical engineers, so I fit right in.”

Harrington got along great with his roommates and eventually told them about a business idea he had been forming over the summer: a remote smart phone application to control a digital camera. He had attempted to create his invention but was unsuccessful with the engineering side of things.

Harrington collaborated with his roommates Brett Gottula and Luke Duffield — two graduate students who are studying electrical and mechanical engineering, respectively — to begin putting his idea into practice, building a circuit and designing the idea. The group invented a prototype cord to connect a DSLR camera to a smart phone and named the business Trigger Happy.

After plugging the cord into a digital camera and a smart phone, photographers open up the Trigger Happy iPhone or Android app and specify the settings: from a simple camera trigger, to bulb functionality, to a time-lapse trigger, to HDR mode. These options would typically require either manual control or an expensive separate remote, which is inconvenient to carry in addition to other camera equipment.

Instead, the Trigger Happy phone application and cord allow photographers to initiate these settings from their smart phone. If they want to take pictures through their phone from farther distances, users can purchase an additional cord to lengthen the distance between the camera and the smart phone.

This device could be used for numerous purposes, including outdoor photography, stunning time lapses, and even a quick family picture.

Instead of seeking funding from a venture capitalist or another investor, the group decided to put their business on Kickstarter, an online website specifically for projects and inventions seeking outside funding.

Those who decide to back the creative project ideas will not receive equity in the company, but instead are purchasing the invention. In this case, anyone who donates at least $50 to Harrington’s project will receive a prototype Trigger Happy cord. Meanwhile, Kickstarter keeps five percent of the funding earned.

“We love Kickstarter. . . it seems like a lot of photographers are on it,” Kevin said. “It’s our market.”

Trigger Happy’s funding goal was $25,000; they raised over $220,000.

Those who backed Trigger Happy online will receive the connector cable and can download the free app for smart phones in June when it is released. These two tools are all photographers need to use the software.

As a business model, the group decided not to charge money for the application, but for the cord instead. Trigger Happy is currently taking preorders for the cord on their website, but the app will remain free.

The future of Trigger Happy is as bright as a camera’s flash, and the three students plan on pursuing it beyond their success with Kickstarter. For these roommates, it is much more than just a hobby; it’s a business.

“A lot of Kickstarter projects are one-hit wonders. We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder,” Kevin said. “Using our capital from Kickstarter, we will continue to innovate the way people control cameras.”

By Alysa Kleinman Posted on