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Creator of GoPro Rival Contour Is Back to Kickstart Lenses for Smartphones

Giving startup hardware another try with a decade's worth of hindsight.

Marc Barros began his first startup hardware company a decade ago. The notion was more unusual then. Contour Cameras was at one point neck-and-neck with GoPro, selling $30 million worth of action video cameras in 40 countries, but it fell dramatically behind. With Barros pushed out of the company, it went to receivership in August and was bought for less than $2 million.

Now Barros is back with Moment, a company making lenses for iPhones, iPads and Samsung Galaxy phones. It launched on Kickstarter today. The lenses — a wide-angle and a telephoto — cost $49 apiece for projected delivery in June.

Why would people want to carry lenses with them if they don’t want to carry cameras? “Lenses can fit in your pocket,” Barros said. And how can a phone camera possibly compete with a dedicated camera? “I’ll never make the camera take a better image. What we do is make sure the lens doesn’t degrade the quality,” he answered.

Versus attachable phone lens competitors like Photojojo and Olloclip, Barros says the advantage of Moment is that it attaches via a metal plate that can be used with or without a phone case, and it uses higher quality glass.

What did Barros learn from his Contour experience? Two things, he says.

  1. Have a clear purpose. He thinks photography is more interesting and mainstream than video. He also thinks Contour got too distracted making different models of cameras with GPS and other features.
  2. Be the best at product. Contour was “pretty good at product, pretty good at brand.” While Barros would argue GoPro won on brand, Contour had trouble competing on both.

Asked to reflect on the option to crowdfund on Kickstarter this time around, a decade after he last started a company, Barros said it’s now the obvious way to test if there’s demand for Moment.

With the original version of Contour, Barros had tried a sort of proto-Kickstarter by taking online preorders on Contour’s site via a $50 deposit for a $350 device.

After Contour got 1,000 pre-sales in three weeks, PayPal locked the company out, and the team had to get access to each customers’ payment when it finally shipped a product, seven months late. (The more startup hardware changes, the more it stays the same.)

If Moment succeeds on Kickstarter — where its goal is a somewhat modest $50,000 — Barros said he hopes the company can become a larger brand in mobile photography. Future products might include more lenses, smart cases and products for bringing photos into the home, he said.

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