FlyWire Sets Sights Beyond the GoPro Crowd
Tomorrow in San Francisco, several Hawaii startups (from the Blue Startups and XLR8UH accelerator programs) will take the stage at 500 Startups to pitch their companies in the heart of Silicon Valley. Among them is FlyWire, touting "line of sight" high-definition cameras that are affordable, portable, flexible, and extensible.
FlyWire was founded by Jacob Isaac-Lowry, who graduated from the University of Hawaii with a Master's degree in mechanical engineering.
You won't find the name "GoPro" anywhere on their website, but the billion dollar "adventure sports" brand looms large in FlyWire's lens. But while GoPro cameras seem to be designed for people who are especially cool and ridiculously daring, FlyWire is a wearable camera for the rest of us. Some of FlyWire's applications are downright mundane, but that makes its potential market much bigger than skydivers and surfers.
One of FlyWire's key differentiators is its modular form factor. The camera, microphone, and recording unit are separate, making each element smaller and allowing users to switch things up easily. While the standard setup mounts the camera on a pair of glasses (reminiscent of Google Glass), you could just as easily stick it to a window with a suction cup, or strap it to the head of a dog. You could use your own microphone setup, including wireless rigs. And the DVR box holds standard AA batteries and a standard MicroSD card.
Compared to an all-in-one GoPro, it's easy to swap or upgrade elements of a FlyWire setup as you go along. And while the FlyWire is not entirely unobtrusive, it's certainly less distracting than this:
(Still, kudos to state Rep. Angus McKelvey for incorporating technology into his work as a public servant!)
Price is the other main selling point for FlyWire. While the current signature GoPro camera models sell for $399 to $499, the basic FlyWire kit sells for $220. You can attach the little camera to anything you want, but the company sells safety glasses or a headband for only $7, and you can attach it to a helmet or your own glasses for even less.
FlyWire is a small company of six, only two of them full time, and while the startup has made over $40,000 in sales in its first year, that's a drop in the bucket compared to even a modestly sized hardware company. Fortunately, FlyWire has found some good partners and is running several promising pilots, finding interest in areas like law enforcement (police body cameras are a big deal), school sports, and training programs.
GoPro can chase mountain climbers and bungee jumpers, while FlyWire picks up security guards and plumbers. The target market may not be as glamorous, but it's definitely bigger.
Of course, FlyWire does face some other challenges. I doubt the hardware, made in China, is exclusive to them, though they're making the universal nature of the equipment one of their selling points. (FlyWire gear is definitely easier to hack than a GoPro.) And "Adventure sports" is a premium market, while there's only so much room at the low end. Heck, even GoPro has a $129 entry-level camera.
Finally, there's always the possibility that technology could shift so quickly that the fledgeling wearable camera space could be turned completely upside down. Two weeks ago, Apple was granted a patent that seemed to be aimed directly at GoPro. And this week, Apple posted financial numbers that were almost too huge to comprehend.
It didn't take long for the iPhone and other smartphone cameras to basically wipe out the point-and-shoot camera market. What will today's boxy GoPro and clever FlyWire cameras look like to geeks looking back five years from now?
But navigating these uncertainties are the stuff of pitch decks and spreadsheets, a future that's impossible to predict. What really matters is that you can go to FlyWireCameras.com and order a kit today, and be as cool as this guy in no time:
Here's Burt and I on Hawaii News Now's Sunrise morning show today talking about FlyWire:
To see more FlyWire videos, check out the official YouTube channel.