Vikas Reddy, 26, and Jeffrey Powers, 27, are founders of the Boulder, Colorado-based Occipital, whose creation, RedLaser, is among the top of the list of iPhone ‘must haves.'
RedLaser is a program which, when installed in iPhones, enables the phone to scan codes and check for prices. Shoppers can also run a search for the lowest available prices. While the first edition of RedLaser was a success, it was the second edition, with its totally revamped technology using real-time scanning, which proved a hit. Occipital has recently sold RedLaser to eBay.
“My friend Jeffrey Powers and I met at the University of Michigan where we were both engineering students. I graduated in 2006 to work at a start-up in New York, and Jeff joined the PhD programme at Michigan in Intelligent Systems,” says Vikas.
“Jeff also started working on a project called Blimpbots, which involved tracking robotic blimps with cameras, and got interested in Computer Vision. He saw a big gap between the amazing research being done in Computer Vision and what was actually available to the public. He left PhD to start Occipital to bridge this gap, and I quit my job to join him.”
RedLaser, developed in their basement office, is installed in more than two million iPhones. Jeff had noticed the bar code on a copy of Scientific American, and that's when the idea of creating a bar-code scanner came. After RedLaser, 360 Panorama (available online at iPhone store for $2.99) is their latest project. It works to create photographic panoramas instantly without requiring photo stitching. The team is fine-tuning elements to make sharing the panoramas easy and fast, besides improving the precision and quality of images.
Being young with an entrepreneurial streak isn't always easy. “Since we were both first-time entrepreneurs, it was hard for us to convince people that we had what it took to make a company successful. Even though we were part of the start-up incubator, TechStars, which gave us some credibility, we were not able to raise any money for our company. We had several difficult months while we bootstrapped the company, living on very little money, and working insane hours to try to get profitable. Thankfully, the first product we launched — ClearCam (designed to help take photos with higher resolution) — sold enough to pay the bills, and then later on we launched RedLaser, a major hit,” says Vikas.
For those with entrepreneurial dreams, Vikas says: “Make sure you choose your co-founder(s) wisely. Make sure he or she is someone who is driven, smart, hardworking and one you enjoy working with. I think that, more than anything else, will determine your success. Also, choose the space your company will be operating in such [a way] that the work necessary for success aligns with your passion and skills.”