A few months ago we were reminiscing about those "flipping" images we used to have as kids. You know the ones you'd get in a caramel corn or cereal box? Sometimes they'd depict an epic battle between a couple of super heroes, or other times they'd show a change in season from winter to spring. We wondered how hard it would be to create those things ourselves, and Instawink was born. With this idea in mind, I partnered with a friend who ran a print shop and who knew the business inside and out.
We named our product the "Instawink". The name represents a marriage, as you'll read a little later on, of Instagram and the idea of a "winking" image.
When we were developing the prototypes, we gave some to friends and family to gauge interest and reaction. It wasn't long before these friends were telling their friends, and before we knew it they were coming back for more. They wanted to create neat illusions or juxtaposed images that showcased their photos. They made some as gifts and got good reactions from the people receiving them. The idea was validated and off we headed to formalize it.
To create the effect of multiple images appearing on the same physical printout we used a technology called Lenticular lens filtering. These lenses enable certain images to pop out at you as you tilt the print. You've probably seen them before in kids' puzzles and street advertisements.
Although the technology has been around for years, it's difficult and expensive to make just one of these at a traditional printer. Traditional printers charge a premium for retooling for runs of this type and typically prefer bulk orders, as setting up the process is time consuming.
Our goal was to produce Instawinks one at a time, from your custom images, at a reasonable price. We eventually found a way to just that, producing a high quality print with a magnetic backing. Over the next few months, we worked tirelessly to find ways to efficiently produce them while maintaining a high quality product. We also developed a website that would let you easily and intuitively construct them.
The Instawink Product
Instawinks are 3 inches by 3 inches square. We clip the corners with a die cutter and leave smooth rounded edges to avoid getting them nicked or bent. Instawinks are semi-rigid and have a magnetic backer that will stick to any magnetic surface. You can currently pick two images for your Instawink. In future products, and with better equipment, we will be able to offer more images per Instawink.
American Made and Sourced
We are proud to offer Instawinks using all American source materials and talent. The website is developed in Austin, Texas. The Instawinks themselves are produced and shipped out of Long Beach, California.
The Image Source
At the outset we found there were many photo sources available to users. All of the major social media and photo sharing services offer ways of getting a user's image stream. However, we picked Instagram as the perfect source for images, and more importantly, users.
Instagram is more than a photo sharing service. It is a community of users who embrace photography as more than just pixels, but as a reflection of themselves. We personally use Instagram every day.
Having selected Instagram, we were set to release our product with the ability to select images from your photo stream. However, then came Instagram video. We pondered, and it hit us....break up the video! Give them frames to pick from. So we did. And it was glorious.
To build your Instawinks, you can pick images from both your photo stream and individual frames of your Instagram videos. We developed a way to quickly break a video up into the frames that make up that video, then have them appear inline with your photo stream. Now all you have to do is pick the right two frames and you can easily create the illusion of motion.
We will also allow users to upload images directly from their computer or device. So if you are not a member of Instagram, or are but still want to directly upload from your computer or device, you'll be able to do so. Though we recommend Instagram because images and videos are already square, and seeing all of your images in a few seconds instead of uploading them one at a time is faster, we recognize some folks would rather use locally stored images. This feature will be available about a month after the general launch of the product.
In Time For The Holidays
In case you were wondering, we'll be ready and shipping in time for the holidays. Instawinks make great gifts. They are as original and dynamic as you want them to be.
Take A Sneak Preview
We have enabled certain parts of the website for you to use. Log in and poke around. You'll see that it's very easy to build an Instawink from your images and videos on Instagram. We're also presently working on enabling direct image uploads. The site is at: http://www.instawink.com
The website has been built and the prototypes and manufacturing equipment have been paid for. The stock is in hand and we are ready to go. So why are we asking for money on Kickstarter? We want to purchase additional and better printers to produce Instawinks faster and with more definition. If we reach our target, we can automate more steps in the process of creating an Instawink and getting it to your doorstep.
The money will also help us purchase the raw materials for Instawinks at a higher volume, and lower cost, allowing us to offer our Kickstarter backers a better price for their Instawinks.
Risks and challenges
As with any business, we are susceptible to the immutable laws of supply and demand, and a whole host of other potential issues. Listed below are some of the problems that we anticipate may arise, followed by a short description of what we know and what we plan to do in case they happen.
1. Financing fails: We are well aware that many projects don't get fully funded on KS. We have contingency plans to turn the site on using our own personal funds in case this happens. We'll start taking orders on September 16th if this fails. Or, we'll start taking general orders on October 1st if this campaign succeeds. The two week difference in case we succeed will be allotted for backers to sign into the site using a promo code to redeem their Instawinks.
2. Orders cannot get fulfilled in a timely manner: We have contemplated this scenario and have a strategy to quickly scale up, both in terms of printing equipment and web processing. We have also tapped a few sources of local labor in case we need to hire some temps, and hopefully, some full-time print technicians. Having too many orders is not always a bad thing.
3. Technical difficulties or anomalies with the site and the prints: I live and breathe code. I have yet to come across a technical or code situation that cannot be fixed or averted. I have a degree from Stanford in Computer Science and have worked in software for over 20 years. I spend plenty of time on coding blogs and I am confident that any website technical issues can be overcome. On the print side, we have a master printer on hand helping us out the entire way. With over 30 years of experience in the print business, we are confident we can overcome any print related issues that may come up as well.
4. The roll out of the site: Under the hood, the site is 100% complete, with the exception of some styling. It works. It is a completely Ruby On Rails based solution. Scaling to demand, or at least having a working plan to doing so includes shifting our deployments to faster, bigger virtual servers. We anticipate the full roll out on October 1st, 2013. Between then and the end of this campaign, we'll be sending out promo codes to our backers for their items. This will happen immediately after the conclusion of the campaign.
In short, we are well under way with Instawink.com. This is not in planning anymore; it is in full blown sprint mode.
Please let us know what you think and we'll respond as quickly as we can. Please go to the website, Instawink.com, sign up for notifications, and check out our about us and contact pages.
We've had several people ask us if we'll be allowing you to upload directly from your computer or device, instead of loading images from Instagram. The short answer is yes, but, not right away.
Though the site is best geared for folks who have Instagram accounts, we know the demand exists for folks who want these prints but who don't have Instagram or don't want to join yet another social networking site.
Signing in with your Instagram account gives you three very cool advantages. One, you don't need to upload anything. Your images will be right in front of you when you log in. Your videos as well. Second, the images and videos are already perfectly square. Since Instawinks are perfectly square, there is no editing you need to do to get them printed. Lastly, you don't need to remember yet another set of username and password credentials for yet another site.
But, for those who want to directly upload images, we will have the option to let you create an account with an email/password combination, then let you upload images in to your own "Library". Initially, we will crop your images to be square. Later on, we will let you edit what part of the image you want shown.
If you logged in with Instagram and still want to upload images as well, you will be able to do so. Your uploaded images will reside in your "Library" just as described in the previous paragraph.
We hope this clears up any remaining questions you may have.
Our heart-felt thanks with a dose of good karma headed your way! In addition, we will notify you with our progress and product availability. Your name will also be listed as one of our early backers on our site.
An Instawink delivered to you anywhere in the world. Plus have your Instawink featured in our hall of fame, at your request, on our website. We will have a rolling hall of fame of user's Instawinks, per their permission. Yours will be featured as one of our early backers.
The family pack: 5 custom Instawinks, sent as a pack anywhere in the world. One for each member of the family. You'll also get a personal hand-written thank you for being cool family people and supporting us!
You get a very special framed Instawink of your creation. We'll send along with your Instawink, a frame that you can use if you want your winking image on your desk. You'll also get a hand-written thank you note from us, letting you know how cool you are and how we appreciate you.
Buy in bulk do you? Well, we have the answer....a ten pack. Get ten unique Instawinks, or the same one x10, sent as a pack to any place in the world. Shipping included. You'll also get a sweet thank you note from us.
You get two custom Instawinks of your creation, sent anywhere in the world. In addition, your Instawink will be featured on our home page as the background image. I'll throw in the model hand for free (that's mine). We'll show the Instawink for one month! Please make sure you own the images that your Instawink contains.