In today’s world of social media, we are obsessed with ourselves, sharing photos and videos of everything we are doing. But aren’t you tired of those same “selfies” where a person holds their phone or camera out in front of their face and “snap!”? Enter SOLOSHOT: a group of like-minded surfers who put their heads together to create a way to capture video without the need for a camera man.
SOLOSHOT has taken home numerous awards from ISPO Sports Business Network, Forbes and more. They are about to release their second product, which includes the ability to automatically pan, tilt, and zoom the camera, making the footage even look even closer to that of what a camera operator would create. So we caught up with their designer, John O’Callaghan, to get some insight into how it all went down, from quitting their jobs and moving to Texas to how a tech company can continue to stay relevant in a space that changes by the second.
Tell us how the idea for SOLOSHOT came about and what you and the rest of your team were doing for work prior to starting the company?
The idea came from equal parts of desire and need. Chris, our CEO and founder, was on a solo surf trip in Apple Bay, Tortola. After setting up his camera on the balcony of his hotel room, pointed at the left he was surfing, he returned post surf, checked his footage and thought “hmmm, what if the camera followed me and got a tight smooth shot…”
Soon after, Chris moved to the Dominican Republic, a melting pot of surfers from around the world, where he met many of the members who would create the SOLOSHOT team. We all come from different backgrounds from sales, marketing, engineering, design, etc. but ended up in the Dominican as nomads and dreamers. The diversity among us helped us take an idea and use our abilities to execute it.
From our previous talks, your commitment to the project was “all-in.” What did it take for you guys to start SOLOSHOT? What were some of the challenges and sacrifices that you had to make to make it happen?
To really achieve what you want to accomplish or reach the highest peak you can with an idea, you can’t have anything holding you back. The idea that everyone in the company is “all-in” shows that we all have full faith and full commitment in the company and the idea. Everyone involved has sacrificed so much to get to where we are now, and we still have a long way to go. I can’t count how many all-nighters we’ve pulled and how many nights we’ve slept in the lab. Relationships suffer, you work until you’re cross-eyed, you move away from the beach and miss good swell, but the entire time you know the end result of your time and hardships will be well worth the struggle. Doing something new and on your own terms puts you on an uncharted road but everyone involved has learned that you have to enjoy the ride.
What were some of the greatest rewards?
As a company, we’ve received some great awards. They always help encourage us to keep on grinding. Going to Germany to receive the ISPO Brand New – Best New Accessory Award was one of the best experiences I’ve had. To be recognized by our peers at such a large level is amazing, and the German beers and brats are always a plus. Those awards are essential to keep company moral up and show everyone involved we’re doing the right thing.
Personally, the greatest reward I always have is going back to my hometown break in New York and seeing a SOLOSHOT set up on the beach. The first time I went back home after launching the product a buddy and I paddled out on a choppy chest-high day. We were out for about 15 minutes when I saw the SOLOSHOT blinking green light on the beach. Three kids paddled out and we’re passing around their armband, trading off on waves to grab some clips. It was the first time I saw a real SOLOSHOT customer use a SOLOSHOT. That still sticks out as my most rewarding moment to date.
Being that the product is in the tech space where everything changes so rapidly, what are some things you all have had to do to keep up? In other words, what does it take to stay relevant in the space?
In the tech world, you’re constantly chasing your tail. By the time you come up with an idea, develop, and release it you’re probably old news. The good thing about SOLOSHOT is that we’re doing things that no one has ever done before. On the development side, you work on a concept for so long that by the time you release it, it’s old news to you, but once you see the positive reaction from our riders or customers it reinforces your hard work. With the technology out there today anything is possible but the key is to work quick and weed out the ideas that don’t move the dial. Being original, sticking to our roots and taking risks on new ideas have got us to where we are today so it’s become a bit of a staple for us, for better or worse.
What do you feel it truly takes to start something from scratch?
Guts, creativity and a diverse, hardworking team. We realized early on that there’s two ways to solve any problems that arise in development, either throw a bunch of money at it or get creative. Since we bootstrapped the entire thing, we had to get creative. We built our own machines, soldered our computer boards, made molds and poured plastics; we bled on CNC machines and suffered facial chemical burns, but it’s all part of the game. It’s not for everyone, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else at this point.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to create their own product?
Trust your instincts. The masses will say you’re nuts, but it takes people that are just crazy enough to try something that is next to impossible to create new products that have a true impact on peoples’ lives. People still think I’m nuts for leaving a stable career path to roll the dice on a project with a bunch of surf buddies that I met while living in the third world. Trust your gut. Look at problems from different angles. Just because someone hasn’t done it before doesn’t mean that it’s not possible.
What are your hopes for the future of SOLOSHOT?
To continue making products that make people say “holy shit… is that doing what I think it’s doing.”
For more on the SOLOSHOT 2, check out http://www.soloshot.com.