In this interview, we talk to Dimitri Gaertner (https://www.linkedin.com/in/dimitri-g%C3%A4rtner-31123676/) founder of FRAMEN (https://www.myframen.com/). FRAMEN is a Frankfurt-based startup, which offers photo streaming to their device or on their USB stick. They intend to do to photography, what Spotify did for music.
They also talk exclusively in our interview about their intention to raise venture capital.
The company was one of the winners of the WeWork Creator Awards (https://www.startupvalley.news/de/creator-awards-berlin/) and has already finished one successful crowdfunding campaign for their frame, which you can see in the back at the interview.
The USB stick from the video is their B2B product and is coupled with a subscription model, where restaurants, medical practices or companies could stream quotes and photos to screens in their waiting rooms or offices. Startuprad.io will also be available on this device.
The company wants to talk to creatives and photographers who want to rent out their artwork or photographs.
During the interview, Dimitri refers to
• this video, where they build a prototype of their frame: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AkrvnnJ7sE
• To their first Kickstarter campaign https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1303925469/the-smartest-photography-gadget-the-framen-player?lang=de
• The app https://www.myframen.com/
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00:06 Host: Welcome to startuprad.io, your podcast and YouTube blog covering the German startup scene with news, interviews and live events.
00:20 Joe: Hello and welcome everybody, this is Joe from startupred.io your startup podcast and YouTube blog from Germany. Today you see me twice because this year is part of the product of the startup that I’m just going to interview. I would like to welcome Dimitri, hey welcome.
00:37 Dimitri: Hi, nice to meet you.
00:39 Joe: Can you tell us a little bit about you and your very nice product here to our viewers?
00:45 Dimitri: Of course. Hi, I’m Dimitri. I’m the C.E.O. and founder of the company Framen, Frankfurt, Man. So, that’s where we actually come from and our company is about photography, streaming photography. We want to bring photography again out of the clouds. We want to make photography great again. And we really search for different solutions how we can visualize photography as easy as possible, like Spotify for photography. And the frame-player is one of the very first devices we ship now in 35 countries because we kickstarted it’s on the [01:22 unintelligible]
01:23 Joe: You’ve just been closing a campaign a Kickstarter?
01:28 Dimitri: Yes.
01:29 Joe: This is where you sold your frame, so can you tell us a little bit about the Kickstarter campaign and this product first. And secondly, there’s a 2nd person, your brother, behind the camera. He’s going to be the cameramen today, so if everything goes wrong it’s his fault. Just wave your hand a little bit to tell the people you. Oh, so in total there are 3 people?
01:54 Dimitri: Yeah, we’re three. Like the founding team are out of three people, this is my bro founder, Alexander. So, we are brothers, we’re working for years on projects together and now finally we have our joint startup together. And the third one in the row is Saudis. So, he’s our solution architect, and we have three other people who support us. They’re already full-time part of Framen and also a developer and business development. So, we are quite nice six guy company currently.
02:24 Joe: Six guys, ok. And from what I understand, first came the We Were Creator Awards. By the way, we are right now here in WeWork, Frankfurt, Goetheplatz, and that’s why you are here. And then came the Crowdfunding campaign?
02:45 Dimitri: Yes, correct. So, one year ago when we started the division to create new places for photography, we applied with our very first prototype for the We Were Creator Awards in Berlin. And we submitted our garage video how we just made our very first prototype. It was a raspberry pie version, so we ordered the screen on Amazon and we just plugged in all the components together. We could maybe link this video in the show notes. And with this video, we apply it and they got us directly to the finals, like for the final startups to this We Were Creator Awards and in the incubate category. We performed and finally became one of the We Were Creator Awards winners in the incubate category which means now for us to have the whole team one-year free membership at WeWork desks here in Frankfurt. And in addition, we also received a funding from WeWork and this is really our accelerator which helps us to bring the prototype to the next level which is now the frame-player which we produce. This one we showed them to the Kickstarter community in June of this year. So, it was a bit more than a half year later, we work here, and we work very hard together with the community of WeWork. This is very special to really to mention because we needed some support, we needed some development support, we needed some people who had knowledge about import-export China production fulfillment center, and all these people have been here. We met them and with this community together we leveraged their products.
04:29 Joe: That would have just been one of my questions because you can’t just simply produce it in your garage. You can do the prototype but not the mass production. And how did you approach that? I mean first, you gave some thoughts to the Crowd Funding Campaign, Kickstarter and then you gave some thoughts to the production, right? What did you think, how did it work?
04:51 Dimitri: Yes. So, it was pretty clear that we want a solution which is pretty scalable. That means it should be by software also downloadable on other devices. As this is our first product, we very soon will also launch the next product, maybe we’ll talk later about that. And so, we needed a solution which had some operating system which we don’t have to develop from scratch and we found that, and this is what we run here. We had some support from a German engineering company, it’s kind of Porsche for consulting. You might know Seca Engineering, this is a Swiss-based company, but they also have an office here in Frankfurt. And they helped us to find like the right approach how to build a scalable product with the right software where we just install our app on the Framen players. So, this is basically an XXL Android device which is like in the background and on the foreground runs our app. So, this was the very first step to understand if you want to go mass market you need to take components which are mass market. For example, all the CPOs, CPUs, quad cores, flash drive.
06:05 Joe: And get them newly assembled, right?
06:08 Dimitri: Yes. So, like a sample directly currently at that place where iPhones are also assembled like in China and Chintan, this is where our manufacturer is currently producing the first batch. And yeah, they send us all of the time several samples. We reviewed the quality, we made a lot of tests and then finally we decided to take this one as our final product, certified together in two different colors, in a black or white frame, and this product is now sold on Kickstarter. And we funded $100000.00 on Kickstarter. We are very happy to have this strong community now behind us because these are the real early adopters who understand that photography is more than just taking pictures it’s also about enjoying photography.
06:59 Joe: And basically, with this frame, with this product here, you can stream pictures. Can you show us a little bit through the product and get my annoying picture out of here?
07:10 Dimitri: Yes, so very easy. We have an app which is now available for IOS and Android.
07:17 Joe: You’ll find the download link down here with your website and your Linked In page.
07:21 Dimitri: Exactly. So, you can download it. You will find in the app stores two apps; one app is for the smartphone and the other app is for your tablet in case you don’t have a friend player yet if you just want to play around and test it. In the app, you will find an inspirational playlist. So, we created already 100000 playlists on different topics which you can explore here easily. So, let me, for example, get some playlists of people like some portray pictures. And you see here how easy I can stream and change the content because it’s connected over a cloud system. So, it is independently of our Wi-Fi system here, you just need to be connected with the Internet. That means you can super easy just by a swipe change the photography, you can find different playlists, you can even create your own playlist and just by finger tap, you can send a selfie or bring new photography into your room. So, this is basically how the app and the technology work behind. You can go here to any topic. For example, you would like to explore other cities, other travel destinations.
08:33 Joe: Shanghai?
08:34 Dimitri: For example, Shanghai. You are a professional so in my case, I don’t know all of the cities. Let’s make another example. What about this one, you have an idea?
08:43 Joe: Venice?
08:44 Dimitri: Venice. Could be Venice, yes. So, you can just bring…
08:48 Joe: This also qualifies as a geography lesson, right? So, if there’s a teacher out there you can show it.
08:53 Dimitri: I think this is the special thing about photography, it has a message, it has a photojournalist aspect, it could be educational, it could be some inspiration slowed down form, it’s a new category of entertainment.
09:10 Joe: And in geography classes, for example, you could use it to show some pictures and make the students guess which city it is, right?
09:17 Dimitri: Absolutely. So, we have some pre-selected content which is already well known worldwide. Let’s take, for example, maybe these guys here and you see this, for example, is a landscape photo, we show it currently in portray. So, together with this little remote, you can easily adjust it for somebody to hang it on the wall, and then you go and change the orientation. So, it automatically adopts, and you see it in the landscape, so we will ship it also with the 360 swivels on your wall because photography is sometimes vertical sometimes landscape and you can adjust it easily. So, this is what we build now as a product and this is one of our very first devices. The special thing about the frame-player are three things; first, it is a totally different display than you know actually from your T.V. or your iPad or smartphone because this is in lane switch E.P.A.’s display. So, this display is actually used in photography studios, in Hollywood studios for the most authentic visualization of photography. And maybe you see it has no reflection, it has from 180 degrees a very stable angle. I’ll try to show you this in the video maybe you see like it’s almost not changing its quality from any angle, like a real picture, this is the first thing. The 2nd thing, we really care about the aesthetics, for us, it was very important not just to produce a gadget it is a smart home object like a real picture frame. It’s a really huge step forward to how smart gadgets will now merge with our analog world, in our home décor, but also in our business purposes. And that’s why we decided to make it as much appealing as much Scandinavian elegant design as we could. And that’s why it has this very nice very thin Scandinavian frame, you see how thin this frame player is. And one of the most important details I would even say is the motion sensor over here. So, in this version, you see very highlighted. In our final product, it’s almost invisible. This motion sensor recognizes your movement in up to 10 meters in the room. So, you just entered the room by opening the door it’s on like your smartphone, as you know it from the display it goes that fast.
11:59 Joe: And when you’re not there it’s basically saving energy?
12:02 Dimitri: Absolutely, yes.
12:04 Joe: And I think that’s the longest product promotion we ever had on startup radio, but I nevertheless fun and fascinating. So, you’ve been on Kickstarter, what are the three recommendations you would give to everybody out there who wants to do a Kickstarter campaign? What are the top three things you’ve learned?
12:29 Dimitri: First you need to create a community before you start, at least 2 or 3 months before. Create a list of people who are really willing to get your device, so you can do that over Facebook promotions, you can do it over events, you make meetups. So, make really sure you have at least thousands of people subscribe to your mailing list. In our case, we also had some support from real professionals who are every day promoting Kickstarter campaigns. Keep in mind, your campaign is not the only one launching in this year. Every day hundreds of new projects appear on Kickstarter and you need to stand out somehow. So, obviously, you need also to run Facebook ads or some other ads. And like the 3rd thing is which is maybe the most crucial you will pivot your strategy in these 30 days or in this campaign time several times. So, you go in and say I have three types of pledges, how can you support me? But you will see after a couple of weeks the early birds are away, so you need new incentives which don’t compromise the previous one but still are sexier than that what you already offered. And with this, we really went through an emotional up and down over these 30 days, and we managed in the last day even to double the funding amount from 50 K. to 100 K. what we were not even able to collect in the first three weeks. And this is what you should keep in mind, create your community up front. Think about how you want to promote your product and the most important pivot and be flexible, always change and adapt.
14:17 Joe: And what I totally want to add I get very frequently emails. Hi, look my project is on Kickstarter, can you please promote it. First, why should I do that? Talk to the people first. Secondly, they’ll have a schedule. Right now, we’re recording this towards the end of September, it will go live in October, so they are several weeks maybe a month ahead of schedule. So, basically, you need to talk to the people you want to promote or get into the news there and talk to them, get into their schedule. Schedule your campaign not only for you but also for the people who work with you, you’re supposed to work with. And I would assume about 20 percent of the work go in before the campaign and 80 percent of the work is when the campaign is really firing. So basically, many people assume, oh I now did something fancy I put it on Kickstarter and it will work out. No, it won’t.
15:19 Dimitri: No, it will not. So, 20 percent is at least what you have to put up front. I think we could even do more upfront, so we decided six weeks before that we wanted to push that to Kickstarter and like to really do research how Kickstarter works. There are some mechanisms which you should keep in mind, how your ranking will be or the listing of your project. For example, based on how much money you collect per day divided by how many backers you attract per day and then they have some factors of the hype of your product. So, like even the ranking inside of Kickstarter is very important. You may get 50 percent of your backers organically from people who just go on Kickstarter to explore new things, but you need also to care about the other 50 percent which will come through promotion and really spread the word of your project. It’s not just sitting, and I think you really should keep in mind what is the average amount you want to reach. If it’s too high it’s very hard to reach, if its too low people don’t believe that you mean it seriously. Also keep in mind that when you’re making a Kickstarter you definitely need to reach out for P.R. You definitely need to reach out for influence or people who give you this extra leverage which you maybe take again in your landing page so that people see ok, these guys talk about us. And very soon we will also launch our next Kickstarter, soon to become a new product.
16:55 Joe: And you prepared something, you brought something with you.
16:57 Dimitri: Yes.
16: 58 Joe: May I because this looks very… Let me show you here.
17:07 Dimitri: Yes, this is one of our very first prototypes. This is the framing T.V. stick.
17:13 Joe: Yeah.
17:14 Dimitri: So, with the T.V. station…
17:15 Joe: It looks at least like a stick.
17:17 Dimitri: Yes, it is a stick. It is an HDMI stick and we will ship that in a box like this and the sexiness about this stick is you can super easy transform your T.V. to a for the streaming device for all this great photography we have in our platform you can change it. It’s not just a random photo which is like provided by some screensavers, it is exactly the art you want, it is exactly the thing you want to explore, travel or inspire yourself. But also, very special we will do it before Christmas and Christmas is a very good time when people come together. Some of them have been brought in tears. Some of them may be married this year. There are a lot of personal moments you experience in that year.
18:02 Joe: And for you, PRs, keep in mind everybody wants to have something done before Christmas. So basically, I do get approached by like two startups in August and more than 70 in December. So, keep in mind there are other people out there, schedule your work way ahead, be prepared.
18:23 Dimitri: Absolutely
18:24 Joe: Just personal experience.
18:25 Dimitri: Very, and this is right. It even matters which day you launch. So typically, on Saturdays and Sundays, people are off, they’re not sitting in front of P.C.’s. You will see this like you will not get that the much traffic on the weekends compared to normal days. So. like if you want to launch you should do it maybe in the middle of the week.
18:43 Joe: And what also is important especially for our marketing. For example, 50 percent of this will be seen by Americans. So basically, I adjusted my marketing, my campaigns to American holidays, it worked beautifully for me to do advertisement around Labor Day. And if America is your preferred market, make yourself familiar with the habits, make yourself familiar with the public holidays, use them.
19:11 Dimitri: Absolutely. So, on these days when I remember it was for us the 4th of July, Independence Day. On this day it was a very successful day for us. So, keep this in mind and that’s why we launched in November and not in December because a lot of campaigns want now to launch a product. I think the good thing is if you have a community you can approach this community very directly because we offer to all our backers now this very special Kickstarter price that will be below $30.00. And like this is the very special topic, if you have a community go to them, they love you they want to support you.
19:46 Joe: So basically, this stick makes smart T.V. a T.V. like one of your frameup players, is that true?
19:55 Dimitri: Absolutely, yes. So, you can give like for example to your brother, your sister, your parents, grandfather or grandmother. You can give them this stick and super easy they just plug it into their HDMI slot and you can send photos selfies for the playlist or they can do it with their phone.
20:17 Joe: Show a few more pictures of us, I’m not the only one ridiculous here.
20:21 Dimitri: Of course. So, I can show you how easy it is to create a photo place. We took some selfies here. You select them from the camera roll you can even like to edit them, they will come up with great filters very soon and easily at that to a playlist. For example, I made a startup radio playlist here. It will be uploaded right now in just a few seconds.
20:42 Joe: And I assume for every Framen that will be sold in the future there will be a startup radio playlist, right?
20:48 Joe: Absolutely.
20:49 Joe: Absolutely. Guys, you heard him he promised.
20:53 Dimitri: And we really made some very nice guest features, so I was always like wishing that I could just flip over a picture just by a finger slide and this is like the magic moment.
21:02 Joe: This is me again, yeah that’s much better.
21:05 Dimitri: Yeah, this one is much better maybe. So, you can create your own custom playlists here with my pro-founder behind the camera. So, this is a lot of fun how you can share your private moments all over the world on huge screens and this is the difference compared to Instagram and WhatsApp.
21:23 Joe: I actually love that picture that is going to be on our Instagram account.
21:28 Dimitri: Yeah thanks. So, with this stick, you can enable any black screen and turn it into a photo streaming device
21:34 Joe: Yeah, and since we’ve recorded this video end of September it will be launched a few days before your next Kickstarter campaign. So, go down here have a look at the guys and you can find the next Kickstarter campaign.
21:49 Dimitri: And we also offer a very special discount for your guys. I think it makes a lot of sense.
21:54 Joe: Go down here in the show notes and have a look and you’ll find the discount code and the Kickstarter campaign. And when you’re done with your crowdfunding campaign on whatever platform is out there, where do you guys want to go? What do you actually want to do? Because you then have a frame that’s very neat, you do have this T.V. stick and what else is on your To Do list? Like world domination or something.
22:24 Dimitri: Yeah. So, we want to actually make any black screen in the world to be a piece of art or streaming photography device. And therefore, we will launch at the beginning of 2019 our apps also on Apple T.V., Fire T.V. Stick, Android T.V. devices. We also approached all the major T.V. brands to make our app as one of the default photography apps, to make this content stream-able. So, we really want to approach any black screen and especially we want to bring the photographers together with B2B, like restaurants, hotels, bars, offices. These businesses pay a lot for photography and they normally go to stock photography, to marketing agencies, they need to print the content, it’s very inconvenient, it takes a lot of time, it’s not so easy to replace, and we bring directly photographers on the screens of B2Bs.
23:25 Joe: So, that means if you’re a photographer out there who likes to take pictures of cocktails, there would be basically a potential venue for you to sell your pictures. How does it work? Is it like actually selling the picture or is it like streaming and you’re an artist? How would it work?
23:48 Dimitri: So, we start with you just downloading the app. And out of your gallery, you create a playlist and you submit it so that we can review. So, we need a kind of little review like Netflix. And with your content, if it’s great we will directly bring that public to all the people who use our service. So, all the bars and cafes in the world will find your playlist and will be able to stream it. And we will give you the feedback who is watching your photography, this is the first step. The cafes and bars may want to modify a bit. For example, they want to add the price to the cocktail photos or maybe they want to add a logo of their bar on the content. This will be part of the premium subscription and more features and based on the premium subscribers we will start then a revenue split program with the photographers based on your content, how often the world views it, where. So, we are very open to those people who want to make this next step to have a discussion with, just approach us.
24:50 Joe: So, everybody who produces like Smart T.V.’s any type of streaming stick or something like this, they should talk to you?
24:58 Dimitri: Please, very welcome.
25:00 Joe: And since a lot of investors are right now looking at this, are you open to venture capital as well?
25:07 Dimitri: Absolutely. As we have now proven our concept on the Kickstarter campaign, we now open our equity round, it’s our sequence right now. Yeah, you can directly approach us, we talked to the first investors and we want to close the round within the next three to six months. So, we are also very open to international as we work as one of our first supporting company invested in our company so you’re very open and very welcome to talk to us.
25:35 Joe: Great. Best of luck with it.
25:37 Dimitri: Thank you very much.
25:42 Host: That’s all folks. Find more news, streams, events, and interviews at www.startuprad.io. Remember sharing is caring.