[Interview] Narrative’s Martin Källström “Get the product out the door quickly, at low cost and iterate from there”

May 20, 2015
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For hardware startups, reconciling design perfection and speed to market can be a real challenge. Narrative, the  who launched just three years ago and are now a recognized leader in wearable cameras and intelligent photo analysis, understand firsthand how critical mastering this trade-off can be.

Fresh-off closing a $8 million Series B, Swedish startup Narrative has experienced the full-range ups and downs of getting hardware to market, which has helped them immensely as they’ve developed and released via pre-order the newest version of their wearable camera, the Clip 2. In advance of his talk at the Connected Conference next week, we caught up with CEO Martin Källström to get his reflections on how they’ve dealt with the product design and commercialization challenge.

How does Narrative find a comfortable middle ground between the design idea and product costs (engineering, design, production, etc)?

This is an issue you always struggle with when you’re a brand new startup building your very first product. Even more so when building hardware. Back when we started conceptualizing around the Narrative Clip in 2012, we applied a Lean Startup methodology to quickly and at as low costs as possible get to the perfect design for a wearable camera. And we did this with users deeply integrated in the process.

We first started iterating with testers over concept ideas, then over 3D printed prototypes, then over working prototypes and then finally, in early 2014, we had the first version of the Narrative Clip on the market. Now, a year later and thousands of people using the Narrative Clip every day, we’ve been able to make a huge step forward in terms of engineering and design and launch the Narrative Clip 2. This second generation is in a sense yet another iteration loop on the first generation. Moving from an idea to this second generation in three years has only been possible thanks to a constant connection with our users.

What did you (Martin and team) learn between the first and second versions of the Narrative Clip in terms of addressing challenges and avoiding pitfalls?

One of the personal goals with starting Narrative was to learn new things. And let’s just say we’ve accomplished that! The first version of a startup’s hardware is bound to be associated with a lot of struggles. You don’t have funding to purchase the latest components, you don’t have reputation to get access to the best suppliers, you don’t have users who can tell you how your product is actually being used in real life. When building the first generation Narrative Clip we had none of that. When building the Narrative Clip 2 we have it all. And on top of that, lots of experience in production, distribution, sales and marketing. To give three examples: get the minimum viable product right (I think we did that), watch out for running out of stock if demand exceeds production (we struggled there) and love your early users because Karma pays back (we do love our users!).

Having successfully developed, launched and commercialized Narrative, what words of advice would you give new hardware startups (particularly in terms of product design and production)?

Don’t overthink it – hardware is hard and expensive but also much like any other startup: get the product out the door quickly and at low cost and iterate from there. Just make sure you get the foundation right in terms of production and fulfillment partners, sufficient funding and a team that pulls together. Believe it and it will happen.