In case you haven’t heard of the next up-and-coming tech company based in LA, prepare to be blown away by CamFind Inc. Specializing in mobile visual search and image recognition, they aim to deliver only the best solutions and information to customers worldwide.
As an emerging global tech leader, CamFind has a lot of potential to fulfill. Two of their mobile apps, CamFind and TapTapSee, have already been released to great success. Your understanding of the world has never been made easier. Here is Brad Folkens, who co-founded the company with Dominik Mazur, telling the tale of their continued rise.
What were the steps that you took to establish your business?
The first step was surveying the market and determining the market-fit. We had to discover the weaknesses and how to translate that into opportunities. It’s okay if there are competitors, but you have to understand where they stand, their strengths, and their weaknesses, among others.
What type of specialists did you need?
Deep-learning, neural-networks are the state of the art in our space right now. We wanted a self-learning platform that understands images, so we targeted computer vision scientists for our business.
What tools and applications did you use?
We like incorporating as many open-source tools as possible and support other like-minded startups as much as we can. For example, for team communication we use Slack. For iOS deployment, we use Fastlane, Fabric for crash reports, Ruby on Rails for our backend app framework, Amazon AWS for product, GitHub for code repository. The list goes on. We’ve also built in-house tools as well and opened up some to the development community in return.
Did you bootstrap your business or did you get funding elsewhere?
We bootstrapped our previously successful technology company, so we were able to use some of our own capital to start CamFind. We knew that this venture was bigger than the two of us, so we sought after outside investors very early. Many of our first investors came through Angellist, and then once we launched we attracted the remainder by word-of-mouth.
Did you get any help or support from local or online communities?
Since Dominik and I were both new to Los Angeles, neither of us had really socialized in the local scene before we started, and we were just too busy creating the CloudSight image recognition platform in those early days to get out much. It also seems like many of the local tech communities bloomed later, like BuiltInLA, which formed in 2013 after we launched CamFind.
Do you struggle with work-life balance? How is it achieved?
Totally. It’s not uncommon for both of us to work 12-14 hour days for a full week, sometimes two. It’s crucial to fight burnout by taking a break. Small commitments like sleeping early, eating a plant-based diet, and exercising have been very helpful to me. The improvement on my ability to focus, handle stress, and being creative has been amazing.
What are the things you wish you knew when you were just starting out?
Dominik and I don’t regret any decisions we’ve made – we always felt like we made the best choice at the time, and we’ve read a lot to support those decisions. I think my only wish would be to know the people back then that we do now. So much of business is supported through relationships, and it has taken a long time to grow those relationships that we value so much today.
What company culture do you guys have?
We have a very tight-knit team that feels like a small family. We’re really happy about this and it’s taken a long time to cultivate, but it’s completely worth it. There’s a level of trust and understanding that just lends itself automatically to productivity. I think when we feel like we’re a part of something big, like we’re creating something together, it creates an underlying current that makes the ride fun, rewarding, and exciting.
What’s your business management style?
We have no idea. Both Dominik and I are computer science and math majors, not business majors. We hated working for an overreaching, micromanaging “boss” that didn’t trust us, so we just applied the same rules that we would want applied to ourselves. For example, I hate big meetings that suck up everyone’s time, are boring and demotivating, and a tremendous waste of company resources, so we avoid them like the plague. If we can’t trust someone to work, we would rather let them go than create pointless bureaucratic rules that affect everyone else.
What advice did you receive from other entrepreneurs? Was it instrumental to your success?
I read a lot of 37signals’ blog posts and essays in my early business days and it definitely shaped my view of how the next generation of companies should operate. I take a lot of inspiration from those guys – their success speaks for itself. From an entrepreneurial perspective, Dominik and I have both studied Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and other successful, groundbreaking visionaries to emulate how they operate, think, and inspire others. Neither of us blindly follow their examples though – it’s a continuous process of seeing what works and throwing out what doesn’t.
What lessons did you take from your experience in starting a business that you’d like to share to others who also plan on starting their own business?
Everyone has their opinion: advisors, investors, employees, customers. At the end of the day, you’re the entrepreneur with the vision – stick to the vision and don’t be attached to what it looks like to get there. Maybe that means “pivot,” maybe that means doing things differently than you’d like, but the goal is still the same.