Lumatic Imagery LLC Wins Manufacturing Readiness Grants Scale-Up its Manufacturing Production for PopCamTM
PopCam by Lumatic
Lumatic’s innovative product, PopCam, offers clients instant access to pro headshots, event photos and more with an easy-to-use headshot kiosk. It is a “pro photo booth” that’s mailed directly to the client.
An Indiana University graduate and 21st Century Scholar, Tyler Hromadka earned his living as a professional photographer working with large corporations and small universities responding to their unique photography needs—headshots, events, websites and other HR, marketing and training needs. The relationships he established with those stakeholders taught him about the pain points his clients had, but most importantly, what could be done to solve them.
The idea was initially envisioned as a standalone software solution to bring clients and professional photographers together in a nationwide marketplace. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Lumatic started to work closely with Broad Ripple’s DeveloperTown, which supports local start-ups and established companies with software development. Experts in DeveloperTown helped Tyler refine the idea and evolve it into a software-enabled hardware product that leverages smart technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and cloud computing, to effectively produce crystal clear, professional headshots.
The product, called PopCamTM, packages a high-quality digital camera with AI to automatically light, and capture professional headshots, and then edit them, brightening and whitening eyes, teeth, and skin for natural authentic results. Integrated cloud computing and IoT then distribute and store the finished photographs, making them instantly available to the client. While that may seem a logical evolution, making it happen required both software and hardware development expertise to turn his idea into a real concept.
A $15,000 grant was awarded to Lumatic to scale-up its manufacturing capacity for its PopCamTM product.
Tyler, founder and CEO of Lumatic, worked with DeveloperTown’s starts division, a startup incubator-like program that works with early-stage companies for three or four years, functioning as a co-founder in an equity-for-services arrangement. He said, “DeveloperTown assisted us with important introductions to other services and professionals that could be helpful in our product development journey.” Eventually, the PopCam would reach its second prototype, which meant the product “could capture a high-volume of quality headshots didn’t need the oversight and editing skills of a photographer.” Tyler continued, “Headshots involve more technical challenges than, for example, event photos, so we had to develop integrated software that could lock in all the outside variables so that our clients could effectively use the equipment.”
When Lumatic reached the stage of its third prototype, Tyler and the team were ready to take the product into limited production. But funding for the production of Prototype 3 would rely heavily on Indiana connections. The Indiana Small Business Development Center’s Indiana Technical Assistance Program (INTAP) helped underwrite the product’s “manufacturability” and design. Tyler engaged local ZED Engineering to develop and refine the blueprints. Local venture capital groups also stepped in—Elevate Ventures and Gravity Ventures were among them. “Angels, friends and family were individual investors, too,” Tyler said. “All but one of them were from Indiana.”
Prototype 3 went through several more iterations to make it ready for manufacturing at scale. At that point, Lumatic turned to the Manufacturing Readiness Grants program. Although true startups do not ordinarily qualify for the MRG program, the Lumatic project was eligible because it had already been prototyped, tested and iterated through several versions. It was ready for the final stage: Limited production. The grant money was used to procure essential equipment to manufacture the hardware product, including a 3D printer and tooling and molding equipment.
Lumatic reached the limited production stage through six years of dedication to product development.
“I would never have been able to get to the point of PopCamTM existing right here in my hands without all the entrepreneurship and innovation resources that exist in Indiana,” Tyler emphasized. The infrastructure was not only created to help support established manufacturing companies in Indiana, but entrepreneurial efforts like Lumatic. He also pointed to for-profit entities such as DeveloperTown and venture capitalists, like Gravity Ventures and Elevate Ventures, willing to underwrite promising entrepreneurial ventures. Tyler made special note, too, of State initiatives like the IEDC and ISBC, and non-profit entities such as Conexus Indiana. “I’m a believer in ‘grow where you’re planted’” Tyler said. “This network and connectivity in Indiana are super important.”
“You need to talk to people who are experts at that thing. Focus on trying to identify a need within an industry, determine if it has value, and then go out and see who can help you build it.” Getting expert advice and fractional support when you can is always crucial during the startup journey. For Lumatic, it took all those connections to get to the other side of the river. Tyler lamented, “Our success comes from leveraging multiple resources, connections, stakeholders and support organizations in Indiana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”