On a Friday in August, Justin Jensen’s CineSkates had garnered about $77,000 of sales through Internet crowd-funding site Kickstarter.
Later that afternoon, the innovative digital video camera stabilization tool was pushing $100,000. Not bad considering CineSkates had been on sale less than four days and Jensen had set an—admittedly arbitrary—goal of $20,000 to go forward with manufacturing the first run.
Essentially a super-precise set of wheels that attach to a portable tripod to allow for steady, rolling motion, CineSkates are a no-brainer in the rapidly-democratizing and increasingly creative world of semi-pro digital video. They are made by Jensen’s Austin, Texas-based company, Cinetics.
Kickstarter is an online, do-it-yourself funding service that is a favorite among performers and artists. But it has also found a following in inventors and entrepreneurs looking for the seed cash needed to get production underway. Jensen decided to use Kickstarter after talking with inventor Peter Dering, whose Capture Camera Clip System is the second most successful project in Kickstarter’s two-year history.
Jensen is quick to point out how critical his classmates and professors at MIT Sloan were to the product’s development.
“It was really cool to have support from the entire community,” Jensen said. “Essentially, my last semester every class was focused on this company and this product.”
CineSkates were conceived while Jensen filmed video for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Frustrated with the heft of equipment required to record professional-grade shots, he envisioned a portable, easy to execute way to capture steady, moving footage.
“She really guided me through everything I needed to do and made sure I wasn’t missing anything,” he said of Bentley.
Classmates pitched in as well. Miguel Faustino, MBA ’11, was “working with me daily,” Jensen said. “Typical of a Sloan classmate wanting nothing in return and just doing some amazing stuff with the strategy. As I was getting overwhelmed with getting the product finalized, he was getting some of the most important details ironed out, like pricing.”
The pace of development was frantic. During graduation in June, Jensen had to pit stop between commencement exercises and the MIT Sloan reception to pick parts up at the MIT Edgerton Student Machine Shop, where CineSkates were prototyped.
The payoff has been significant. The success on Kickstarter shows immediate demand for the product, but what’s more, Jensen spent the first week of sales fielding calls from online retailers and camera companies wanting to be part of CineSkates’ distribution.
Next up are modifications and accessories. By using Kickstarter, Vimeo, YouTube and other social media as promotional channels, Jensen created a backchannel to talk with customers. Excited CineSkates buyers have been leaving comments with suggested improvements and added features, all of which Jensen will consider as production goes forward.
And of course, as with any growing company, there will be hiring. And fellow MIT Sloan alumni are certainly in Jensen’s mind.
“If only I could convince Miguel not to take his Bain job,” he joked.