Stories from Steve: The HD1 device
In 2005, I was working with my brother Matt. We had incorporated Surface Productions Limited, had a number of clients, and were going to work every day in a building that was shared with an insurance company, a property management company, and some ladies who worked for some government department.
I came back from a long film shoot at Otago University, videoing important people in suits saying important stuff. There were two camera operators on site that day and I distinctly recall having just under six hours of film footage.
When I got in the door, I sat my brother down in the meeting room immediately and proceeded to explain to him how a device that was much like an iPod could be used to plug into the DV port of any film camera, which could then seamlessly capture the video onto a hard drive – ready for immediate editing and without needing DV tapes.
I drew him a diagram and then, the next day wrote a business plan on the concept – calling it the ‘HD1 Device’, and began finding out whether it would work or not. The idea could be demonstrated through our laptops, and it seemed to have a reasonable market.
We invited the CEO of the local business incubator in for a demonstration and to review our business plan. He responded by saying, “This is only a $4,000,000 idea. You need to think bigger. I am not interested.”, and we replied by saying, “That is what we need, to get our business rolling; a few million dollars.”
The CEO shut us down. He said he didn’t want to hear about it again. The problem is, we believed him! We thought that he must know something, and that we needed a bigger idea. But actually, his background was in developing technological devices and we falsely assumed that he was an ideal person to involve in the project.
A few years later we discovered that the technology company that the incubator CEO had bragged about being a leader and major shareholder in did not actually appreciate him, and that he only had minor shares.
When we had asked him to help us to get shareholders and make contacts to build a prototype, what he was doing was covering up his own shame instead of acting in the best interests of the idea. We should have taken this HD1 Device business plan to somebody else and tried to make it work!
An American company actually patented a very similar device to our proposed HD1 Device concept just a few years after we did. They commercialised it, and we don’t know how much they made, but we do know that the device worked!
THE LESSON: When your intuition and experience drives you to invent something that solves a major problem in a niche market, take it to several people, and walk in boldness. Follow through and give it a shot!