2021 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: FotoStax, Cambridge Judge


The University of Cambridge’s Cambridge Judge Business School

Industry: Consumer electronics

Founding Student Name(s): Jonathan McBride, Adam Peterson, Yusuke Enomoto

Brief Description of Solution: FotoStax is developing a device that lets you capture and print moving images and 3D images in instant print format. Currently it takes weeks to create and receive these prints. By introducing this technology into the instant camera and printing industries, we seek to provide individuals and businesses the ability to create these types of images easily and accessibly themselves.

Funding Dollars:

What led you to launch this venture? Instant print cameras, such as polaroid, are flying off the shelves. In 2008, Fujifilm sold 200,000 instant print cameras. In 2019, it sold 900,000 per month.

People want something tangible. In this increasingly digital era, people are craving something real. This desire is being accelerated by a global pandemic. This has forced us all to distance ourselves from one another. However, the pandemic will end, and people are hungrier than ever before for something physical, shareable, and instantaneous.

Hence you have the explosion in popularity of instant print cameras. But there are problems with these cameras. They produce low-resolution images; they don’t allow you to edit your images; and they can only capture a single static moment. Also, these instant print cameras lack automatic updates and upgrades, unlike their phone camera competitors.

We saw the need for a product that lets you instantly capture and print high-quality images yourself; a product that integrates with and updates alongside your phone. A product that would let you not only capture a single moment in time but a moving image, a 3D image, and a flip image with embedded effects – all without any electricity.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? In a very foundational sense, it was forming the team we have. With this team, we were accepted into the Cambridge Accelerate program, ranked as the best final deliverable for the pre-accelerate portion of the program, and won the Santander Accelerate Project Award.

Within the 12-month Cambridge MBA program, we have built prototypes, created MVPs, and learned countless new skills in our journey bringing this vision to life. With this team, we have developed and filed a patent fundamental to our business success.

Creating hardware is hard, but doing it as our team has been explorative, fun, and rewarding.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? First and foremost, the Cambridge MBA enabled me to find highly motivated individuals. They are individuals who are also interested in entrepreneurship, bring a diversity of experience and perspectives, and driven to create and launch something new. As an MBA student at Cambridge Judge and Chair of the CJBS Entrepreneurship Special Interest Group, I connected with a thriving entrepreneurial community and received invaluable coaching from professors, peers, and guest speakers throughout the year at University of Cambridge.

Our Cambridge Judge professors were always accessible, and I am grateful for their tolerance in dealing with our late-night calls and urgent requests for their insight.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? If I have to pick only one, then I have to mention Katherine Danielson, a fellow student and classmate from Cambridge MBA Class of 2020/21. Katherine is drive and perseverance personified. Before joining the Cambridge MBA, she launched an overnight oats company before this product became globally popular. She built the business from the ground up from her kitchen and market stalls, all the way to mass manufacturing and supermarkets. Just as in the case of Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, Katherine wouldn’t wait for permission. Instead, she would go into the supermarkets herself and arrange the shelves to both make sure that her products were displayed prominently, as well as to test different types of packaging.

With FotoStax, we are entering a relatively untapped industry with enormous potential and very large players poised at the gate. Like Katherine’s experience, we have to innovate and iterate quickly without letting bureaucracy impede us. This need to get direct working feedback from our customer base has helped us define our path towards equity crowdfunding and a Kickstarter in the very near future.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? The Entrepreneurship: How to Start a Company class led by Stewart McTavish and Jack Lang was vital for the process of founding FotoStax. This Cambridge MBA course guided us through the process of launching a business, including developing an idea, building a team, creating a company culture, providing legal advice, prototyping, and raising funds.

While this course covered an extensive body of material, the most applicable for my team was on prototyping. In this subset of the material, Stewart and Jack provided the students with a structure through which we could evaluate and test our assumptions of our product, allowing us to iterate more effectively.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Many University of Cambridge and Cambridge Judge Business School professors shaped FotoStax’s progress, including Jaideep Prabhu, Chris Coleridge, Stewart McTavish, and Jack Lang. Simon Stockley, in particular, was a mentor for me since the beginning of the MBA year. He first pushed me to consider the practical challenges of forming a team and to articulate key parts of FotoStax’s value proposition. While Simon was a constant source of nuggets of wisdom, his advice that stuck with me the most was when he said, “By far and away the biggest problem in growing a business is hiring the right people and retaining them. Entrepreneurship is fundamentally all about people.”

This quote exemplified his repeated insistence of not just developing the right team in terms of skills, but also in fit and culture and doing everything you can to make it the best possible match.

At FotoStax we are trying to build a company culture that fosters action and creativity, inclusivity and openness, as well as innovation and a sense of adventure.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? We want to disrupt the stagnant but large instant printing market, where there are only a few players and little to no innovation, yet these companies enjoy revenue in the billions. We would like to update instant printing with new technologies, create practical integrations with phones, and make it more accessible and inviting for everyone to use.

Frankly, we’d like to bring science fiction into reality – can’t say more than that right now!

In the meantime, check out our first product, the FotoStax Motion, coming to Kickstarter soon!

Follow us at FotoStax.com or on Instagram @fotostax_live


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