There’s probably been quite a few times in your life when you wished you recorded a snippet of a conversation — maybe someone told a funny joke, or you just wanted to remember an idea. Instead of pulling out your smartphone, it would have been easier just to tap a thin, wearable device and save the audio file.
Cincinnatians Matthew Dooley and Mike Sarow have figured out a way to bring this technology to fruition via Kapture, a mic enveloped in wristband hardware that operates on a buffered loop, constantly recording your conversation until you tap the band. Once you tap it, Bluetooth sends the last 60 seconds of audio to a smartphone where the files can be edited, saved and uploaded to social media sites through the phone’s app. It’s not meant to be a discrete recording device, which is one reason the hardware is so visible and colorful.
Realizing how isolating technology has become, the partners are trying to resurrect the novelty of face-to-face communication — you know, actually having a corporal conversation with people instead of hiding behind a phone, listlessly staring at it.
Dooley and Sarow launched a Kickstarter campaign last fall and exceeded their $150,000 goal by raising more than $162,000, which will go toward manufacturing Kapture. If all goes well, Kapture will be released to Kickstarter backers and the world in March.
Currently, Kapture comes in six colors: coral, seafoam green, hot orange, hard yellow, black and white. Part of the gadget’s appeal is the style: Think interchangeable Swatch watchbands and grills, including blinged-out shades like chrome and gold.
“We think it’s really important to be leaning toward the side of, this is an accessory or jewelry versus this is technology,” Sarow says. “Personally, I don’t want to wear a screen on my wrist, but I would wear if it gave me an extra benefit, if it looked cool.” Wearable tech devices (e.g., Google Glass, smartwatches like Pebble) are all the rage in 2014, but Kapture copies a much more simplistic design. There are no buttons, no user-guide — just give it a quick tap and a vibration follows, letting the user know the file was successfully sent to the phone.
“Our app is essentially Instagram for audio,” Sarow says
“And then they have to talk to each other,” Dooley adds.
“They have to be best buds,” Sarow says.
Speaking of buddies, Dooley and Sarow met serendipitously thorough a network of mutual contacts. They struck up an instant bromance, which resulted in Sarow being in Dooley’s wedding. Sarow hails from Kansas and Dooley is a Cincinnati native who lives in Newport, Ky., yet somehow the pair found each other.
“It was a quick friendship, but it started off with common interests in a business sense and I think that has allowed us to have a strong business working relationship, because we’re not lifelong friends,” Sarow says. “We’re not like, ‘I’ve known this guy since elementary school,’ therefore we can take the relationship for granted. It really is more like we dated and then we got married scenario.”
In November 2012, the guys decided to make Kapture a reality. Their successful Kickstarter campaign, which was fully funded in October 2013, demonstrated that other people were greatly interested in a product like Kapture, and it is an achievement that has allowed them to move forward.
Dooley’s background is in social media (he started his own social media agency and teaches social media at Xavier University) and Sarow spent a few years at Procter & Gamble and has a degree in engineering. They’ve both worked on big projects for other people, but nothing of this caliber for themselves.
“Your mind is always on,” Dooley says. “That’s what changes when you go from corporate to start-up. I did it three years ago when I launched the social media agency. There’s no work-life balance. There’s no ‘go home.’ That’s what’s great about it, actually, because if it is that much a part of your life, that means you’re enjoying it.”
They may be relishing the little moments now, but once the product launches it’ll be much different.
“I felt a lot more stress in my former life,” Sarow says. “The decisions aren’t yours. There’s a lot of re-work, there’s a lot of politics. There’s no politics here. There’s no re-work. We make a decision and we move on. It’s high pressure and the risk factor is through the roof. But stress — that word is not the word I use for it anymore. I sleep at night.”
“That could change once people are just slaughtering you everywhere,” Dooley says, bursting Sarow’s happy bubble. “Then it’ll be like, ‘OK, Mike, time to stress out.’”
Right now, there may not be much to stress out about, but there’s a lot to get done before the March target release date. The guys are holed up at Cintrifuse, a hub of other start-up tech companies and a place for the guys to feel a sense of community among other entrepreneurs.
“Any one stumble could delay us,” Sarow says. “Even if we had a delay, we don’t think it would be large because we’re so far along.” They’re doing a lot of quality control and went to CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas to debut their product to thousands of vendors.
“Kapture has come so far,” Sarow says. “It’s a reality. Every discussion we have now is not theoretical; we’re selecting the manufacturer to produce the product; we’re buying the molds that produce the bands; it’s all real.”
“We’re like proud dads that want just the very best for our kid,” Dooley says.
Nine out of 10 start-ups fail, but Dooley and Sarow believe as long as they adhere to their vision, things will work out.
“We need to be about connecting people face to face, making sure they have a tangible benefit from looking someone in the eye and seeing their facial expressions and getting something out of those interactions,” Sarow says.
“The space that we play in is about preserving moments and relationships that matter in people’s lives,” Dooley says. “It’s a lofty vision but it’s one that can sustain the test of time.”
For more information on KAPTURE, visit kaptureaudio.com.