Interview with ZEITDICE Founder Michael Schwanzer
By Valerie McCulloch ● April 11, 2016 11:15
ZEITDICE is a time-lapse camera no larger than a cue ball and shaped like a 26-sided dice that can capture up to three months on one charge (or infinitely with a small solar panel).
This portable, wireless and weather-resistant camera was featured on Discovery Channel's Daily Planet and described by host Dan Riskin as the “Go Pro for time lapse, that looks like a Rubix Cube.”
ZEITDICE provides mesmerizing artsy videos and a compelling medium to experience and learn from. (You can see examples of time lapses captured by ZEITDICE here.)
We spoke with Michael Schwanzer, IDEABOOST Network Connect member, CEO and co-founder of ZEITDICE, about the time-lapse camera and the history behind it. Read the full interview below.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
At the age of 14, I realized that it’s very satisfying to create things that make life easier. I was one of the first kids in school who knew how to make websites, so others asked me to help them make websites. It was time-consuming so I built a web service that enabled people to make their own websites without needing my help. It was a service that grew to 50,000 clients. I later sold this first web startup to finance my studies abroad. I learned a lot from that experience - one of the best lessons being the value of solving other people’s problems and turning that solution into a scalable service.
How did you come up with the idea for ZEITDICE?
I just wanted to make an extended time lapse. There wasn't a solution out there, so I started hacking away and built my first prototype using a few electronics I had around - an old ice cream container and duct tape. From that point on, I became completely captivated by the potential of time-lapse photography. It is totally fascinating that this medium can be both artistic and scientific, revealing oddities and patterns that are usually hidden to the naked eye. It’s clear that if time lapse was more accessible, everyone would want to capture, preserve, study and better understand time. Watch the below ZEITDICE product update:
What is the one thing you want audiences to know about your product?
ZEITDICE’s ability to capture long periods of time allows you to document your environment and reveal the secrets of time passing. Change happens slowly, but we provide the perfect tool that compresses time and visualizes patterns very well. This is the first time you will be able to do this over months and years. We’re excited to see all the things people will learn using ZEITDICE, and how they will apply it to make their lives better.
What prompted you to apply for CFC Media Lab’s IDEABOOST Network Connect?
We were excited by the prospect of connecting with the leading storytellers from CFC Media Lab and IDEABOOST startups. We offer the entertainment community a new medium to work with. IDEABOOST mentors, faculty and advisors supported us, especially through the Design Thinking Workshop hosted by Suzanne Stein. The exposure from IDEABOOST Network Connect events and conferences helped us understand our audience better in the tech startup, film and photography market verticals.
What’s the biggest challenge you currently face or have faced in terms of development?
It’s been great getting back to the nuts and bolts of engineering and I love bringing a tangible product to market. As opposed to software, where you can fix bugs and re-deploy within minutes, we’re dealing with hardware challenges that take time to resolve. The development cycles in hardware are fairly long and complex. We’ve had a lot of advance international interest and orders for ZEITDICE. You can see all our product specs as well as our virtual reality application on our website.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting your company?
The earlier you start talking to people about your product, the better it is for your business. In isolation, you might be able to construct a great solution to a problem, but you’ll also end up letting minute details get the best of you. The sooner you start talking to people, the faster you’ll get to the core of what your product needs to be. This approach led me to my co-founder Matt MacDonald. He previously worked in aerospace, innovating new processes and leading the analysis and testing of jet engine designs. I’m glad I started putting myself out there, joined IDEABOOST Network Connect, attended meetups and events early on. Everywhere I went, the ZEITDICE pitch evolved until it was a very easy buy-in for the target group we have.
What’s next for ZEITDICE?
In May 2016, we will ship the first 100 ZEITDICE cameras. After that, we’ll be launching a crowdfunding campaign for the next round of production -- stay tuned!!!
Media-focused tech-based startups: Is your product past the ideation stage? Do you have a working prototype or beta version? IDEABOOST empowers companies that will drive media and entertainment innovation in Canada and across the world! Apply to leverage IDEABOOST’s Network Connect program, and receive expert mentoring from Canada, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and beyond.