Self Made: Lucas Buick and Ryan Dorshorst, founders of Hipstamatic
Hipstamatic was the first retro camera app to take the iPhone by storm. Arriving on the iTunes App Store late in 2009, it successfully caught the digital version of a photographic wave started by the likes of the film-based Lomography brand. Less than a year later and Hipstamatic had more than 1.4 million downloads, making it one of the top all-time paid for iPhone apps of the day.
Two years later and the company behind it has added the darkroom-in-your-pocket app that is Swakolabs and Incredibooth, the digital passport photo for your phone. Perhaps the real money-maker though is the Hipstamart web service with which people can turn their retro files into real world prints.
So, how did two kids from the University of Wisconsin start a business that would take iOS, photography and even Playboy magazine by storm? As part of the Self Made series on Pocket-lint, we asked Hipstamatic founders Lucas Buick and Ryan Dorshorst our same six questions to get a snapshot.
What are you doing right now?
Lucas: I'm making amazing products with the most passionate, creative and awesome team - all of whom are my friends and inspire me on a daily basis.
Ryan: I'm working on products that empower people to take more beautiful images and share them with the people they love and care about.
What were you doing 12 years ago?
Lucas: I was in photo class developing a roll of film of my future wife that would result in a conversation with my instructor about shooting porn and the future of my photographic career. The shoot was in my bedroom and included duct tape, a magic marker, a fully clothed 18-year-old woman, and an ice cream cone. I'm not sure where he was going with the conversation, but I never ended up shooting for Playboy. However, awesome photographers have used Hipstamatic for features in that publication, and I have seen full blogs dedicated to naked Hipstamatic shots.
What were you doing 17 years ago?
Lucas: I was kissing girls in the hockey rink after practice thinking I was going to be the next Gretzky. After all, practice makes perfect.
Ryan: Seventeen years ago I was at the ripe young age of 12, and about to become a teenager the upcoming November. I was probably playing Myst on my parents' old Macintosh LC II (with external 4X CD-ROM drive – sweet!). I also played a lot of Nintendo and built a lot of Lego sets. Basically I was a nerd-in-training.
What were you doing 21 years ago?
Lucas: I was locking myself in the basement with a pad of paper and Canadian rap star Snow on the boom box while trying to draw motorcycles. Later in life I would discover I wasn't an illustrator nor could I race motorcycles without breaking bones.
Ryan: Wow...well in 1991 I was only nine years old. At the time, I think I was living in upstate New York, so I remember spending a lot of time in the woods with neighbourhood friends and biking around the neighbourhood. I think the current computer in the house was a Mac Plus, and my only memory of it was drawing stuff with MacPaint and playing some sort of maze game called "A-Maze-ing!". We only lived there for about a year and a half, but I remember it being very similar to Wisconsin (where I spent most of the rest of my childhood).
What were you doing 30 years ago?
Lucas: I vaguely remember a stork talking about pickles and wrapping me up in a blanket. It's all a bit foggy, but I'm guessing it was likely epic. And for whatever reason I hate pickles today, especially Vlasic.
Ryan: Thirty years ago I was busy incubating in my mother's womb, about three months away from being born.
What is your defining moment in your life?
Lucas: I've always been drawn to rainy days. I can remember rainy days in my kindergarten class staring out the window. I can remember rain coming down as I skated on the ice in early spring.
I also remember it raining while sitting in my shared high-rise office at 22 when I realised that I could never be an employee and that my entire life I had been told that I could be anything I wanted. It struck me that the most successful people in life were changing the world by following their passion, and that those people were likely no smarter than the rest of us. I also got an email from Ryan talking about doughnut, signs, and starting a design studio together.
Ryan: I think the critical decision I made in my life, without a doubt, was when I decided to go to school for design in the summer of 2001 (so about 11 years ago). I had applied to a lot of schools, but my two top candidates were either going to design school in Stevens Point (about 30 minutes south of where I grew up), or going to engineering school in Madison (about 1.5 hours south).
The University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point turned out to be where I would meet my wife, most of the friends I still have today, and my business partner. I was taught by an amazing faculty and spent hours and hours late into the night working with a group of kids who were as hungry for making amazing things as I was. It was competitive, but in a very healthy way. Being in the middle of nowhere, with long cold winters, really has a way of helping you focus your energy on what you're making.