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.