Amusement parks are cool. You go for a ride, enjoy yourself, and get a picture at the end of the day that will always remind you how happy you were. Captomatic wants to lead the parks into the digital era and offer new solutions for capturing these great moments. What are they doing? We went to Aleksis Geske, CEO at Captomatic, to find that out.
The story of Captomatic began in Shanghai in 2010, when Cube Systems developed a video-photo system for Aerodium wind tunnel that drew millions of visitors to the Latvia’s pavilion at World Expo. It turned out to be a successful concept, and the team decided not to stop there. They chose to go after rollercoasters, a business that has used the same photo system for 15-20 years without any drastic improvements. With this sweet spot in mind, Captomatic was born.
To be honest, Captomatic has changed since its first day. We used to be a selfie camera for rollercoasters, however, now we are a photo-video provider for the entertainment industry. We focus on digital content – our camera takes 10-15 pictures and 1 video during the ride, then it’s transferred to our server for processing. At the end of the ride, everyone can see the first animated GIF images, which together with videos and photos can afterwards be purchased at the self-service booths.
Our main clients are amusement parks and photo providers. Parks, of course, see the added value - these selfie pictures and videos are free advertisements on social media. They understand that it is important for the visitors to get a personalized content that has a wow and I-want-to-share-it! element that is also a free marketing tool.
However, not everything is easy. Despite the advanced tech, the most difficult work is to convince the end clients to come on board. We are trying to break in the industry. We are still breaking the preconceptions that many parks have about selfie cameras that, in their opinion, do not work. We are fighting to prove them wrong.
If you had to name one skill Captomatic is great at, what would it be?
I will name two. One is innovative technology. Two – marketing knowledge regarding the content selling and client acquisition through digital channels.
Our task is to listen to clients without pretending that we know what product they are after. It is whether the client wants your product or has never heard about you and listens your story about it with a precaution[EA1] . As Captomatic grew bigger, we started receiving e-mails from potential clients who asked if we offered our services to water parks, production factories, zip-lines and hot air balloons. Knowing these needs, we can build sub-products, including a slow motion video for a water slide, a system that would be the first of its kind in the world.
Where do you see Captomatic in 5 years?
Our five-year plan is to work with 50% of the world’s top amusement parks alongside our partners, offering a full technical integration among various camera systems, optimizing the client flow and successfully implementing the self-service systems.
It should be pointed out that, in the recent years, Asia is becoming very active. This is where we see a future potential. For example, the amusement parks in AAE, Turkey, Kazakhstan and other regional countries are slowly integrated in the shopping markets, as the latter wants to be both the shopping and entertainment destination for people. With the competition increasing, Captomatic can be of great benefit to them.
What homework do you do before going to a new market?
The personal connections with other Latvians are the foundation of everything, since they give the valuable first step towards the people we need. There is no option to open the website of the park, check out the contact section and give them a call. It never works. We have always found it best to reach out to and find someone from the company or who can introduce us to someone who knows someone there. This can take a long time, even months, until we finally reach someone about whom we can say – yes, this is the person responsible for the photo system in the park.
Our first market, by the way, was a crossroad to America. Me and the co-founder Ingus Augstkalns went to California and Seattle, drove down the coast and searched for parks. We had 2-3 connections in the first week, and every connection we met led to the next one. My advice to the others – don’t despair if all days are not booked with meetings. The first task is to get the connections, they will take you further. Someone knows someone. Always.
Are there any funny incidents with clients to share?
With clients? I cannot say it surprised us, but we experienced the business reality in America. They let you inside their office only after you’ve signed an NDA. All business trips have always been tough – you go for two weeks, but you need three to recover. You do not have a workday there, you are there 24/7 and you have to sell yourself all the time.
Moreover, there have been times when we have arrived to test out system for the client, but the baggage has been lost by the airline. This is how we’ve learnt to juggle. We know that one bag will be lost, so we get prepared and put the presentation on the second computer too, as well as in the memory stick and the cloud.
What is your advice to Latvian companies that want to expand to foreign markets?
First, you need a sales person. That is mandatory. Go to a client and talk for a dozen of times, because most likely your first ten attempts will not give you the answer as to what the client needs and what the industry is all about.
Second, you need to find three people who have already conquered the foreign market and ask them for a feedback. It does not matter if they are not in the same industry as you, it is your chance to validate the selling material. We have asked for advice because we know we would have only one shot with the client. These people will tell you how to sell, make a show, and how to improve your presentation.
Third, you need to follow your cash flow. If there were no trading missions for Captomatic, there would be no us. We would simply run out of money. Or we would be after the next round of funding.
Last, you need patience. I do not remember who told me this but he compared Latvians to cockroaches. We always survive, no matter how bad it may be. Patience is one of the key things that keeps us going. There is nothing without it. Fast results do not exist. Fast money does not exist. Just work and patience, and a desire to adjust.