By @SimonCocking

Interesting interview with Karl Martini @karlmartini commercial photographer, inventor. Boost online conversions with his patent-pending ‘Martini Spin’ technology. Karl @karlmartini 

Your background, how did you get into what you do now?

I was in IT for most of my career. Firstly in the US where I was IT director for a few companies. I returned to Ireland in 2001 and setup an IT maintenance company called Tech On Time and I ran this for many years. I decided I wanted to switch career to photography in 2009 and began a photography degree in Griffith College. I graduated in 2012 and rented our studio in Rathmines two years ago. I realised that the same skill set I would use to fix a server was useful in the studio….particularly with product photography which is just a series of problems to be solved.

The Martini Spin evolved from a job I had to shoot shoes as spins for Dubarry. I thought it would be useful if I could show the sole of the shoe but this was impossible as it was sitting on the turntable. That got me thinking about various engineering thought experiments to solve the issue. I eventually came up with the idea whilst visiting a Tequila distillery in Mexico when I was visiting my future in-laws. I wouldn’t let anyone talk to me for hours and I’ve never wanted to get my hands on a pen and paper as badly! I returned to Ireland a few days later, built the first prototype and had the provisional patent application submitted within a month.

1 min pitch, what is the Martini spin and why is it awesome?

The ‘Martini Spin’ is a photographic technology which enables an online buyer to interact with a product…spinning it on multiple axes so it can be viewed from all angles on any device. This is an almost ‘tactile’ experience, particularly when using a tablet or smartphone. In getting a product as close as possible to holding it in your hand, we have brought more reality to the virtual shopping experience and introduced the next step in how products are marketed online.

These spins are not a CGI rendering like you would see in Solidworks. It looks like the real product because it IS the real product. We use normal professional cameras and standard lighting equipment. Not only does this technology boost online sales through increasing engagement time and buyer confidence but it also reduces returns which is a significant overhead in the e-commerce sector.

What are you excited by at the moment? (Well done on Alpha status for Websummit)

Apart from Alpha, we also got shortlisted for the ESB Spark of Genius award. 15 candidates were selected from a field of nearly 200 to pitch in front of 4 judges at Web Summit HQ this coming Wednesday. Just three will qualify and they will go head to head at the Summit in November. I’ve been working on my presentation all weekend.

How was the last 12 months for you?

Quite exciting. After some initial hesitation by marketing directors to be on the ‘bleeding edge’ of a new technology we gained a few small clients…A US skateboard company called Loaded Longboards and a company called ‘Shurhold’ who make equipment for boat owners. We got our big break when we signed a large snowboard brand called Nitro to shoot all their boots and bindings and a Swiss athletic footwear brand called ‘ON’ to shoot their new line of runners. The last two brands released our spins in the past few weeks so we are looking to capitalise on this.

We also pulled a bit of a PR coup recently by shooting the new ‘Yeezy Boost 350’ trainer as a spin. It was designed by Kanye West and was the most hotly anticipated trainer of the year. The only photographs in existence were those supplied by Adidas or pap shots of celebrities wearing them. The release was at 9am on August 22nd and it started in New Zealand and rolled west with the time zones.

We had to rent a pair from a ‘Sneakerhead’ who had queued for 36 hours outside BT2 on Grafton street to buy a pair. Once he had them in his hands at 9am we rushed them over to our studio in Rathmines and shot them as a Martini Spin. We published it as a spin before they went on sale in New York. Within 60 seconds of announcing it on Twitter we had 300 simultanious visitors on our web site interacting with it. All told the spin was seen over 100,000 times on Twitter and we had thousands of visitors interacting with it on our site that day.

What are you most happy about?

I’m most happy that we’ve created something that can be considered original that has utility value and it’s being validated by clients willing to pay for it.

Anything you would do differently if you could?

We would have gone to more trade fairs. We went to the worlds largest sporting goods trade fair last winter called ISPO Munich. Thats where we met Nitro and ON. I also would also have started using Twitter sooner. The Yeezy project showed us how truly powerful it is.

Where do you hope to be in next 1 – 3 years?

We firstly need to add value to the technology by continuing to be photographers and having leading brands using the Martini Spin. Then we intend to allow outside studios and brands to produce the spins under a franchise/licensing model using our equipment and technology under a franchise/licensing model. We then intend on improving the technology and inventing other photography innovations.

Have you been to the Dublin Web Summit before?

Never. We really need to plan this one. I bought your guide and it’s very useful.

What will you be speaking about when you attend this year / who might it appeal to?

We intend to demo our tech to both investors and new clients and partners.

What tech do you wish was already invented and available to make your life easier?

A self cleaning studio.

Life / work, online / offline, what are your strategies for managing it?

I’m not very good at managing work/life balance and get caught up in activities that keep me in the studio well into the evenings. I live 5 minutes walk from work which is very handy. There’s only the two of us. Myself and Jack Murphy who has been my assistant for the past year so we do everything for ourselves. I spend a lot of time trying to learn new post-processing software and it’s frustrating sometimes when it comes to nothing. I don’t like going to bed and I tend to wake up late as a result. I blame my smartphone and so does my fiancé.

How / where do you create time for yourself to be a dreamer and a thinker?

I don’t think I’d get much sympathy from anyone if I said I need time to ‘dream and think’ but it does help to get away. My holidays are always very short and I usually pack them so full of activities and driving that I don’t have time to think. I usually come up with ideas while walking by myself so I’ll walk to an appointment if it’s not too far and the weather is good. The Grand Canal is a good spot for a walk. I used to ride a motorbike and it’s sitting idle in my house. I should get it back on the road again. Long-distance bike touring on a motorway is boring but good for daydreaming.

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