Meet Narrative: Evan Nisselson, Investor

Interview with Narrative Investor - Evan Nisselson 1

Location:
Based in NYC but frequently in Europe.

Twitter handle:  
@nisselson

Website:
http://www.ldvlabs.com

What’s your background?
Professional photographer, photo agent, photo editor and then entrepreneur for 18 years with experience working at startups in Silicon Valley, New York City and Europe. I was fortunate to have an early view into Silicon Valley successes, working for the @Home Network in Silicon Valley which went public in 1997. I founded Digital Railroad in 2003, a venture-backed SaaS platform and marketplace for professional photographers which was a roller coaster ride, peaking at ~$3M in recurring revenue until its unfortunate demise during the 2008 economic crisis. We were receiving ten- to twenty-thousand 50mb files daily from over 3,000 individual photographers, 80 agencies and in 80 countries, all before cloud computing — more daily data than Associated Press and Reuters combined. We had a fantastic team but I blame myself for this demise and learned a lot from our achievements and failures. It was then that I decided to help entrepreneurs avoid my mistakes and learn from the things I did well by mentoring entrepreneurs at: 500Startups, Seedcamp, NYSeed, Founders Institute and Techpeaks. And I very much enjoy speaking, moderating and MC-ing at global technology conferences such as LeWeb/Paris, The Next Web/Amsterdam, IDCEE/Ukraine, Pirate Summit/Germany, Techcrunch/Rome, Silicon Valley goes to Lisbon/Portugal, Seedcamp Investor Day and others.

In 2012, I co-founded a $1M fund called LDV Capital to invest in people around the world who leverage technology to entertain, increase efficiency, and solve problems.  We are focused on digital imaging/video technologies from “Capture to Smile,” and B-to-B SaaS companies; technology projects of interest span the whole imaging/video spectrum from wearable cameras, facial recognition, automagic editing software, visual search, imaging enabled commerce, augmented reality, machine vision, robotic imaging and visual sharing.

What’s one thing we should know about you?
“Love the Living of Life” is my goal, and one of my long term documentary photography projects, which can be viewed on my luddite website created in the mid 90’s. I will update that website one day but the old school style is entertaining and I converted the images to ascii text versions so people couldn’t take them.

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What book have you recently finished, or are currently reading?
The books I recently brought with me on vacation: Accelerando by Charles Stross, The Mystic Masseur by V.S. Naipaul, Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, and The Magician King by Lev Grossman.

Favorite non-work-related website:
Anything related to Telemark Skiing!  Watch a Telemark video.

What do you look for when investing in a company?
The most important asset is a team with extensive domain expertise, passion, determination and fire in their eyes to build a valuable business and hopefully improves our world.

What future trends do you see in photography?
A bit of background first. In 1997, we conceived and built the first broadband photography portal at @Home Network called “Making Pictures,” a $3M joint venture with Intel, before the masses knew they were going to make, share and communicate with digital images. In 2003, I gave up making pictures with my film cameras [Nikon F, FM and Rolliflex] for my camera phone when I wrote an article that predicted that camera phones would replace point-shoot cameras. In 2003, Digital Railroad was the first SaaS platform and marketplace to empower professional photographers to manage, market and sell their digital images.

I strongly believe that camera phones and wearable cameras like the Narrative Clip will replace at least 95% of all DSLR cameras and video cameras within 5-10 years. Professional photographers will continue to use DSLR’s, of course, but even they are frequently making pictures with their camera phones which are then published. The whole technology stack for capturing, managing, searching and sharing visual communications will have to be re-invented multiple times in the coming 5-20 years to handle this massive shift of how people will visually communicate. One holy grail will be a contact lens “RetinaCam” and I can’t wait. Blink… I just made a picture of you and shared in real-time.

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Two of my favorite photographers are Henri Cartier-Bresson who coined the “The Decisive Moment” and the visual poet Robert Frank. They focused on capturing decisive moments, and they have inspired me since I started making pictures when I was 13 years-old. However, there are also many visual serendipity moments that are missed throughout our lives, and I don’t enjoy always having my camera in between myself and life’s moments.  In the coming years, a combination of decisive moments and serendipity, e.g. “decisendipity” moments, will be visually captured and create smiles from capture devices on our bodies, in our clothes, our eyes, security devices, via drones, robots and in our hands. These “decisendipity” moments will be a new, valuable and very unique view into our lives.

I have been beta testing the Narrative Clip camera recently and I am thoroughly impressed with the fascinating serendipitous moments that I am capturing with the Narrative Clip.

Evan speaking at Pirate Summit in Germany

Evan wearing the Narrative Clip speaking at Pirate Summit in Germany

Images from Evan’s Narrative Clip

Why is Narrative an attractive investment for you?
I have been tracking the vertical of wearable cameras for years and have tested several for sports. These sports wearable cameras are good but their form factor are not ideal for wearing all of the time. A successful wearable camera needs to marry several critical aspects such as product coolness, ease of use and especially intelligent software that will filter out the best photos from thousands of images captured every day.

Narrative has a strong and passionate entrepreneurial team who understands the need to marry all three critical aspects to build a successful wearable camera business in addition to early market validation from their impressive Kickstarter campaign.

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We are very excited to invest in the Narrative team and to collaborate with them to build tremendous value.

Besides providing capital, what else do you do with the companies you back?
In addition to capital, I focus on investing in teams building businesses in two verticals in which I have extensive domain expertise: Visual Communications and B-to-B SaaS platforms. Our $25-50K investment is valuable, but I frequently hear that entrepreneurs want to leverage my domain knowledge and experience building start-ups.

All entrepreneurs are different and desire different support from me. I frequently become a company adviser, consiglieri and coach for the entrepreneur. I don’t have all of the answers but love working with entrepreneurs on product/market fit, scaling, guerrilla marketing, raising capital, and dealing with roller coaster challenges of growing a startup into a viable business. I always leverage my extensive international network for entrepreneurs which has successfully helped several teams find senior employees, sign big partnerships and raise capital.

We believe there is a tremendous opportunity in investing in the early stages of technology startups in Europe who are leveraging local talent and who will have business demand in the United States. I help them raise capital in the states, open a US office and hire locally by leveraging my network in Silicon Valley, and NYC. Farmeron and Narrative are two examples.

What’s your favorite quote?
“Carpe diem.”

What moment you would like to relive?
I prefer documenting the past but living in the present.