Cycloramic Before Shark Tank
Bruno Francois had the idea for Cycloramic when he noticed that his phone, lying flat on a table, would move across it. He wondered if he could take advantage of this phenomenon. By making minor tweaks to vibration patterns in his smart phone, he was able to make it spin while balanced on its flat edge. The result was a completely hands-free way to take panoramic photos and videos. The idea was clever, intuitive, and charming. It used functionality already present in smart phones to create an entirely new experience.
As it turned out, simply using the product was a form of viral marketing. Everyone would wonder how a smart phone could “dance”. They would look on with awe, go home, watch the trailer, and purchase the app. In the first week after Cycloramic was launched in 2012, it got over one hundred thousand downloads. Cycloramic and Egos Ventures, the development company, both received widespread critical acclaim, as well as several awards in 2012 and 2013. Steve Wozniak, AKA “The Woz” of Apple fame, personally sent Bruno a video of him using the app, calling it “unexpected, fanciful, and useful all at the same time.”
Bruno’s main problem was his uncertainty and lack of connections. There were a number of potential applications for the Cycloramic, but there were even more potentially viable business models. It wouldn’t be a one dollar download forever. Should he aspire to selling the app to a major social media platform? Would licensing it to hardware companies for bundling be a better decision? The main thing he needed from the sharks was a guiding hand.
Cycloramic During Shark Tank
Bruno entered the tank seeking ninety thousand dollars in exchange for five percent of his company, Cycloramic. He marketed it as a hands-free, tripod-free way to take panoramic photos. Bruno offered a demonstration, where he activated the app and used it to take a panoramic photo of the sharks. At first, they didn’t quite get it. Bruno was using a base for a smooth surface. How did the base work, they wondered? He noticed their confusion and clarified: the phone was spinning on its own. He led another demonstration closer to the sharks, and the mood in the room immediately changed, from confusion and delight. Kevin and Daymond posed for the camera. “I want to buy that!” Daymond exclaimed.
Bruno explained that the app combined a phone’s vibration, gyroscope, and compass to rotate smoothly. It could operate on any smooth surface, without any other accessory. Predictably, Lori was concerned with intellectual property. Bruno assured her that he owned a utility patent. That potential red flag aside, they got into sales. The app was being sold for a dollar, with around six hundred sixty thousand downloads to date, coming out to one hundred seventy-five thousand dollars in profit. By the end of 2013, he hoped to do a million dollars in revenue.
However much they were enchanted by the app, valuation was still a concern. Daymond asked where Cycloramic’s valuation came from. He answered that, as a start-up without prior investment, it was difficult to choose a specific value. However, he assured them that the app was completely unique from anything else on the market. Lori was quick to make an offer. She appreciated his ingenuity and called Cycloramic a “mega-watt hero”. She was willing to offer two hundred thousand dollars for ten percent of the business.
After only three-and-a-half minutes in the tank (which admittedly means much longer in real negotiation time), Bruno already had an offer for a higher valuation than he asked. However, he opted to keep selling the sharks on his product, saying a base for use with any cell phone was in development. Lori appeared confused. Her offer was still on the table, but she threatened to retract it if Bruno fielded any further offers. “You have a bird in the hand…maybe you should take it.” Her strategy of ultimatum as negotiating tactic wasn’t working here: it was a seller’s market. Every other shark was just as interested as she was.
Mark took Bruno’s hesitation as an opportunity. While he respected Lori’s hustle, he thought that familiarity with this type of technology was a critical trait for an investor. While Lori had the means to market and sell the app, Mark had actual experience with similar services. Lori challenged him to cut the talk and make an actual offer for Cycloramic, but Mark wasn’t ready to jump in just yet. He wanted to hear more about Bruno’s vision for the business, since it had so many possibilities. When Bruno said that gaming offered major potential for new product development, Mark noted that he was an investor in a gaming company. As Lori put it, Mark was selling himself.
Before he could get an offer out, Daymond cut in. He beat Lori’s offer by fifty thousand dollars, offering two hundred fifty thousand for 10% of the business. As Bruno contemplated between partnering with Daymond or Mark, Kevin tried his luck. Kevin predicted that Bruno might want to build a spin-off business from this specific technology. In that case, he may not want to give up equity at an early stage. He would need the help to milk this application for everything it was worth to build a platform of related technology in the future.
In signature fashion, Kevin offered a royalty deal, ninety thousand dollars for fifteen percent. Mark disagreed with Kevin’s description of apps and tech companies. Rather than oversaturating the market with a single application, Mark suggested partnering with an investor who would promote current research and development. In a final attempt to appear qualified, Kevin claimed that his experience as a professional photographer would make him a valuable partner.
Sensing a feeding frenzy, Steve wanted in on the action. He asked Lori if she would accept him into her deal. They would match Daymond’s offer, with the added benefit of working with two sharks. Bruno now had two equivalent equity offers on the table and a royalty deal. Evidently considering Kevin’s offer, Bruno asked for his thoughts on applications for Cycloramic. Could it be sold to a hardware company and bundled with their phones? Kevin’s answer equated to “Yeah, sure, whatever you want.” He had suddenly become a yes man, trying to lock in a deal. However, Bruno was looking for a strategic partner to give him specific advice, something only Mark had done so far. “Are you done playing games with these guys?” Mark asked.
Mark offered one million dollars for thirty percent. While he was offering the largest investment and the highest valuation, he was also asking for a big chunk of the company. Daymond escalated things by increasing his offer to three hundred thousand dollars for ten percent. This wouldn’t quite match Mark’s valuation, but Daymond would accept a much smaller amount of equity. Every shark was willing to pay top dollar. Lori framed this as a matter of connections, not money. Steve agreed, claiming that valuable connections in the sports and entertainment industries increased his value. However, Mark flipped this on them. “Ask them to explain how the product works. See if they understand it.” If an investor doesn’t understand a product, she offers no value in an advisory role.
Kevin, recognizing that his royalty deal wasn’t holding water, pulled something else from his bag of tricks. He would invest two hundred thousand dollars for ten percent initially. However, after recouping this initial investment, he would lose five percent equity. This deal was safe for Kevin, in case Cycloramic never picked up steam, but it was a better deal for Bruno if the business was very successful. Steve liked the sound of this. He and Lori matched Kevin’s deal but did him one better by offering two hundred fifty thousand. Daymond made a strange offer of three hundred fifty thousand dollars for twelve percent, responding to the bidding war by decreasing his valuation.
Somehow, Bruno kept track of all of this. Despite offers that nearly doubled the value he proposed for his business, he was still careful. He appreciated Mark’s technical experience and Lori’s history with patents and invention. Would they consider teaming up? Recognizing that they may need each other to get a deal, Mark and Lori eventually accepted this proposition. Before they could settle on a number, Steve spoke up. He understood that he would need a team to hope to make a deal, so he offered to cooperate with Kevin and Daymond, who seemed willing to have him on board.
Before their new relationship could blossom, Mark stole back the attention. Would Bruno take Mark’s previous deal, a million for thirty percent, if he teamed up with Lori? While Bruno was comfortable with this valuation, he wasn’t excited to give up this much equity. Could they cut the deal in half? Mark agreed but slightly lowered the valuation as a result. Five hundred thousand dollars for sixteen-and-a-half percent was the new offer. Steve, Kevin, and Daymond tried to organize a competing offer, but Lori wouldn’t have it. She stood up and raised her voice. “Wait! Stop, stop. We were just about to close.”
Bruno was close to accepting, but he didn’t like Mark’s decrease in Cycloramic’s valuation. Mark was ready to relent, if it meant closing the deal. “Lori, it’s not worth nickel-and-diming.” Bruno was still hesitant, but the deal wasn’t getting any sweeter. “Yes or no? Gotta go,” Mark pressed. At long last, Bruno accepted the deal, fifteen percent for five hundred thousand dollars. The room was divided. While Mark, Lori, and Bruno were excited about the opportunities ahead for Cycloramic, Steve, Daymond, and Kevin weren’t as happy. After losing out, Kevin had some bitter words to offer. “Our deal would’ve been much better for him. He’ll probably sleep on it and start crying.” The only tears I could see were coming from Daymond.
Cycloramic Now In 2023 – After Shark Tank
The deal with Lori and Mark closed successfully. The app also benefited from the “Shark Tank effect”. Within an hour, it had received more than 100,000 downloads. Not only that, but it also landed a number of features online, and with that, it became the top-selling app of the week. And the numbers only continued to climb. By the one-week mark, it had received more than 8.5 million downloads.
Since then, they’ve made the app available for more smartphones. Egos Ventures, the app’s development company, also created a sister app called Selfie 360, which turns the traditional selfie photo into an animated gif.
That’s not all, they also developed an app called Car 360, which allows users to create interactive 360-degree images so that they can showcase their vehicles on the internet. By 2016, they had landed a number of multi-year licensing contracts with different auto marketplace companies.
Then in 2017, they received $3.5 million in funding from a group of investors led by BIP Capital, an Atlanta-based venture capital firm. Mark’s firm also contributed additional funds. That same year, Bruno met Ernie Garcia, the CEO of Carvana, at the Venture Atlanta tech conference, where the latter was a keynote speaker. In fact, he had been hoping to meet him so that he could pitch the app to his company.
And it was a huge success. Ernie ended up loving the app so much that he offered to buy the company altogether. It was later acquired for $22 million in April 2018.
As of 2023, Cycloramic is no longer available on the app store. However, it may actually be a good thing seeing as how many users experienced issues with the app. The same goes for Car 360; it’s no longer available and judging from the number of downloads it had received (100+), it wasn’t very popular. And the reviews it received on the app store reflected that; it only had a 1.8-star rating across 12 reviews. For one thing, many people had complained about it not working despite it being a paid app. It also didn’t come with any instructions, which frustrated many users.
In fact, Egos Ventures as a whole doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Their website is down and their social media pages haven’t been updated since 2014. Given that, it’s probably fair to say that the company has folded.
What is Bruno Francois up to nowadays? According to LinkedIn, he started working at Carvana as an R&D Director after the company was acquired. As far as we can tell, however, he only stayed there for a few years; he later left the company in September 2022. Seeing as how that’s pretty recent, we can only guess that he’s in between jobs.
Thanks Ben. This update was so much better than the pretty much all of the ones by Steven and I genuinely appreciate it.
It was a failure from the start 99% of the people have cases on their phone which don’t let the phone stay up balanced as most cases have rounded edges. I don’t know how these sharks didn’t see that.
Great idea, but doesn’t the vibration effect the sharpness of the photo? And what about the fact that most phones have cases? And I see that this only works on older phones, and it only works on certain flat surfaces which makes this practically useless for folks on the go. Not sure why the Sharks on Shark Tank didn’t think to ask these questions. I just checked the Apple store and this app gets horrible reviews.
Truly one of the most impressive displays of a product I’ve seen on the show. What a slam dunk. Before the episode was over I predicted 10 million downloads for this app a year later. Seeing it move on the table in that manner…. you don’t see magic like that often.