This post is part of a series in partnership with Oslo Innovation Week, which takes place October 12-16th in Oslo. The Oslo Innovation Week 2015 program includes over 60 events on Startup, Tech and Creative. The events range from keynote talks to pitching competitions to investor meetings. The events are organized by different event partners and are held at venues across the city of Oslo.

We caught up with Sigurd Gran-Jansen co-founder of Staaker. Staaker is a super-simple-to-use autonomous action sports drone that carries a GoPro. It consists of a tracker that is placed on your wrist and a quadcopter. With the touch of a button, it follows and films you automagically. With the tracker you could also switch modes, and place it exactly where you want it to be in the skies.

How did the idea for Staaker come about? What problems were you trying to solve.

The concept behind Staaker came from some pretty insane skiers who wanted the sickest, slickest, fastest, most indestructible and a super portable drone to auto-follow and film them aka. staaking them down the mountain. They ended up calling him the ultimate super awesome goodvibe movie making bragging machine, of all time (!), and here is the short story behind:

The idea occurred just before Christmas 2012 on Gaustatoppen in Norway. Three friends and I were staying there for two days to shred some powder. The first day the weather was terrible and the avalanche rating was way too high, but we “didn’t go all this way, not to ski”. So we did. Stupid, but fun! Over dinner we started to talk about ways to make it safer/easier for others to find you if you were to be taken by an avalanche. We thought about a big hydrogen balloon attached to you that would rise to the air (hello moon!), or a big ball that would inflate air and cover you so you would roll on the top (not a good idea high up in a mountain for some obvious reasons), or a drone that would follow you and if you were to be taken it would hover above you so other skiers could see where you were.

The next day, the weather had changed. It was clear blue skies and the conditions were perfect! We walked to the top, turned our GoPro’s on and blazed down! Unfortunately the footage ended up not being that good; either the angle was off, or the image was to shaky. I mean, you can do a lot of impressive things with a GoPro, but we are living in a selfie world and a GoPro on the helmet does not make you king of the frame, it only records what you see. #moreofmeplease.

We all thought the same as we were watching the footage: We need to place a camera on our avalanche drone, give him the brain of Einstein, stalking capabilities of a teenage boy on Facebook and some killer Michael Bay skills! 

Staaker was born.

How has the initial prototypes of Staaker changed from what it is now?

Staaker has changed from being a drone that almost got us sued when he crashed into a car, to be a reliable piece of RADness that has experience from hundreds of test hours and delivers “smooth as a baby’s butt”-footage. We have iterated through 7, 8, 9, 10, maybe 11 hardware prototypes (I have no idea anymore) and countless revision of his brain (the code). We have gone from running around on a flat field, to bring him into the deepest and steepest mountains in Norway, only so Staaker will be prepared for what he will encounter when a madman will picking him up in a local store somewhere in the world.

The first version of Staaker was incredible simple compared to what he is today. He was an open body drone without a gimbal (camera stabilization) that would follow a tracker that needed to be connected to a computer. And it was only when the user pushed a button, that the drone updated his new GPS coordinates and came flying towards you. We quickly implemented auto-update of the coordinates and basically we had an auto-follow drone, just a couple of months after we began. And, it was super cool! It sounds easy, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

There is something called the 80/20 rule; 80% of the development is done in 20% of the time, but the last 20% takes 80% of the time. Therefore, getting a drone to follow you is not that hard, getting a drone to follow you in extreme weather and deliver incredible footage every time, that is hard! But you need to take it gradually, start with the easy need-to-have features and do the nice-to-have’s when you have some time to spare (a thing you never have, so just go hard on all the need-to-have’s 😉 ).

What is the most challenging about a hardware startup?

I have done some hardware projects before, but this is my first hardware startup. The difference is that this time we are creating a business of the thing we are making. I have to admit that it scares me. When you are hacking something together in your dorm, you can do whatever you like, you don’t need to care about cost, quality, designing for production, material fatigue, stress from the market, code robustness and the fact that people are going to spend their hard working money on it. You can just do it for the fun of it!

When you are doing a startup, you have to keep all those things in mind, and one of the most challenging aspects may therefore be the extreme focus on the details. For example, Staaker is a quadcopter and for that you need arms that goes from the drone body to the motors: First you have to design a structure, then simulate, don’t simulate – takes too much time, 3d print it, test, didn’t work, repeat, repeat 14 times, take it to the mountain, test, take it back to the mountain, test, works, “seems like we nailed it guys!”, take it back to the mountain, it broke, “:(“, must be stronger, iterate the design, print it, take it back to the mountain, do it ten times, “looks like it works!”, travel back to the lab, look closer at the footage, to shaky, didn’t work, repeat, YES – it works!, “oh shit, that won’t work in production”.

Rethink. Start over.

The devil is in the details, and he bites you over and over. However, he is also the one that forces you to come up with the great solutions. Learn to love the devil and he will reward you with a kick-ass creation and an amazing feeling of achievement! :)

Do you have any advice of lessons learned for young entrepreneurs who are building out a hardware startup?

Work hard, work long hours (I mean – very long hours) and build a team of sacrificers; I call them “fuck yes! I’ll stay until it works”-people. Those are skillful people who are passionate about the technology, the product, the market you are aiming for and who socially get along with each other (don’t hire a geek or a sleek only for his skills, you need to get along, can’t stress this enough)!

That is the team who makes your product insanely great! And you want to make an insanely great product! You really do.

And yeah; when you calculate how long something is going to take, multiply your estimate with PI. Just do it 😉

We at The Makers Nation are focusing our spotlights on the “business of making” so that our audience can see how projects get off the ground. We have three questions we ask as part of this:

1) How are you funded?

Until now we are soft-funded by Innovation Norway, Spark* NTNU, NTNU Discovery (a grant from Norwegian University of Science and Technology), dumpster diving and our own savings.

But there is a spreading rumour in town, whispering we might be further funded by some big guns! #whoreallyknows PAW PAW!

2) What materials/tools do you use in order to manufacture your product?

We use a lot of 3D printing. Our Makerbot is making 24/7. It is super cheap and gives us the ability to do rapid prototyping and testing out new designs and mechanical solutions the same day it is CADed. We also used a lot of Arduino based hardware in the beginning. It is a super tool for hacking your first prototypes together! Arduino <3

This combination of 3D printing and Arduino is perfect for hardware startups, and makes it possible for a small team in a garage to do really cool stuff, fast! And, the best part, you don’t need to be an expert, you only need an idea. Google takes care of the “I am not an expert”-problem. It is pretty easy to get started, and everyone can make something!

3) Have you partnered with any organizations in your city (makerspaces, small-batch manufacturers, schools) that have helped you in your process?

Many subdivisions at NTNU, the university where the startup originates from, have helped us with knowledge and gave us time on the special machinery they have. High-five to you guys! There is a lot of hidden cool machines within an university campus (or spread around in a city for that matter)! The challenge is to gain access to these machines, and my best advice is to find the rebels within the organization, the ones who will give you access to the machines because they think what you are doing is awesome! It isn’t always easy to find them, so when you do, ask him for the directions to the next one.

Follow the birth of Staaker here:

instagram.com/staaker 

facebook.com/staaker

Snapchat: iamstaaker

staaker.com