“Despite what some people tend to write about Narrative, we’ve never really had a problem with the market,” explains Björn Wesén. “We couldn’t produce to meet the demand, so we don’t really know where the market cap is for our product. We feel like the product didn’t really get a chance to come out. It’s very frustrating to build something and then you can’t put it in the hands of people who want it.”
It’s late in Sweden where Narrative’s CTO is when we finally hop on the phone. It’s been a long day, the Pope was in town, and not too long before, the company he co-founded in 2012 got a last minute reprieve. A day before it was scheduled to shut down its service for good, the startup sent a note to customers stating,
After a lot of work and negotiations, all assets in Narrative, digital and physical, have been acquired by a group of people from the team of the former company. We have put years of our lives into Narrative and we’re committed to not seeing all the value we have created go away.
“We had to forcibly downsize the company around May to around 12 [employees], when we couldn’t attract further financing,” Wesén explains. “Those 12 people kept on during the summer, and a subset of those people, including me, teamed up when the bankruptcy became a reality to try to see if we could save as much of the company as we could.”
The number of employees backing the new Narrative has been halved from that last total, down to six, including Wesén and CEO Martin Källström, who reformed the company in attempt to support the company’s existing user base and attempt to resurrect its hardware.
I’ll be the first to admit that I still have my doubts about the viability of the company outside a small but devoted audience – or for that matter, how much demand there is for such lifelogging hardware in an era in which we’re all walking around with multiple cameras on our person at a given time.
For his part, the executive says the company shipped 40,000 units of the Narrative 1 and 2 combined, though the latter was stalled when the company ran out of money, with only pre-order units getting delivered.
Those devices went out just as the company was forced to downsize. Wesén believes that the company was, in part, a casualty of investment pressures that required the company to grow too fast at too high a risk. In its new form, Narrative will look to recoup its costs by charging for its cloud service while looking for new manufacturing partners to restart production on the Narrative Clip 2 – and help the company expand further into version 3 of the product, along with a professional version.
“We had a lot of business that wanted to use our product, but we’ve been extremely focused on the consumer focus,” the executive explains, citing delivery and other services looking at Narrative as a potential body cam-style device. “B2B customers tend to provide a much more stable revenue and I think we will look a bit more closely.”
But again, he’s getting ahead of himself. The first step is assuring the transfer of the servers holding Narrative customers’ data, then the return of the Clip 2 – then, if all goes well, a potential pro device or a Narrative Clip 3. “All in all,“ he says, “we’re going a bit slower and [with] a bit less risk to stabilize the company and growing from there.”