Idea #




August 15, 2018

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Backstory: I've always been fascinated with flipbooks. As a child, I remember flipping a Disney scene of Mickey. Fast forward a few years... I decided to turn that passion into reality.

If you want to preserve a photo, you get it printed. How do you preserve a video? Have it printed as a flipbook.

The Idea: A website where you can upload a 8-30 second video and convert it into a flipbook.

Deep Dive: This is more of a long story but bear with me :)

Turning a video into a set a frames is the easy part but cutting each one perfectly is another story. I used ffmpeg to convert a video into a set of frames. I then set out to find a way to consistently cut paper frames into the same size. I started with 4x6 photos but that proved to be very expensive. I then found business cards cutters (slitter), I purchased this Martin Yale unit. It proved to not cut accurately.

I sold the martin Yale and then purchased another, MBM BC 12up. Slightly more expensive... this was a huge investment on a random idea (I did find one used on ebay for $2300). This allowed me to turn 5 printed pages of 8.5x11" into a 60 frame flipbook.

I purchase the PaperVids domain from someone for $500. I developed a simple php website to upload the video and queue it for background processing.


I built backend software to print the frames in the correct order to come out perfectly when fed into the MBM business card slitter. I built a custom jig to bind the flipbook, I was set. I also purchased a fairly expensive personal photo printer.


All in, I was around $3200. This was more than just a hobby at this point. I showed off the flipbook to friends, mentors and anyone that would listen. Everyone was impressed and was interested in buying one of their own. One common statement from everyone was "patent this."

I now know more about patents than I ever thought possible.

I did a bunch of research and found someone has a patent on a very similar method I used to create my own flipbook, here: Mine was slightly different but not knowing if it was different enough, I proceeded to hire a patent lawyer.

$2000 later, my patent lawyer recommended I contact the patent owner and "chat." He said my method was different enough but proving it in court would cost $40k+ so chatting with the patent owner seemed like a good choice.

After a bit of digging, I contacted the patent owner and explained my idea. He was in the video booth space (similar to photo booths for weddings) and had no interest in online video to flipbooks. He did have a patent and rather than fight it out in court I was willing to give a very small percentage of flipbook sales to validate this idea.

A week later when the contract arrived, he wanted 7% of my entire business. Far from the "small percentage" of flipbooks we mentioned on the phone. I didn't even have a business and he wanted 7% of everything, even if I sold shoelaces. We were unable to reach a reasonable agreement. I was young too, nearly 10 years ago. I gave up :(

Validation: and both exist currently.

Monetization: This is actually the hardest part. Buying everything in bulk, I estimated I would be $1.22 per book all in minus shipping. Shipping is around $2.05. The labor involved in printing, cutting and binding adds up quick. To make a decent margin, charging $7+ for a single book is a hard sell. The target market would be weddings or events where the flipbooks are ordered in bulk.