Meet the man who invented the modern selfie stick, he's now a millionaire

Selfie sticks are, depending on who you talk to, either a useful invention well on its way to ubiquity, or an annoying fad that needs to be stopped.

The gadgets have been banned from places like Apple meetings and theme parks, but continue to proliferate on street corners and in Best Buys, throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

Someone is making money off these things, but the question is, who?

One person for sure is Wayne Fromm, a Canadian inventor who considers himself the father of the modern selfie stick. The selfie stick’s genesis is shrouded in conflicting lore, but even Fromm admits he wasn’t the first one to come up with an idea of a camera on a stick. That person, possibly, is Hiroshi Ueda, a engineer for the camera company Minolta who experimented with an early selfie design as far back as the 1980s. But we can’t be completely certain.

Fromm’s claim to being the father of the selfie stick doesn’t rest on being first, but being the one who envisioned the entire scope of the selfie stick. Ueda’s selfie stick was a flop for Minolta in the 80s. “It was meant to be attached to one particular type of camera,” Fromm tells Business Insider.

Original Quik Pod Selfie StickWayne FrommAn early prototype of selfie stick.

“Mine would attach to any camera, or any mobile phone.” And he wanted a selfie stick the could not only hold anything, but could go anywhere. “The original selfie stick was more complex than the ones you see now,” Fromm says. “It had to survive the Arctic. I ran over it with an old Canadian tractor from 1959 with 1,000 pound tires.”

Fromm filed what seems to be the earliest U.S. patent for a selfie stick in 2005, after years of tinkering with things like umbrella technology. It was titled, an “Apparatus for supporting a camera and method for using the apparatus.” Then he brought it to market. Fromm’s version of the selfie stick is called the Quik Pod, and he’s been selling it in one form or another since 2006.

SelfiestickpatGoogleA design drawing from Fromm’s patent application.

But pretty soon after Fromm began producing Quik Pods, he noticed a problem.

He would type his brand name into Alibaba, the “Chinese Amazon,” and be confronted with a sea of knockoffs. And as the selfie craze reached a fever pitch, he began to see them not only in China, but in places like his local Walgreens. He’s even seen knockoffs in the U.S. with promotional photos of his own daughter slapped on them.

In the face of this onslaught of knockoffs, there wasn’t much that Fromm could do. The concept, he realised, wasn’t something he could protect. In fact, even if he could, was it really his right? He hadn’t invented the idea of a camera on a stick — what he’d invented, was the Quik Pod.

Wayne FrommWayne Fromm snaps an early selfie stick shot.

So Fromm doubled down on quality and the high end market. His designs were originally meant to hold up to 28 pounds of DSLR camera, and not shake if you jumped out of an aeroplane with it. He marketed to GoPro, to the emerging product class of “action cameras.” And it worked.

Fromm has sold over a million units of his Quik Pods to date.

Tripod sell sheet4An early selfie stick advertisement.An early ad featuring the Quik Pod.

“My sales have been strong in that industry for a long time,” Fromm says. We are in Best Buy and Target. We are in 42 countries.”

And what about the knockoffs? “They have overproduced in north China,” Fromm says. “I have my sources. Buyers for the major chains, they don’t want this. They will carry them, but it’s not a money maker for anybody.”

He doesn’t want any part of it. He found his niche.

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