Starter Series: Vhoto

Starter Series reviews & interviews

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The Mamalode Starter Series is an exciting opportunity for us to introduce you to some of the amazing people we get to meet. Starting something takes enormous amounts of work, faith, help and community. Every week we'll share another story of starting. So, community of Mamalode, read up, get inspired and check out these wonder-folk.

This Starter Series Interview is with Noah Heller, CEO and Co-Founder and Hugh Crean, Co-Founder and Chairman of Vhoto

Tell us a little bit about your business and how you started it.
Noah: We love to tell the story…The Thinking Cup coffee shop to a feature in Mamalode has been such a fun journey!!!

My co-founder, Hugh Crean and I were sitting in a coffee shop in Boston, brainstorming ideas for a new company. We had been hanging out pretty regularly, ever since I moved to Boston, and coming up with ideas and knocking them down. And then Hugh took out his iPhone. He showed me a video of his little nephew, Dan, hitting a baseball.

It was a pretty typical iPhone video. Maybe 20 seconds. Folks milling around while the kid tees up, and then he hits the ball hard. A really good hit. I look up at Hugh, “So what?” And then he shows me this photo:

“Look at him,” he said, “Eye on the ball, great stance.” I nod. “But here’s the thing, I went through that video, it took me a long time, but I found this shot. And the family was amazed. They thought I was a magician. Everyone wanted this photo.”

He continued, “We all know it’s possible to extract a frame from any video, crop it and share but it’s just not intuitive or easy to most people. The same thing happened six months ago when I pulled a picture of a monkey Mom and baby out of a video—everyone was amazed. I want to try to build an app that automatically pulls the best photos out of video.”

We spent hours talking, drawing on napkins, and thinking about what it would take to make the process easier, more magical. But wheels had started turning in my head. I kept thinking: the video was important, maybe. But the photo. That was the moment. Emotion, detail, everything. The video was condensed into the moment that mattered. The atomic unit. This could be a very big and important business.

Originally, I was going to be an advisor, but soon Hugh and I both realized that my technical background, my deep knowledge and passion for computer vision, and my consumer experience made me the perfect CEO. Since then, we’ve raised capital, added Jay Bartot as CTO, hired a great team and moved the business to Seattle!  

What if we could teach a computer to find the moment that mattered? It’s still early and we have a lot of work to do, but we truly believe Vhoto could revolutionize how we capture the greatest moments in life!

What do your kids think about your job?
Hugh:  My son is only nine months old but I’m blessed to have a big and awesome family. My three brothers and my sister have nine amazing kids between them with ages ranging from 11 to Cole’s cousin who is almost one. My nieces and nephews love Vhoto and have mastered the app to capture awesome shots when playing. A breakthrough moment was when three of my brothers and their kids were hanging at a park in Rhode Island, and we all started showing our “ups” on a dunk hoop. Incredible Vhoto opportunity, and after 20 minutes of everyone lining up to show their stuff, we had to drag the kids (and adults) away. My 42 year young brother had the best shot, but 11 year old Charlie also delivered.

Tell us about a total dad + biz fail?
Hugh: I have one moment missed forever that still eats at me. We were at home and Cole was just starting to crawl (more moving around like a centipede.) Melis' iPhone was closer than mine so I swipped it to quickly get to the iPhone camera and took a quick picture. Cole proceeded to roll over, sit up and giggle. Hilarious and adorable. I wanted a pic of him laughing and the video. If I had used Vhoto instead, Vhoto smile detection technology would have easily grabbed the best shot, and probably 3-5 more awesome pictures. My timing was off by a second and I ended up with a useless picture that did not do the moment justice. Lesson learned over and over again; you’re better to use video and fish with a net instead of a hook (taking a single shot) when it comes to capturing moments, especially with unpredictable kids and pets. Also, saving both the video and the picture(s) is the big payoff.


Vhoto is always my camera—great pics and the video every time.

Share with us a total win (brag away!)
Hugh: So many wins with Vhoto…I’ve literally documented Cole’s entire life almost daily, always capturing amazing shots.  I’ve included some of my favorite shots with a quick blurb below:

Cole started laughing shortly after his 3 month birthday…the video is hilarious.

Cole first bite of mashed bananas on his 5 month birthday…you wouldn't guess it but now he loves bananas.

Mom was away and I was solo to take Cole's 6 month birthday pic…Vhoto nailed it!

My favorite pic of Melis and Cole on the beach in Turks and Caicos.

Our amazing nanny Phoebe took this awesome Vhoto of Cole on a swing last month.

What's your relationship with Mamalode?
Noah: Nan, part of our marketing team, found out about Mamalode after Elke Govertsen presented at Write Doe Bay, a writer's workshop hosted at a resort on Orcas Island in WA last spring. As a mom of two boys, Nan began reading Mamalode and loves what a great resource it is and the caliber of its writing. Hugh and Melis have now discovered it as well!


About the Author

Starter Series

The Starter Series is an ongoing set of interviews that share the stories of anyone who has started a business, non-profit or an interesting project in their field. Are you inspired by someone? Email any suggestions to

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