Cesar Kuriyama from 1 Second Everyday: Creating the movie of your life
When Cesar Kuriyama was getting ready to take a year off from work, he faced a dilemma: How to document his year in a consistent way that would be easy to revisit later. Out of this problem, he built 1 Second Everyday, an app that allows user to record one second of video every day. We spoke to the 1SE co-founder about his journey building the app, lessons from being an accidental entrepreneur, and his perspective on the promises – and perils – of raising venture capital.
What inspired you to create 1 Second Everyday?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to keep a diary. But I’d write it for a couple days and then fall off the wagon.
That really became a big deal when I was preparing to take a year off of work. I realized, if this was the only year off I ever had, I didn’t want to turn a year older and only vaguely remember it. What could I do to create a habit around journaling and have it be something I could reliably revisit and consume?
It wasn’t about taking more photos. I am someone who goes on trips and takes lots of photos and videos, and then stores it all in a hard drive that I haven’t seen in a decade. I wanted the medium to be short enough to look back on, and so easy to do that I would actually do it.
At that point, the iPhone 5 was out. The iPhone shoots in high-def, and it’s always in my pocket. So I asked myself, “What’s the minimum I need to record to have a visual trigger that reminds me of what I did that day?”
So all that turned into 1 Second Everyday, which is something I intended to do for just a year during my year off of work. After just a couple weeks of having built and used it, the app was having such a positive impact on me that it became my project for life.
Do you have any standout stories about how people have used 1 Second Everyday?
The first thing that comes to mind is that people use it to propose to their partners, to capture their lives together. Over time, the filming has gotten more intricate. A couple of times, the videos were done in secret, so the partner had to capture moments without the significant other becoming aware of it. They could end up recording the relationship for 6-8 months with the other person unaware. There was one instance where the guy was writing his proposal on a piece of paper, 1 word per day – with his girlfriend in the background. It took him a long time to put his video together.
Most recently, one of our customers, Sean Carter, has been using the app to capture raising his son during the pandemic. It’s really powerful, and he publishes a new video every 2-3 months. He’s a movie director, so the videos are beautiful even with the iPhone.
What is your company’s mission?
We help you create the movie of your life. But as we expand, we’re also helping you capture the most important memories of your life.
With 1 Second Everyday, it starts personal and for you. Then it starts expanding out to the most important people in your life, your family unit. That could be as simple as mother, father, and kid. We want to make it easy for families and loved ones to share their memories together.
We want to build a new kind of social platform, a way to share memories without interfering with privacy. We fill in the gaps of everything you wouldn’t want to post on Facebook and Instagram. The only person who should look at these memories is yourself, and a small group of people in your life.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur? Or did it just kind of happen?
For some time, I wrote in my bio that I am an “accidental entrepreneur.” When I started the app, I had to start by Googling, “How do I make an app.” I didn’t seek to build a company. I wanted to build a tool for myself. And then, because what I was doing for myself was having a positive impact, I thought it would also have a positive impact for other people. I wanted to help other people video journal the way I had been doing it. It turned very gradually into a company, but I hadn’t meant for it to be one.
I tend to pick up projects left and right. I see a shiny thing and want to do it. I went to art school, and the art world creates a lot of space to dabble in many things. But they tend to be project-based. You start and you finish.
I thought this app would be like that too, start and finish. I thought I could build an app that captures one second everyday and just walk away. It took awhile for me to realize that you don’t just finish technology. There’s always a bug and a new iOS version and a new feature that people are asking for.
What has been your thinking around raising capital for your app?
In the early days of 2014 and 2015, we tried to raise capital, but couldn’t. We outsourced development, which was a huge red flag for VCs.
As the years went on, I met more founders and learned more about being an entrepreneur. I also learned more about the world of VC. There was this common thread with all of these CEOs and founders I met: Don’t raise capital. Just don’t do it.
Seeing so many people hate it made me question why, which led to having conversations with friends and others who did raise VC. The more I delved into it, the more I realized, if someone’s giving you millions of dollars, the outcome that they’re expecting is a company that gets really big and IPOs, or that you sell the company. Those are the only 2 outcomes. And that’ll come after many raises. You’ll jump through hoops making sure you use every raise within 18 month to hit the next growth target, which raises the next round. Or die trying. And most die trying, or sell for a profit or to clear their debt.
Especially in those early days, I knew we didn’t need to be a fast-growth company. I didn’t want to have to throw everything at the wall to make it work in 18 months. That wasn’t the right long-term move for the app. I would have to risk having the company fail in order to keep the VCs happy or do what they want. There was enough already working that I was like, why risk losing it all when we could just move slower? And have a better quality of life? Instead of killing ourselves for x amount of years to build a huge company and roll the dice to see if maybe everyone gets rich.
What do you think has helped you succeed with 1 Second Everyday?
There are a lot of success stories around founders who build something with a business in mind. They start from the angle of, “I want to build a business” and “What’s a good market?” Many successful businesses are made this way, by doing their homework to find a product-market fit.
For me, I was scratching my own itch. I’d had my frustration with journaling memories my whole life. My app was a solution for me. It only then became a solution for other people. Because I came at it organically, because I was customer #1, there’s no shortage of ideas. The roadmap doesn’t end. The only limitation is prioritization and resources. I am as passionate about the app today as when I started. It ends if I decide to. Otherwise, I have enough files and Evernotes to keep me going for a long time.
I built 1 Second Everyday because I was trying to figure out my memories. In the process, it’s helping other people with theirs. I feel a sense of duty that we build a company that can keep those memories safe for 50 years – and beyond.