We had the good fortune of connecting with JR deSouza and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi JR, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I was fortunate that the Outex business started as a passion and a hobby. As photo enthusiasts who grew up around water, camping, surfing, hiking, etc., we wanted a better solution for protecting our cameras during outdoor photography use. I was an Olympic swimmer, and surfed and water-skied in the off seasons. My cousin, Roberto, was an avid hiker and camper. We both enjoyed taking pictures. The water proofing solutions in the market were either too heavy, bulky, and pricy on one end of the spectrum, or cheap with unacceptable results. We set out to combine the best of both worlds. Outex combines professional performance results (optical glass, complete camera & lens functional control, etc), universal design that fits multiple brands, makes, and models with the same housing, and adds no weight or bulk to your gear, making it super travel friendly. All of this at an affordable price. The more people saw our prototypes and experimentation the more they wanted to “buy it”. So the company was born. We began working nights and weekends while our day-jobs allowed and built a business over the years.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
In part due to my previous professional experience, I decided early on to invest in protecting our intellectual property. Outex has a series of patents around key product innovations that reflect our UNIQUE but SIMPLE approach towards solving the problems we had identified. For example, previous, traditional camera housings in the market are big, heavy, and bulky. They confine the user to a specific camera or lens. As a result, they use acrylic optical ports for imaging. Because Outex housings are lightweight and contour the camera itself we are able to offer optical glass ports in all of our products, and better imaging results, at a lighter weight, and a lower cost. It also means it accommodates virtually any brand, make, model camera and lens inside, whether it’s film, DSLR, Mirrorless, or even Medium Format, which also maintains complete functional control. Patents are a complex, expensive, time-consuming process, but we think it’s worth it. Our biggest challenge has been awareness. Once people discover it. they tend to love it. But it’s not a mass market product. It’s different, it’s modular, and therefore complex to explain, advertise, and market. People tend to compare things they don’t understand to things they know. So they often assume Outex is a “bag” because it’s not hard, or that it’s “inferior” because it’s more affordable than a hard case. Even if that’s not the case. Our approach is to keep our messaging simple, relevant, and genuine. And it’s working.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There’s so much to see and do in SoCal it’s hard to go wrong. As a water-man, I would make sure a visit includes some surfing around San Onofre, a kayaking trip along LaJolla Cove, and a boating trip towards Coronado Islands. You have to get some Mexican food in Old Town, and enjoy the site at the Gas Lamp district.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’m grateful for many people in my life that have made me a better person and served as role models. It’s very difficult to single anyone out. But I would not be overstating it to say that my high school swim coach – Gregg Troy – was one of the most influential people in my life. Because I moved to this country on my own at age 15, I had to quickly adapt to learning from other people’s mistakes, as learning from my own may prove too costly. And beyond the obvious reasons, Coach Troy’s impact and influence accompanied me well beyond our few years together. Decades after leaving that team I find myself reflecting on the examples, guidance, things both said and unsaid that have stuck with me over the years and apply to this day. Some of the things I admire the most were his ability to coach the person, rather than the athlete, to remain committed to a vision & plan despite “noise” or “distractions”, and that there’s no substitute for hard work. I’m fortunate to have had so many positive influences on my life; family members, coaches, teachers, and bosses. As a side note, I’m equally grateful for the bosses I hated. Some of those situations proved to demand the most adaptation and personal growth.
JR deSouza Michael Stokes Carlos Souza