(An editorial update has been posted at the end of this article.)
Memories fade. Unfortunately, so can the media on which we keep them. Old photos and video tapes are the most vulnerable, and once they fade or break or warp, the moments they hold are usually gone.
There are restoration and preservation services, of course. But a lot of people balk at them because of one main design flaw — you have to send your irreplaceable photos and videos out. Reputable services will bring them back unharmed, yes, but there are enough horror stories, true or not, to make a lot of people think twice about shipping their memories to places unknown.
Enter iPreserve. Literally — iPreserve enters your home to record your photos and tapes right there, while you watch. “Every house in America has photographs,” says Vik Manchanda, a 2000 West Windsor-Plainsboro High School graduate who operates the company from his Wessex Drive home.
Most homes have upwards of 4,500 images, especially if there are kids and grandkids. “Imagine a wedding album. Think about that getting on a plane and going off to India.”
Most would rather not. So when Manchanda gets a call he gathers his digital equipment and visits customers who are perfectly content to let him sift through the albums and packets of photos.
And their films. “Eight millimeter film is a big seller,” he says. Long before your cell phone could capture your little girl’s first steps on video, even before VHS tapes could do the same, live-action memories were captured on grainy 8mm film stock. Years later, film in cans becomes brittle entities, typically viewable only with the help off chugging projectors that can tear, shred, or even burn old film stock.
Fear of the hungry projector often keeps old film in cans, unopened for decades, Manchanda says. “People love putting it on DVD.” Often, running it through Manchanda’s equipment is the film’s first showing since many of the grown people in the room were children and teenagers. “They get teary,” he says. They see family that they haven’t seen in years, or footage of themselves at five or six years old.”
iPreserve uses high-speed scanners to collect images and renders them to disc. The company also keeps a copy offsite in case something happens to your recently downsized media. Costs depend on the size of your collection and the media, but typical costs are: 65 cents per photo, $25 per VHS tape, and 30 cents per foot for 8mm film. Manchanda says he would not want to take small orders (say, five photos), “but we’ve never run into that problem.”
Manchanda, who earned a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Rutgers in 2004, went into the business with his frequent entrepreneurial partner, Beau Richards, iPreserve’s technical director. Richards is the one who delves into new technologies and keeps up with trends, while Manchanda focuses more on marketing and promotion. They split the grunt work.
The franchise is headquartered in Provo, Utah, and was founded when CEO Matt Bills visited his grandmother’s house and kept stepping on unfiled photos, Manchanda says. He and Richards, who have tried a few other businesses together in the past six years, liked the idea of putting physical photos onto digital media and saw the market potential that comes from 4,500 images times the millions of households in America.
Manchanda says that despite his degree choice, he has always wanted to be an entrepreneur. His father works for the state and his mother works for Prudential Securities in Newark.
iPreserve’s main market is New York. The sheer number of apartments there — many of which are small and have no good place to store photographs — has led to some impressive jobs, Manchanda says. He recently completed at $6,000 job there for a customer with five kids. It is now looking to drum up some business in the Princeton area, where the housing situation might be different, but the zeal to protect memories is not.
iPreserve, 5319 Wessex Place, Princeton 08540; 609-933-3680. Vik Manchanda, brand manager. Home page: www.ipreserve.com.
Editor’s note: In December, 2011, U.S. 1 received word that Vik Manchanda is no longer associated with this company.