Kickstarting innovation in the bike industry

June 21, 2016

Kimberly Kinchen, business network writer

Image: TiGr Lock

In 2010, John and Jim Loughlin designed a lightweight bike lock that offered all the security of much bulkier locks. Building on their expertise in high-security specialty locks, they pitched their sleek titanium design to established bike lock makers only to be rejected?or flat-out ignored. ?The novel design was just too different and a bit disruptive,? John says.

So, in 2011 the Loughlins turned to Kickstarter to achieve their goal of creating ?elegant bike security??a beautiful lock that was also secure and lightweight. ?At that time Kickstarter was still fairly young but we thought it would be a good platform to validate (or not) our lock design.?

And validate it did: the TiGr Lock campaign attracted almost three times its funding goal. By 2012, TiGr Locks were in regular production.

The Loughlins view Kickstarter as critical to their success, and not only because it confirmed interest in the design itself. The campaign garnered media attention that raised the lock’s profile. And it meant they could refine the product and cement key relationships. ?The high interest provided a meaningful number of units to produce, allowed us to tweak the design for production, and allowed us to develop credibility with both our customers and our vendors,? Loughlin says. In 2015 they returned to Kickstarter with a second campaign to fund their TiGr Lock Mini, which won a 2016 RedDot product design award.

Image: Revolights

Among the many other bike innovations springing from Kickstarter is Revolights. Born of the desire to make a safer bike lighting system, the lighting system was among the top ten most funded Kickstarter projects of 2011—so successful that its creators ending up ditching their day jobs. A wheel-mounted USB-rechargeable LED ring of lights increases side visibility, a design that also ensures theft-resistance when wheels are locked up with the bike. Just two years later, Revolights ran a second successful Kickstarter campaign, then went on to attract an equity investment from Shark Tank veteran Marc Cuban. Today, REI and other retailers carry the lighting system.

One of the more ambitious of bicycle Kickstarters was the Faraday. Originally designed at IDEO in an effort to create the world’s best utility bike, the Faraday got a lot of attention as part of Oregon Manifest’s competition. Its Kickstarter campaign provided broader market validation, raising money and ginning up broader interest in the highly practical and equally stylish bike. The e-bike took only one week to reach its $100,000 goal and ultimately raised $175,000. Faraday shipped their first bike in spring of 2014 and now offers both internally geared and derailleur models. Earlier this year, Faraday returned to Kickstarter to fund the roll out of their step-thru frame model. Even Captain Kirk is a fan.

There are scores of other great bike innovations born from Kickstarter campaigns.

Kickstarter’s David Gallagher points out that, as the Loughlins experienced, “creators on Kickstarter are able to innovate and experiment more easily than the big companies. They can put an idea out there and see if people are interested.”

Crowdfunding, and Kickstarter in particular, promises to keep delivering on innovation. And Gallagher expects we’ll continue to see Kickstarter as a source of innovation for the bike industry. “Bike fans seem to have an appetite for new and interesting gear, and they’ve discovered that Kickstarter is a good place to discover and support it! So they keep coming back.”

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