First off I have to say that this project was appealing from the get go because I am an avid cyclist and winter time riding with limited daylight hours often presents it’s fair share of challenges and hazards when it comes to being seen on the road. A solution like the Torch bicycle helmet is LONG overdue.
Thanks to the perseverance of entrepreneur and innovator Nathan Wills, A safer solution to night time riding is in development. And thanks to the community at the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, Nathan was able to raise the necessary funds to get the Torch Bicycle Helmet started and in production.
View The Torch Bicycle Helmet Kickstarter Campaign Here
Always fascinated by success stories on Kickstarter due to the site’s ability accelerate innovation by removing barriers such as lengthy fund raising cycles, I asked Nathan to answer a few questions about his process as it relates to product development and his experience on Kickstarter with the Torch.
Q: The Torch is an awesome product, what was your inspiration for creating it?
Nathan: I was inspired to create Torch when I driving home one night. I saw this tiny red light moving back and forth off in the distance in front of me. As I got closer I still couldn’t figure out what it was even though it was directly in front of me. Finally as I approached the intersection at a stop light, I realized it was a motorcycle with small tail lights and the rider was wearing all black. As I looked at the bike and the rider, I realized the rider has more surface area for lights and visibility than the motorcycle did and I thought “what if I could make motorcycle gear with lights integrated into the jacket, helmet etc?” As I developed the design, I decided to start with bicycle gear first, because it has a larger market and was easier and less expensive to develop for a first product.
Q: What were key learning from developing the product that could apply to a broad range of new product development?
Nathan: I think the key things I learned while developing a product that could apply to broad range of products all for one brand is that even though it is best to focus on one product at a time, it can be advantageous to think of what other products you want to develop in the future. This was important for me because I now know the next five products that my company will develop and how the parts that we designed for the first product can be used in future products. This will no doubt same us time and money.
Q: Can you talk about what’s next after the torch? Will it be crowdfunded as well?
Nathan: Well Torch is a brand that will continue to grow for years. I will be working as CEO and Chief of Design at Torch for several years at least. With that said, I am already developing another design idea of mine that will require a lot of time and resources. I will be keeping an eye on Kickstarter and similar forums when the time comes to launch the first product if for no other reason than it acts as a great way for you to introduce an idea to the world, and allow them to spread the word for you and for free.
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of product development as it relates to the Torch?
Nathan: The toughest part of developing this first product has been learning what I don’t know. Although I have a BS in Industrial Design and previous experience in mechanical engineering and prototype production, there are too many aspects to getting a product to market for any one person to know all of them. Fortunately I was aware of this going in and have had no problem asking for help along the way, whether it be from friends or hiring consultants.
Q: What is the most important piece of advice you could give to someone thinking about running a crowdfunding campaign?
Nathan: Over-prepare, have a PR plan outlined before you start it, and most importantly, tell your story! One of the main reasons that people will back a product is because they feel a connection to the creator. They like knowing who is behind the idea and how you got there.
Q: Should I file my patent before prototyping my product or use my prototype to learn the pitfalls and then begin the patent process?
Nathan: I believe the best method for a first-timer would be to file a provisional patent application. This will give you patent pending for one year, does not require art work or specific claims etc. and is only $125 for a small entity. This time and protection will allow you to develop the prototype to production specifics which will then be used to file a regular patent and if you can do that within the provided year, your patent will have the benefit of using the original date from the provisional application.
Have questions for Nathan? You can contact him at his Torch Kickstarter campaign.
Nathan has also set up this site for sales of the helmet.
Cliff and The Patents and Prototypes Team.Tweet