As Grant headed off to exhibit his unique mini-farthing at the world’s largest gadget show, Concentrate talked to him about what it took to launch the world’s smallest and lightest electric folding bicycle in September 2009 – the YikeBike.
It may not be surprising to learn that bicycles are the most common form of transport in the world – more so the fact more than 25 million electric bikes were sold worldwide during 2009 alone.
As folding bikes also begin to take off in congested cities, Grant saw an ideal opportunity for the introduction of a high-end lightweight model. Originally inspired by the Segway, the inventor in Grant loved the idea, but wondered how he could achieve the same concept more efficiently. “The Segway is 45kg – to try and move someone around on that seemed like technology overkill. I started thinking about how to design something that would move people around, but be dramatically smaller and lighter”.
From very early on in the development stage, Grant enlisted the help of outside engineers, legal, web development, marketing and promotional experts to help support and position the YikeBike for launch.
As his fifth technology start-up, Grant says one thing that appealed to him about the YikeBike concept was the uniqueness of the product. “It’s not like a piece of equipment you design and it sits in a manufacturing facility or factory and no one ever sees or uses it. It’s something that’s out in the public and as soon as people see it they talk about it and other people use it and it will potentially snowball”.
Grant has developed a list of no less than 100 other ideas he could potentially work on and says choosing a project that has a plan of getting people to know about it and buy it is an inherent part of determining whether or not it’s worth doing. “It’s not only about how fun the product will be and the impact it could have, but how you would go about selling and marketing it”.
He says purposely taking a “tongue in cheek” approach with the YikeBike blog has paid off, and regularly enters into conversations with fascinated fans from all over the world. “One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is that the biggest risk of corporate communications is that it can often be so boring no one reads it. We’ve certainly had feedback from our blog and newsletters that people find them intelligent, engaging and humorous”.
Grant’s advice for budding Kiwi technology entrepreneurs is to think about the sales and marketing side of your products much as you do about the actual product itself. “I see a lot of people with great product ideas and capabilities that don’t think about the sales and marketing side of things. It really pays to think about how you are going to sell and promote it, who you’ll sell it to and how you’ll stand out amongst others who are all trying to vie for attention – all of the things that can sometimes seem mundane”.
With orders lining up from around the world, Grant’s focus is on getting the YikeBike to market around the middle of 2010. The company has just returned from exhibiting at The Gadget Show Live in Birmingham and has recently been featured on Discovery channel.