Hammerhead: Techstars’ Startup Stories

22 Jul

We’re thrilled to have been featured in Techstars’ Startup Stories series. Thanks again to Megan Sweeney and Techstars for making this happen.

Team HH

Hammerhead July Update

20 Jul

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Hello All,

The spirit of adventure is in the air as we take to the streets to test Hammerhead. Check out our new video update here:

These last few weeks have been among the most exciting since the successful close of our crowdfunding campaign last fall. As Piet mentions in the update video, having near-final prototypes in our hands after months and months of work is extremely gratifying. From Julio’s beautiful light patterns and app designs to Aditya’s consistent progress on Hammerhead’s operating system and on to Laurence’s stellar work on the product as a whole, everyone has a great deal to feel good about right now. But our true excitement lies in the journey ahead; these new prototypes represent the beginning of the final phase in Hammerhead’s development.

Putting these new devices through their paces, testing the effectiveness of various visual cues and pushing the limits of Hammerhead’s battery life, we’re living the dream – our dream. The dream that caused us all to sacrifice so much of our time and our effort over the course of the last year and a half. The dream that’s hopefully going to make exploring on a bike easier than ever before. There’s so much to be said for riding with a device that both looks and works like the real deal. We’ve spent plenty of time testing Hammerhead via more humble means, so in many ways this is nothing new. And yet it feels new. This is what we’ve been fighting for and it’s here now. Hell yeah!

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Clearly, we’re psyched, and wanted to share our enthusiasm with you. With that out of the way, there’s plenty more to be done. Piet and Laurence took to the friendly skies this past week and ventured to the mythical land of Las Vegas. They weren’t there for the typical reason one goes to Vegas – although Piet did let on that he gambled $1.00 away (for shame!). The duo are exploring the possibility of completing Hammerhead’s final assembly in the United States, and Las Vegas is rapidly becoming a go-to spot to do just that. The trip was a success, and we’re looking forward to solving the final piece of this manufacturing puzzle in the coming weeks.

The weeks ahead are going to be pretty intense. First, we’re going to receive a new batch of Hammerhead prototypes. These will feature fixes based on our testing with the most recent model. Piet mentioned in the video that we were dealing with some vibration in Hammerhead’s mounting bracket. This is why we test – so you don’t get your long-sought-after Hammerhead in the mail and find it bouncing up and down the minute you hit the road. So, these new units should have that issue resolved, allowing us to tackle further issues – and the cycle repeats itself.

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Second, we’re going to submit a number of units for international certification. From the outset, we’ve envisioned Hammerhead as a global experience. To sell an electronics product like Hammerhead around the world, though, one needs to obtain the proper certifications. These vary from country to country, and Laurence has spent many an hour researching what certifications we need and figuring out how to get them. Needless to say, he’ll be thrilled when this process is over.

Third, we’re going to be moving to a new office. Jon M. has been working tirelessly to find us a new HQ, and we’re all looking forward to having our own space.

Finally, we’re going to ride headlong into a big month of final product testing. We want to catch and resolve as many bugs as we can before we submit Hammerhead for manufacturing. Given time, we’re not taking any chances. Besides, when the equation is more riding equals a better product, it’s a safe bet you’ll find us out on the road.

We have a lot to get done and not a lot of time to do it in. But based on our experience over the past month, it is going to be an immensely satisfying couple of weeks. We’re all thrilled to be here, riding our way through to a great product launch. 

Until next time,

Piet and the Hammerhead Team

 

Hammerhead Weekly Dispatch – July 14, 2014

14 Jul

Hello all,

We’re at the head of another big week here at Hammerhead HQ. Last week saw some serious product testing and continued progress on lining up manufacturing and order fulfillment. We got our new Hammerhead prototypes out on the bike and are thrilled by their performance thus far. After spending so much time refining the shell design and meticulously mapping out the internals, it’s a hell of a time to just get out and ride.

This week, we’re following up on our testing with a series of small design changes and minor tweaks. Laurence is improving the stability of the mount, and Aditya and Julio are continuing their work on the light patterns.

We’re also gearing up for a big move. The R/GA Accelerator has a new program firing up this fall, and that means we need to find a new place to call home. The whole team is excited at the prospect of having a true ‘office’. After six months in an apartment and then a further seven in a communal workspace, we’re eager to have our own space.

We’ll have a big new update coming your way this next weekend – new update video, new product photos, new everything.  Keep an eye out for it!

Thanks for your continued support, and get out and ride this week!

All the best,

Team HH

Hammerhead Weekly Dispatch – July 2, 2014

2 Jul

Hello all,

Remember what we were saying about those production-ready prototypes? The day has arrived! We have our near-final build of Hammerhead One in-hand and will have it on-bike in no time.

Things are really going to be kicking into high gear here as we commence with an exhaustive testing process. There are several benchmarks we’re aiming to achieve with testing – from international certifications to getting the light patterns just right. Prepare yourselves for some great updates. We’ll have a big one for you next week. July is going to be a beautiful, productive month.

Until then,

Happy riding!

Hammerhead Weekly Dispatch (June 27, 2014)

27 Jun

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Hello all,

Today has been a good day. We received two important shipments. First, Hammerhead’s box design. This is the packaging that Hammerhead One will arrive in this fall. We have to keep it under wraps for now, but it is looking awesome. It’s exciting to see all the time we’ve put in with our packaging contacts pay off in a big way.

Second, and probably (ok, totally) more importantly, we have our final electrical boards. We mentioned in our last video update that we have reached the stage of making production ready prototypes. The boards came in today, and all the housing materials are scheduled to arrive on Monday. Once all those components are put together, our production ready prototypes will be born. 

Why is this exciting? It means we’re entering the stage of final testing before manufacturing. There’s plenty of work left to be done, but this is a big milestone. Thank you all for your help along the way towards achieving it!

Hope you found this interesting, and keep an eye out for our next weekly dispatch this following Friday. 

All the best,

Team HH

June Technical Update

9 Jun

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Hello All,

Laurence here. I want to give you all a look into the tech and development process behind Hammerhead One – the chips, circuits, and lights that make our device work. Fire up your soldering irons, it’s time for a technical update.

After many months of work, we’re in the final stretch towards manufacturing. This stretch is stacked with trials, of course – final component selection, international certifications, and board testing make up our daily lives – but it is still a satisfying place to be. Take a look at our new video update below:

Products go through various stages of design before they reach a manufacturable state. Once the vision is set for a product, the path to manufacturing and distribution is hardly a straight line. Anything you buy goes through several (or many more) design iterations as features are developed, tested, and either included or discarded. In the case of a crowd-funded product like Hammerhead, the product development curve has a major inflection point: the campaign.

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Crowdfunding campaigns are interesting beasts. We’re big fans of them, obviously. The fact that guys like us can get an idea funded if we convince people that it can work is pretty inspiring. But the path to proving an idea can work is altogether different than the path towards manufacturing.  Preparing for manufacturing is slow, methodical, compartmentalized work. Campaigning is, well, campaigning. Your focus is on creating a prototype that works and looks nice, not one that is made up of final materials and components, or produced with an eye towards how all those pieces will flow together in the great symphony of final assembly.

The prototypes we built for our campaign were forged from pieces of off-the-shelf electronics and 3D-printed parts. Externally, they were representative of our vision for what Hammerhead would become. Internally, they were a bit of a mess, from an engineering perspective at least. Once the campaign drew to a close – and certainly once we were in the R/GA Accelerator – our focus turned from convincing to building, from ‘how do we make a few of these that work on the road?’ to ‘how do we make 10,000 of these that will reliably work anywhere in the world?’.

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A daunting task, to say the least. We even wrote a blog post earlier this year about how daunting it was. The skill set that leads to success in a crowd funding campaign is not the same skill set that leads to success in manufacturing. So, we sought out some help. Through the R/GA Accelerator, we were able to link up with Tomorrow Lab, a cross-disciplinary team of product designers, engineers, and strategists. Steadily over the last six months, we’ve worked together to refine Hammerhead One and prepare it for manufacturing.

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Now, after drafting, redrafting, and much tinkering, we are confident that we have a manufacturable prototype. For one, we have a production-ready printed circuit board (PCB). The PCB connects and supports all the components (the LED lights, Bluetooth, etc…), and generally serves as the connective tissue of Hammerhead One. Among our final components are an accelerometer and a barometric pressure sensor. These internal circuits (IC’s) augment the data we are able to collect from your rides with bearing and road conditions, while giving you a better sense of your exact altitude changes (accurate to 3 inches). We see these sensors as a way for us to quantify more than just where you have been, adding an additional layer of insight to your rides.

We’re happy to report that Hammerhead One has a Micro-B USB port and can charge off any standard USB port or wall-adaptor. We have designed it to be waterproof against the muddiest / rainiest of rides, and we’re very much looking forward to testing its limits. For added protection and a sleek overall feel, we’ve added a silicone skin to the device’s exterior. Silicone provides excellent protection to Hammerhead’s circuitry while also being resistant to UV, heat cycling and various acids and bases. 

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We also decided to include three front-facing LED’s that serve as the Hammerhead’s headlight (HammerHeadlight?). Neatly tucked into the nose of the device, the headlight can be turned on, set to blink or switched off by a button on the underside of the Hammerhead. 

Julio Radesca and Aditya Bansal have been working closely on all the light patterns for the first release. In essence, they are creating a new visual language – one that needs to be instantly understood the world over (no pressure!). We are covering a range of turn instructions for situations that are faced by the average user riding their bike. Everything from taking the right off-ramp on a path to being notified when you enter your favorite segment will be communicated to you with ease.

Finally, we’ve designed a great clip for mounting Hammerhead on your handlebars. The clip designed to fit on all standard handle-bar sizes, in the reasonable range from 1” (25.4mm) to 1 ¼” (31.8mm). It has a slide-lock with a pressure release clip and will come with an adaptor for the Garmin quarter turn system.

This past week, we put in an order for 10 production-ready prototypes – a momentous occasion for our team. We plan to celebrate how far we’ve come by immediately testing them on the streets of New York City and the surrounding rural areas. We’re so excited for our Hammerhead testing adventures this summer, and can’t wait to share them with you via video updates.

I hope this gave you a sense of how we’re spending our time and look forward to reading your questions and comments!

Until next time,

Laurence

 

A Growing Team

23 May

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Hello All,

After one of the longest winters we’ve ever experienced (with most of our team hailing from South Africa, India, and Brazil, this might not be too surprising), we are so thrilled to be back in sunshine and therefore back out on the bike. The great benefit of working on Hammerhead is that even when we’re having fun, we’re getting work done. Every time we go for a ride, whether on the bustling, tricky streets of NYC or the beautiful, subdued roads of Westchester County, New Jersey, and Connecticut, we’re gathering critical data for Hammerhead. Our next post is going to get into the technical details of Hammerhead’s path to manufacturing. But for now, we want to share some thoughts on growing together as a team.

As we move deeper and deeper into this venture together, into building Hammerhead and shaping the company we’ve built around it, we’re becoming increasingly aware of how we’re evolving as a team. For young startups, every transition in the product development cycle has the potential to create big changes in team dynamics and company culture. Priorities change, roles change, and expectations change constantly.

If you haven’t yet, check out our most recent video update here: 

In the last year, Hammerhead has gone from a vision, to a series of rough prototypes, then to a series of working prototypes, on through a wave of design iterations, finally to where it stands today at a stone’s throw from manufacturing. Unsurprisingly, our team has changed in response to these shifts. We’ve gone from a loose arrangement of friends and acquaintances, to a small team in a one-bedroom apartment, to a company with a growing team, and now to a true enterprise with rules, standards & practices. Even with our tremendous experience in the R/GA Techstars Accelerator, our relationships with extremely knowledgeable mentors, and our engagement in the New York startup community as a whole, there remains no clear path through these transitions.

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Being a hardware startup with both a physical device and an app, the pressure is on. There are thousands of little things that have to happen between now and when Hammerhead One ships to over 35 countries this fall. And once it ships, we have to be ready to provide support to users the world over. We’re in an enviable position, to be sure. We have a great team, dedicated supporters and investors, and an awesome, game-changing product. But the team that handles this release will have to be a well-oiled machine. It will have to be bigger than ours, and even more invested in the satisfaction of its users. Knowing that we’re going to be that team – that we have to be that team to succeed – but not how we’re going to get there is daunting indeed.

What our experience thus far has taught us, though, is that we don’t need to know the path ahead to ride it. As entrepreneurs, we have already accepted that the one constant in this industry is change. We know that to take Hammerhead from a vision to a product on a shelf, our vision has to change, our company has to change, we have to change. To a degree, this has happened already. We’re growing together, and we know it. So, we trust in ourselves – trust that even as the sands shift around our foundations, the bottom will never truly fall out from under us.

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We can head into the next phase with the confidence of knowing that we’re making Hammerhead great both for all of you and for ourselves. Our strength lies in the direct, identifiable connection between who we are and what we’re building. We love biking. It is a passion for some of us, an escape for others. But for our team, it is an identity. And to be building a tool that is making it safer, easier, and more accessible for riders all over the world is incredibly gratifying.

Our team dynamics will change, our individual roles will change. Our culture will probably change, too. But at the end of the day, we’ll still get out on the bike.

Until next time,

Team Hammerhead

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