Video 19 May

Catch up with our progress this month as we continue our journey towards shipping the Hammerhead One. Laurence and the rest of the team are working hard and having a great time riding around New York City.

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Hammerhead: April Update

21 Apr

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Hello all,

It’s been just over a month since the R/GA Accelerator’s second and final Demo Day. Following three and a half months of non-stop activity, with 15-hour days, daily pitch practices, and a seemingly endless stream of meetings, the Accelerator drew to a triumphant close. 

Check out our April Update Video here:

Given some time to reflect, we are more conscious than ever of just how privileged we were to take part in this program. The level of work we completed this winter – not just in amount, but in quality as well – is staggering, and would not have been possible without the assistance, guidance, and enthusiasm of the mentors and friends we gained along the way.

There’s not enough space (or mental bandwidth) here to name all of those who lent their time and efforts to Hammerhead. But there are a handful of key individuals who’ve had and will continue to have an impact on the Hammerhead product, brand, and company who bear mentioning by name. First, there are our lead mentors, Nick Coronges, Jeremy Shure, and Brad Feld. Nick has been hugely helpful in our app development, and we look forward to working and riding with him over the rest of this year. Jeremy’s energy and advice proved invaluable in the development of our pitch. And Brad did us the great favor of not only advising us, but also introducing us at both Demo Days.

The adventure of going to Boulder to film this video with him is probably worth its own blog post someday:

Probably the greatest surprise of the program was the partnership that formed between our outfit and R/GA’s Ray Sison. Ray and his wonderful designers, Sojin and Jenny, worked with us to discover the core of the Hammerhead brand, and put in countless hours of their own time helping us bring it to life. A great thanks also to Ryan Tandy, Pon Kattera, Wade Convay, and the rest of the R/GA Services Team.

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We’d also like to thank Tyler Nappy (far right in the above photo) for all the time he put in with us at the Accelerator. Tyler (Dr. Nappy as he’s known around these parts) gave freely of his time, worked hard, and was tremendous fun to have in our crew.

Now we find ourselves in the weighty, enviable position of being able to chart our own course once again. The great value of the Accelerator was learning to keep focus amidst the chaos. As the chaos has subsided somewhat, we’re excited to apply this focus to every corner of our company.

The Accelerator may be over, but our partnership with R/GA will continue, as will the friendships we’ve forged with our fellow teams.

Until next time,

Piet & the Hammerhead Team

The R/GA Techstars Accelerator Demo Day

15 Mar

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Friends of Hammerhead,

What an adventure. Texas was incredible! We’ve just returned to New York and the RGA offices from what was a deeply meaningful and unique trip for us all. Demo Day could not have gone better, and all the long hours of hard work that Piet and Jon put into the pitch and presentation culminated in a seamless and beautiful delivery. This event was the finale of the whole Accelerator program and all nine companies presented extremely well. We were proud to share the stage with them. Of course, Jon was there with camera in hand and has put together a great short video of the day’s events. You can watch it here:

Demo Day took place on a rainy Saturday evening and brought about 400 attendees. Before and after the pitch, reporters and investors had the opportunity to speak to each of the companies in person and look at displays and prototypes. As you know, we decided as a company to bring our full team to Texas to share this significant milestone together, and the extra manpower proved to be indispensable in handling all the interest from the large crowd that formed around the Hammerhead display.  

Afterwards, almost every team was represented at the Omni Hotel pool, sharing in good times until a very late night became a very early morning. Never have so many people tried to fit into a single hot tub. As we made the most of the last moments of this incredible journey together, it was difficult not to reflect on what a wild experience the R/GA Accelerator has been.

Our adventure to SXSW closed as it began – with a lengthy road trip in what’s become known as the Hammerbus, our 12-seater rental van. Returning through the dramatic landscapes of the Southwest with the satisfaction and confidence of having successfully executed our goals was extremely memorable. After one final night in New Orleans, we said goodbye to the South and returned home. There is a growing sense that one chapter of our journey as a company is over. We are excited to the tackle the challenges that the next will bring and look forward to sharing the experience with you.

Until next time,

The Hammerhead Team

The Journey to Texas

6 Mar

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Hello all,

Our adventure is in full swing, and we have completed the first leg of our trip – an extremely memorable journey from the Big Easy across to central Texas. We are comfortably settled into our hotel in Austin now and ready to tackle the next few days. Check out Mr. Strauss’ glorious video of our adventure here:

Our journey began with our departure from the RGA offices in New York. We flew to New Orleans, and arrived just in time to see the final moments of Mardi Gras. We  departed early the next morning with a team of ten guys, a bunch of gear and several pristine Hammerhead prototypes crammed into a 12 seater van. We rolled through the swamps of Louisiana covered in their Spanish moss, and then finally into the crisp dry Texas spring air, auspiciously arriving on what turned out to be the eve of the 164thanniversary of the Battle of the Alamo. With all of our stops we turned an eight-hour drive into a twelve-hour adventure – it was one for the ages!

Austin is awesome, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be here the great state of Texas, ready to make some history ourselves with the world’s first effective bicycle navigation solution. All the 9 RGA/Techstars teams are staying in one hotel and the anticipation and excitement for the days ahead is palpable. Piet and Jon will be extremely busy and will spend the next two days leading up to Saturday’s Demo Day tuning up the final version of our pitch and practicing to deliver it perfectly, while the rest of the team takes a few free moments to explore Austin. We will be sure to share our adventures here with you as they continue to unfold.

Until next time,

The Hammerhead team

Hammerhead – Onwards to SXSW and a little backstory

3 Mar

The weeks are flying by with barely a moment to take a breath, and we’re about ready to ship off tomorrow evening for our big Demo Day at SxSW in Austin, Texas. Piet and Jon have been practicing non-stop for what we’re confident is going to be an awesome presentation – and we’re thrilled to be sharing the stage with our friends and associates from the 8 other incredible R/GA Techstars Accelerator companies.

With this trip, our time here at the Accelerator draws to a close. This represents the end of another challenging but immensely rewarding chapter of our journey. Although we are looking forward to a day or two of catching up on our sleep, we find ourselves reflecting on all the progress we have made here over the last 4 months. We not only forged ahead with our product, but have created a group of friends here and can say with confidence that the hardware startup tribe of NYC is fired up and ready for a good summer!

In this spirit of reflection we thought it would be an appropriate time to share a video of the first leg of our ride together as a team. In June of last year we pooled our resources and moved into a one bedroom apartment to focus on nothing but Hammerhead. Check out the video of our journey:

As with any significant endeavor we have faced significant trials but our commitment to this product and to each other have held constant. We love working together, and we can’t wait for this upcoming summer, with its promise of bikes, sunshine, and good times spent with the people who have supported us thus far.

We have a grand adventure ahead of us this week as we travel across the United States with our whole team – and we’re looking forward to bringing all of you along for the ride with us, with  blog posts, email updates and video. Be sure to keep an eye on our twitter page, as we’ll be updating it constantly. For our team, this journey to Austin is symbolic of the physical transition ahead as we say goodbye to R/GA and Techstars and grow to new heights as a company.

Well, Austin awaits! We can’t wait to share this next week’s excitement with you!

Until next time,


The Hammerhead Team

Laurence on Manufacturing

14 Feb

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Manufacturing.

A word with two feet in the past and a hand pointed firmly towards the future.

To me,  “manufacturing” conjures images of outdated industries and bygone eras as freely as it does iPhones and tablets. In the fast-paced, blink-and-you-miss it world of today, where tech startups can go from 0 to 100,000 users in a day, the monolithic, meticulous process of manufacturing feels wildly out of place.

At Hammerhead, and in this rapidly-expanding universe of connected devices, manufacturing is necessary to bring our product to you. We’re creating a physical tool to be used by many thousands of people. Yet for many companies in our position, the very mention of the word manufacturing sparks fears of complication and feelings of stress. Why? Because in the vast ocean of opportunity and possibility of the tech startup industry, manufacturing is a steel anvil. In skilled hands, this anvil can be used to forge effective, beautiful products. Make a mistake, though, and it can drag you straight to the briny deep. When we hit our crowdfunding goal with Hammerhead, setting ourselves on a course to manufacture thousands of devices, one might say we tied that anvil to our legs and tossed it overboard.

It is precisely this thinking that makes so many startups steer clear of manufacturing altogether. Software is something that can be released to the world in phases. When a company releases an app, they are able to continue working on it long after its initial release. That process is approachable, low overhead, and allows for great creativity and flexibility. With hardware, something that will one day sit on a shelf (or, in our case, on your handlebars), you have to get it right the first time. There is no room for error. No chance to push out an update on that feature that doesn’t work the way you thought it would. Hardware – cue cliche – is hard. And it is doubly hard when the ‘first time’, is your first time.

Stories abound of crowdfunded hardware startups whose inexperience with manufacturing led to substantial delays and inferior products. Then there’s the lurking fear that even if everything goes well your product may be irrelevant by the time it is released. Now,that is a heartbreaking outcome. The lag time between ideation and execution with hardware is so terrifically long that it is often years before someone will use the brilliant tool you’ve dreamed up. With Hammerhead, we knew at the outset that going the hardware route was going to present massive challenges. So we applied an ancient, oft-ignored strategy – one passed down from generation to generation in my family. We asked for help.

A challenge we initially faced was gaining access to experienced product developers. Having an idea and building it in your garage, setting those first LED’s alight, is getting easier thanks to 3D printing, Arduino’s and off-the-shelf bluetooth modules from places like SparkfunAdafruitPoluluSeedstudioInventables and the mighty Grainger. However, there is a distinct chasm between this and the experience of a plastics engineer or the oversight of an electronics engineer with a history of successful products. At our infancy we were fortunate to have incredible mentors with decades of experience in the manufacturing world. It is important to realize that as a hardware startup, we are in the minority of the startup community. There is a vast network of mentors and helpers out there just waiting to be activated. I encourage all hardware hopefuls to seek these people out early and communicate with them often!

For all these reasons and more, we feel extremely fortunate to be part of the inaugural class of the R/GA Techstars Hardware Accelerator program. By guiding us towards the right questions, linking us with experienced advisors to model our costs correctly and challenging our assumptions about tooling and component selection, the team at R/GA Techstars has helped us take Hammerhead to the next level. Quite honestly, with the expertise and help we have access to here, manufacturing has transformed in my mind from an anvil to a balloon, carrying us skywards away from what we thought was possible.  

We’re still worried about getting it right the first time, of course. But I’m pretty sure the folks at Apple, Samsung and the like are worried about that, too.

That’s all for now – we’re in a sprint to get new prototypes ready!

Laurence

Laurence on Cyclist-Centric Mapping

17 Jan

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Hello all,

A good deal of the social side of our app is based around our belief that people want to share their favorite routes to get around, to train, and to avoid traffic. This all comes down to mapping, and our ability to communicate the complexities of maps in a way that is simple, elegant, and – above all else – relevant to cyclists.

First, before you do anything else – before you check your email, before you get up to walk your dog, even before you think of the health and safety of your family (okay, maybe not this one) – check out this map of crowdsourced bike knowledge from the New York Times. To me, it is absolutely incredible – and not just because of what we are trying to build at Hammerhead Navigation. I find it so awesome because it shows just how dedicated, practical, caring, and enthusiastic the biking community is. We look out for each other – we love looking out for each other. Telling our friends about rides they should try out or avoid, gear they should get, or just that they should get off their butts and ride. I seldom turn down the opportunity to research a bicycle purchase or gear recommendation for a friend. In fact, most of the time I spend far too long on this task and end up with an essay of opinion.

What makes me excited about this in the context of our company is that there isn’t yet a way to practically tap this deep well of crowdsourced enthusiasm – this somewhat tribal knowledge that seems to smolder around messenger bags, old chains and within those helmet clad heads.  What if you could access the data from this map as you rode around your city? What if you could trust our device to get you to where you wanted to go in the safest and most efficient way? Using these crowdsourced data points, the Hammerhead could quickly guide riders safely and efficiently around common obstacles – both long and short term. For instance, if there is a particularly troublesome cobblestone street, the Hammerhead could just always avoid that avenue if the rider had that in her preferences. Or, more immediately, if there is construction that blocks off a bike lane, or the President is in town and traffic is a snarl – riders could actually help the community at large by flagging these issues.

Sure, this is pretty pie-in-the-sky, but it is is absolutely possible with a little ingenuity on the app side. Unsurprisingly, this is a primary goal of ours. We are already building our app to rapidly respond to changes on the fly. From there, we just have to give cyclists a reliable, robust platform for inputting these variables. It is a challenge we are excited to tackle. That is why we are always looking outward in this process, turning over stones and old piles of punctured inner tubes. If we enable riders to flag hazards (or even things they really like!), we can not only build a deep & global database of great routes, but also ensure that these routes are founded on and filled with data relevant to all cyclists. The implications of this are incredibly exciting to us – both within the context of our business, and as cyclists.

Lots of work to be done so let’s get back to it!

Laurence

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