Another Scottish brand Pete ran into at the DMBinS conference was VeloEye, who have developed both a product and a community to back it up.
Pete sat down with the guys at VeloEye to see how their stickers and the commuity around them are doing their bit to help people keep an eye on their beloved cycles.
Who makes up VeloEye and what do they do?
In a nutshell, Veloeye is the brainchild of 2 mad keen cyclists. Myself (Matthew Rice) & Mark Lawson. Our business specialisms echo our very varying biking interests. I am a mountain biker with many years’ experience in product development, marketing & sales. Mark is a roadie and he is the techie of the team. I look after business development, while he deals with all the web and app development.
How did VeloEye come about?
When I bought my first full suss bike and I hadn’t expected it to be so expensive. I knew I would get more for my money second hand but was worried about buying a stolen bike. I immediately had difficulties in getting insurance for it.
I looked into all the available alternatives from ignoring the problem and hoping for the best, to carrying a massive lock around, and not finding a suitable solution, I decided to look into it myself. Mark was managing one of my websites at the time and discovered similar issues with his road bike so he quickly came on board. I then approached the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland with the idea for Veloeye and they encouraged us to take it forward.
What’s your background in cycling?
I am a skier and wanted to find another sport to do with my son. We rented a couple of bikes one day and rode some of the trails at Glentress and that was that. I was addicted! The adrenaline rush from riding a mountain bike was huge and just what I needed to keep me lively and fit. My desire to get out and ride anything from back country to trail centre took over my thoughts and I spent my time thinking about what I would ride next.
What’s your background in bike security?
Getting the cycling bug means I quickly found that I wanted more technical (and expensive!) bikes. With that came issues with insurance. I spoke to a lot of people at trail centres and in our local area and found that the risk of theft was very real – even worse than what I had thought!. I then spent some time with the police to try and understand the processes involved and Veloeye was born.
How did you come about the name?
My wife is French, so Velo was a good start and I liked the idea of something watching over us so an eye seemed logical to me.
Why a sticker and a community, rather than say, high tech bike locks?
Being keen cyclists we feel the community spirit that exists and we wanted to find a way to work it for the benefit of all. There are 5m cyclists in the UK and if we looked out for each other it would be virtually impossible to sell a stolen bike. If there is no market then there will be no theft.
We also build on the fact that visual deterrent is often better than a hidden system. It is widely known that an item on a registration scheme is considerably harder to sell. What was needed was a proactive system and not a system that relied upon the police finding the bike and having the resource and the means to do something about it.
We the cyclists can instantly send an image and the location of the theft to thousands and thousands of cyclists and also tweet shops in the area to warn people of the theft and to keep their eyes open for the bike.
Where is the product made?
We make the system and packaging in the UK.
What did you have to sacrifice to get to this stage?
Apart from sleep? There has been a certain amount of personal investment from Mark and I but the most annoying sacrifice at the moment is that I am riding less due to the increase in work load.
Did you have day jobs that you had to give up?
Mark and I still have our other companies to run but the majority of our day is spent running Veloeye.
Are you working alongside to make ends meet?
Yes, we are not currently at the stage we can dedicate 100% of our time on Veloeye but at the current rate it won’t be far away.
How make or break is the company for you?
We have won a ScotEdge Wildcard award and have also had some funding from SE. With the current uptake from independent retailers and BtoC sales online Veloeye is solid.
Did you have any previous experience in this field and how did it help with VeloEye?
I have spent most of my working life in product development and sales. Although the industries are different a lot of the hurdles are similar. Mark being a technical expert in application and web development faces the same key issues across many industries.
How did you learn what you needed to know to get your own company off the ground and the product in hand?
The Mountain bike centre of Scotland has been a fantastic source of information and support for us. From word go they helped us arrange surveys, focus groups and the opportunity to test products with innovation specialists as well as the biking community. We have been accepted on to the Entrepreneurial spark business accelerator program which has helped us to structure the company and introduced us to other people in a similar or that have been in a similar position. We have also had a huge level of support from Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway and ScotEdge who provided us with a fantastic mentor.
How many prototypes did you have before getting to the finished product?
We tested a large amount of product in various environments before we were happy. The sticker that we settled on is tried and tested across all sorts of industries form the oil & gas to medical so the technology is sound in all kinds of situations.
Beyond the development of prototypes, what form did your testing take?
We have been running the systems on our own bikes for almost 2 years and we both ride all year round. We also have a number of individuals in Scotland who have used and abused the system on our behalf.
Where next for VeloEye? How do you plan to go about getting extra helpers etc. etc.?
With the growth of the Veloeye community we will need to employ staff to help fulfil orders and also to ensure that we continue to gain visibility in the market place. We will remain a Scottish based company and continue to invest back in to our community. We are currently developing a high tech solution for bike theft that will complement the current system. The device will be on bikes in Scotland over the winter and has a few different applications from security to rider safety.
Anybody to thank at this point in the VeloEye journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?
I think Mark and I would certainly like to thank our families and friends for their support. We would like to give a big thank you to the individuals, clubs and bike shops that have adopted Veloeye and who share our passion for the cycling community. It is those individuals feedback that have kept us focused on the long days and at times of doubt. We would also like to thank the organisations who have supported us with funding and advice along the journey.
VeloEye is another guard against bike theft. If you’re worried about your pride and joy, then this is an inexpensive way to deter thieves.
For full details on the VeloEye stickers and the community beyond that, head over to their website, here.
You can check out our main DMBinS conference report here, or check out our other interviews from the event here.