How much work goes on before a Kickstarter? How do you de-risk and develop a physical product? Ros from Carney Women’s Cycling Apparel is in the midst of it.
“An epic women’s cycling apparel brand that would make cyclists more visible and look great on and off the bike.”
First step was searching for materials.
“Several options existed that were visible, but they either weren’t classy (like neon high-viz) or weren’t comfortable (like plastic or rubbery gear you boil inside of). Reflective detailing rubs off after a while, and incorporating lights adds way too much complexity.”
The idea of controlling complexity is interesting. We’ll come back to that in a bit. The breakthrough?
A friend was at a trade fair and discovered a new material that was reflective, breathable and looked epic. Tiny glass fragments shine up like a beacon when reflected in light. The search was over.
This is a great example of a product enabled by a wave of technology. Investors always ask this question: “Why has nobody done your idea already?” The best answer is that they couldn’t, simply because it wasn’t possible before. Paul Graham talks about “living in the future” as a way to get tech startup ideas, since then you’ll see the next wave first.
But even if this material is new, surely other people are working with it. So where’s Carney’s edge?
“One challenge was touch. The stuff being made was all premium men’s apparel. It was technically brilliant, but didn’t feel good when I touched it. It felt scratchy. As a woman, I feel before I buy. I needed Carney’s apparel to be fit for purpose and feel great. In the end we managed to find a very thin technical material which was fleece-like, breathable, and brilliantly reflective.”
Manufacturing is expensive and if it can go wrong, it will. How do you manage scope before you’ve got the supply chain in place?
“I started with the idea of women’s cycling shorts. But as a launch product, the manufacturing cost is high because you have a pad insert and there are so many sizes. All in all, lots of complexity.”
As so often happens, the answer came not through founder-brilliance, but through conversation with potential users.
“Someone suggested arm warmers. It’s a great idea – it’s the first thing a driver sees on the road and if you indicate, your whole arm shines up. Plus, there were only 2 sizes. Lower costs and much less that can go wrong.”
So how do you go from materials-and-idea to product-for-sale?
“Next was CAD drawings (3d renderings) to develop the drawings into an actual product. It took a few long months to receive the prototype, and then we started fitting them on Katie. One lesson learned was that our glass material didn’t agree with standard fabric glues, so we had to switch that up to ensure quality. The final step was product testing. Which of course has to be done outside on a bike. We put in a huge number of hours in the saddle until we got both the performance and comfort perfect.”
I think this is an awesome product and hopefully prevents some collisions (Ros says being hit twice by cars was one of the prompts for creating this product) and I love the way she handled the scope control and search for the right material. There’s another week left on the Kickstarter, so head on over and grab a set of super-reflective arm warmers for yourself or a friend.
Big thanks to Ros (pictured below wearing the upcoming Carney sleeves) for the view behind the scenes.
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