First Look: If you've ever gone over the handlebars of your bike (or known someone that has) then you will immediately get this product. Bikes are fitted with a front and rear braking system controlled by your right and left hand. But if you need to stop suddenly and you panic, braking with the wrong hand can send you flying over the handlebars into traffic or worse: public embarrassment.
Slidepad Technologies based in Palo Alto has spent the past four years refining a patented system to solve this problem and require only one hand brake for a bike. Co-founder Andrew Ouellet came up with the idea while mountain biking as a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2008. This humble and soft-spoken mechanical engineer, built a heavy and bulky prototype that won Design and Business Plan competitions, but lacked market viability due to the cost and size. It was during one of these product competitions that co-founder Brian Riley saw the product for the first time and wanted to join the team.
One great story about the company's founding is that Andrew learned to machine parts in the student shops at Cal Poly. This led to summer jobs in machine shops which led to requests for machine work while back at school. With orders in hand, he convinced his parents to front him 21 of the $38k needed to buy a machine himself, stuck it in his garage in SLO, and got to work in between classes, nights, and weekends. After cranking for a few months with his machine in the garage at college, he was able to pay his parents back. That's the machine they use today to prototype new designs molds quickly.
Iteration after iteration got them to the slickly designed and lightweight offering they have today. See the head of sales Kyle Jansen describe their four year iteration cycle in the video below:
Last year they really had a breakthrough scoring a contract with Jamis Bicycles to have their brakes featured on several 2013 models releasing in late 2012. A Jamis representative said "having a single shifter and using the Slidepad system for a single brake lever works really well both functionally and aesthetically.” The team also secured about $400k in funding. With it they've been able to partner with a couple brake manufacturers in Taiwan to help with the mass production and attend trade shows to showcase their product. Their CEO Brian Riley is in Taiwan right now trying to ensure their production will run smoothly.
In true #StartupGrind fashion when I arrived at their 2000 SQFT warehouse in Palo Alto last week, they were literally in the process of finishing off new design samples. Melting, molding and assembling the brakes right in their office. You can see the two step process for creating the rubber molds below.
While their brakes are currently only on a few hundred bikes, based on the upcoming order and other deals in the pipeline, they could easily be on 25,000 bikes by 2013 if they can streamline production and get the deals done.
Finally in what is easily the coolest tech feat I've seen in months, Andrew, attempting to show me a demo of their awesome C&C Milling Machine, inserted an 3.5-inch floppy disk into the machine containing the program to cut the rubber. He said he has a box of them in his safe just in case. Probably a good idea since the only place to get one in Silicon Valley is at the Computer History Museum.