Interviews

How Blaze went about launching that challenging second popular product

7 min read

01 December 2015

After its first product, the Laserlight, went down a storm on Kickstarter and helped propel the business into the cycling limelight, Blaze faced the ominous task of doing it all again. Founder and CEO Emily Brooke told Real Business how the team went about this.

The Laserlight, which fuses a powerful bike light with a laser that projects a bike image onto the road, was the result of a university project undertaken by Brooke while at university. Doing product design at Brighton University, she wanted to address the issue of road safety while cycling – specifically the issue of riders being in blind spots.

Many months of research, trial and error later, Brooke had a product she thought would resonate with the market – now it was just how to make them buy it. Rewards-based crowdfunding platform Kickstarter was the platform of choice, and Blaze managed to do £55,000 worth of advanced sales after setting a target of £25,000.

Three years on from then, it’s time for product number two and another push on Kickstarter. Wanting to complement what was done with the Laserlight, Blaze’s new product is the Burner – a light for the back of a user’s bicycle.

Having been in production since almost around the time of the Laserlight launch, the Burner has 24 LEDS emitting 100 lumen and allows a cyclist can be seen from every angle. A light sensor means it operates automatically in the darkness and has a month of battery life under normal use.

Brooke explained to us that Blaze set out to make the “best” back light it could, but very quickly decided not to use lasers as the threat being addressed with that technology does not come from behind.

Additionally, rather than going for the “crazy innovations” seen on other back lights, such as video cameras or its own app, the most important think for Brooke was performance, visibility and battery life.

When we asked her if it felt like the equivalent of a musician tackling that challenging second album, she laughed and explained that she did feel a bit of pressure.

“The Laserlight attracted headlines because of its USP, but the Burner is a different experience as it has multiple best in field features but not one stand out one,” she added.

“We learned so much from the first product as back then, like any other hardware entrepreneur, I was unrealistic when it came to things like having a supply chain locked down.

“Nowadays, we have the supply chain and packaging sorted, as well as a bigger team, so that takes the edge off of costings and timelines.”

With 17 days to go, the Blaze Burner has already sailed past its target of £35,000 and has banked nearly £80,000 from nearly 1,300 backers.

So why did Blaze go back to Kickstarter if it already had a successful product done and dusted? For Brooke, it was all about the feedback she can get from the crowdfunding platform. At this stage of development in the Burner, the team are able to make multiple changes based on customer comments. With the way it’s built, the Burner is able to emit a number of different modes – so buyers will influence the most popular ones at this stage.

“There will also be voting on another colour, and its also a thank you to our community – letting them have access to it first,” Brooke went on to say.

The community Blaze has assembled in its drive to solve urban cycling problems has extended to users of London’s cycle hire scheme. A special integrated Blaze Laserlight is being trialled by the Santander Cycles scheme.

After a year or so of people telling Brooke her product should be on the so-called “Boris Bikes”, she had an initial conversation with Transport for London (TfL) which didn’t really go anywhere. However, a call later down the road from Serco, the organisation that is responsible for running the cycle scheme, came about after the firm saw the light and made a direct approach.

“It’s been a hard but brilliant year working with the likes of TfL, Serco and Santander,” Brooke added. “This is a completely different product as its powered by a dynamo and only comes on in the darkness.”

The most beneficial part of the partnership with Santander Cycles and Serco has come in the form of extensive research carried out on the product’s impact when it comes to road safety. After 12 weeks of research, which Brooke was “terrifyingly” not allowed to be involved in, a 92-page document was produced showing the dramatic effect a Laserlight can have in making a cyclist more visible.

“There were some unbelievable findings in it, like the fact that it reduces the blindspot with an HGV by 25 per cent,” she excitedly explained.

With her troublesome second album seemingly licked (just look at how much it has raised on Kickstarter) Brooke will not be resting on her laurels and already has many future products in the pipeline. While they would be able to self fund if the business stood still, she clearly won’t be settling for this and will begin a Series A fundraising process fairly soon. And with existing backers such as Index Ventures and the Branson family, there will probably be lots of interested parties queueing up to throw their capital in the ring.