On the up · 5 December 2017

The Orb: Cycling near misses inspired entrepreneur to get creative

The Orb cycle light
The humble water bottle is being redesigned to help with safety

After close calls on the bike saw Andrew Phillips grit his teeth every time a car came near, the budding entrepreneur designed The Orb to solve a big urban cycling issue – side collisions.

The urban cycling market has witnessed an explosion of innovation in the last few years, with the likes of Blaze, BeeLine and HipLok all setting up shop. One of the latest entrants, The Orb, takes the form of an illuminated water bottle that aims to make side lighting as important as that in the front and rear within ten years.

Having set up a crowdfunding campaign on rewards-based platform Kickstarter, Phillips sat down with Business Advice to explain his inspiration, what protection he’s putting place for the idea and The Orb approach to manufacturing.

Please tell us a little about your business?

Andrew Philips The OrbI set up Blockhaus cycles as a vehicle to develop and fund The Orb. We are named after the Blockhaus climb in Italy, where Eddy Mercxx came from nowhere to win in 1967. He never looked back and became one of cycling’s all time greats. He did it through a mix of hard work and flair, and that’s what I want Blockhaus Cycles to be about.

How have you funded its development to date?

I recently left my job as a civil servant to concentrate on the business. All of my wages were funnelled straight into The Orb.

What kind of protection do you have for your idea?

I have a patent pending, which will cover the way the light is diffused through the bottle.

Has protection process been simple? Is it expensive?

The patent process has actually been cheaper and simpler than I expected. It has also been interesting realising that the process is not black and white. Intellectual property is always open to debate and interpretation – as the recent battles between Apple, Google, and Samsung illustrate.

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Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 16.19.48

 

Cycling hardware supported by Andy Murray and a legion of early crowdfunding backers

Navigation device BeeLine had already closed a successful Kickstarter round and turned to equity crowdfunding before even shipping a product.

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Why have you now turned to crowdfunding and how will you make this a success?

The Orb cyclingI have turned to crowdfunding as a way to raise enough money to tool the moulds ahead of manufacture. The Orb requires quite a lot of both injection and blow moulding, and making these moulds is not cheap.

As far as making it a success goes, I’m using a combination of traditional and modern techniques. This involves using social media to spread the word as far as possible – but also some old fashioned getting out and about round London, chatting to cyclists in person. So far, face-to-face interaction has been my most successful technique – social media will never be as good as a proper conversation.

What is your approach to manufacturing the product – will it be overseas?

We have actually been in negotiations with UK manufacturers, although the final decision has not yet been made. I think for initial, fairly small, manufacturing runs, keeping production onshore can make the process easier and simpler without necessarily costing as much as you would expect.

What does your business plan have in store for the next three years?

Kickstarter has helped show how much appetite there is for The Orb at the moment. Once it has really hit the market, I want to continue to innovate. I think there’s a lot more we could do in that space.

What advice and guidance have you turned to in developing The Orb?

I’m a natural optimist, so I like the latin phrase “dum spiro spero”, which translates as “while I breathe, I hope”.

How will you look to stand out alongside other cycle gadget brands?

The Orb really stands out by itself. There is nothing in the side lighting space at the moment which can touch it in terms of ease of use, aesthetics, and sheer effectiveness. As for how we will keep the edge, it’s going to be about constant improvement, innovation, and treating customers how they deserve to be treated.

Who are your business heroes and why?

I’m sure loads of people say this, but Elon Musk is as close as I have to a business hero. He is a man on a mission to change the world, and he’s not afraid to risk failure on his journey. My new product isn’t exactly colonising Mars, but it’s a start.

—> Find out what the different methods of crowdfunding your project are.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hunter Ruthven is the editor of Business Advice. He is also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs. Alongside this, he is part of the team that hosts the Growing Business Awards, First Women Awards and Future 50 initiative. Prior to his role at Real Business, he was editor at competitor website Growth Business and head reporter at M&A Deals. Throughout his career he has interviewed leading entrepreneurs including Alex Chesterman, Lopo Champalimaud, Sarah Wood, James Averdeick and Alex Saint.

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