HeroDownsizeIf you ever needed proof of a market demand for a new type of product, do a crowd funding raise.  Skully, producers of the cyber motorcycle helmet that gives the rider a Google Glass like HUD, is just about to pass the $1 million dollar mark for money raised.  The helmet is pretty cool.  Take Google Glass and place it into a motorcycle helmet.  That is not exactly what the designers at Skully did, but you get the idea.  I’ve tried on the helmet and it’s sweet.  The rear view camera is nice and is a great safety feature.  Voice control for the usual apps, music, directions, calling someone from your phone book. Directions both with and without rear view integration. There have been other fund raises for something like this, but not at this level.  One system is retrofit-able to your existing helmet, and they have just cleared their 185k goal reaching 200k.  But this did not take off for some reason. My guess is that what people want is a fully integrated system, not something that looks bolted on.

However, this is not a post about the helmet, its more about the validation of wearables and how certain product vertices get defined in this new age of crowdfunding.  The goal of the fund raising was to get $250,000.  Well just over 8 minuets after setting the site live at 6AM pst, they blew through the $250,000 mark and kept climbing.  If I was still riding I would have been one of those throwing my money at them as well.  This is something as a biker I have wanted for a long time.

fry skully take my moneyHowever, I see this more than just validation that every biker out there wants a cyber helmet. I also ride bicycles, I drive a car, I jog, and one day… one day, will grab a plane and fly.  In all these cases having hands free HUD with full situational awareness would be great for safety and convenience.   ‘But wait!’; you might say.  “Didn’t you say you did not like Google Glass’?  That’s right, I do not … in public that is.  I also said that in specific use cases, it make sense.  Again, I want to repeat this is NOT Google Glass.  This is custom hardware/software targeted to the motorcycle rider.  This is key.  Just putting a HUD display is not good enough.  You have to understand what a rider would want and this is where Skully hits the mark and why they are about to clear $1M. I always felt the Glass was a product solution looking for a problem, and there is nothing wrong with that. Trying things is how you figure out what works and what does not.  However the Skully system took a particular, and I can attest, dedicated vertical and build to them. This is exactly what we saw with the Pebble kick-starter campaign.  After raising venture capital for the product under their former name inPulse, the company failed to attract traditional investors under their new brand name, so the company requested crowd funding in April 2012.  They raised over $10 million.  This product validation redefined and restarted the whole smart watch product category and validated the crowdfunding paradigm.  Two years later, many will argue, and I would be one of them, that the Pebble is one of the best smartwatches on the market based on price, functionality and design. This is because they build ONLY what is needed to provide value to the customer, although the recent Google ware watches comes close. It will be the same with the Skully helmet.  Its one thing to have a great prototype product, its something else to get that product to a consumer level, and manufacturer to that level on a massive scale.   And you know that after this market definition and validation, there are going to be tonnes of copycats snapping at their heals.  But that does not matter now… Skully is first to this newly defined market.

The next few years should be interesting……  I think I may start riding motorcycles again.  🙂

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