As a cyclist in New York City, Slava Menn faced a persistent problem: His bike lights kept getting stolen. Then last September, his former MIT classmate Brad Geswein told him the story of a friend who had been hit by a car after losing a bike light to theft. “We realized that it’s more than a nuisance,” Menn says. “It’s a real problem.”
With backgrounds in engineering, the two of them set about making a theft-resistant light. “Brad’s all about building,” Menn says. “He’s like an entrepreneurial MacGyver. He started cranking out prototypes, initially in foam, then wood, then on the Makerbot 3D printer.”
Meanwhile, Menn conducted an online survey to see whether this was a common problem. Sure enough, about a third of the 140 cyclists he surveyed had had a bike light stolen.
After months of development, Menn and Geswein ended up with a new company, Gotham Bicycle Defense, and a prototype of its first product, The Defender. Unlike most bike lights, The Defender attaches to your handlebars with a security screw that can only be removed with a special tool. Its aluminum body houses six ultrabright LEDs to make sure you’re noticed on the road and sealed silicone gaskets ensure it will work in the rain. The aggressive design, Menn says, “captures the struggle of urban cycling.”
Menn and Geswein spent about $2,000 to build the first prototype but realized they would need more money for a production run, so they decided to try to crowdfund the project through Kickstarter. They blew past their target of $18,000 in just 25 hours. Their initial plan was to make 1,000 Defenders, but they may have to revise that number. They’ve pre-sold 300 of them.
Menn says they’re already thinking about other Gotham products. “Most bike accessories aren’t designed for serious urban riders.” Indeed. And from the looks of it, this one could have been made for Batman.