BeeLine is a beautiful, affordable piece of connected hardware and app designed to revolutionise the way cyclists navigate around cities. The BeeLine hardware attaches to the handlebars of a bike in the user's field of vision. The user selects a destination in the smartphone app and the device guides them to it, allowing the phone to stay in a pocket/bag. BeeLine does not tell the user which turns to take, rather it gives the straight line (as the crow flies) distance and direction to the destination, leaving the user to select their own route. Testing has shown that this works very well in built up cities and is in fact more enjoyable for the rider than turn-by-turn navigation.
Our intention is for this to be about much more than a single product. It is to make an improvement to the functionality and experience of the device through improvements to the app, using gathered rider usage data. Then we will move on to, further connected hardware products for cycling and other activities.
BeeLine aims to make getting around cities by bike much easier, much safer and much more enjoyable by replacing current, clunky city navigation solutions with a beautifully simple, intuitive and affordable one. We believe the overall impact of this will be more people spending more time on their bikes, with BeeLine as their guide.
For people who already ride bikes a lot, we believe BeeLine will vastly improve the experience. We have found that riding with BeeLine is faster, less stressful and much more fluid than other current navigation options.
For those who currently ride occasionally or not at all, BeeLine opens up cycling. So often we hear one of two reasons for people not riding more - either they don't know where they are going, or they don't feel safe on busy city roads. BeeLine removes the worry about where you're going and because it requires very little of the user's attention (vs turn-by-turn navigation) it leaves you to focus on what's happening around you so you stay safe. At a target price of under £50 BeeLine will be accessible to the most casual of cyclists.
Through the connected app BeeLine will offer much more than just navigation. It will give cyclists information on their ride (e.g. speed and distance data). It will help them discover hidden gems in their city and brings fun, competitive elements to cycling. Through the social side of the app BeeLine aims to nurture a connected community of cyclists in cities wherever it is used.
Substantial accomplishments to date
So far we have:
- Proved the concept: we built a concept testing app to replicate the way BeeLine will work on a phone and got lots of people to try it out. We have found that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. In our experience people tend to tell us they preferred BeeLine to other navigation options (e.g. Google navigation)
- Built a prototype: using Arduino components we built and coded a functioning test rig. This is what we will miniaturise onto a circuit board inside the final device.
- Partnered with an accomplished design agency: we're working with MapProjectOffice, the team who have been involved in some of the UK's most successful hardware Kickstarter campaigns (Kano and Hackaball)
- Received unprompted high profile PR and inquiries: within a week of sending out our first newsletter we had an article written about us in Cycling Weekly and a tweet about us from Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman. In the same week we were contacted by the operations team of a leading food delivery company.
There are 3 stages to the BeeLine business model:
1) Sell the first hardware product: our initial revenue stream will come from sales of the first product (the BeeLine device). We will design the product for low cost manufacture and sell it cheaply to achieve scale. We will use Kickstarter (or similar) preorders to prove traction and give us the funds needed to set up manufacture.
2) Develop the software (smartphone app): v1 of the BeeLine app will have basic features allowing the device to function purely for navigation to a selected destination. The plan for the future is to hopefully unlock more functionality on the app and device. Some of these will be free, used to build loyalty to the brand and to build a 'sticky' community protecting us from competitors and hardware copycats. Others will be charged for, providing a recurring revenue stream to the business. Other examples of possible future developments through the software are ride data (speed, distance travelled etc), city tours, recommended destinations, hidden gems, competitive elements etc.
3) Develop further connected hardware products for sports: leveraging the established brand, develop further connected devices for cycling and/or other activities. The global connected hardware market is estimated to be worth $88 Billion by 2020
Use of proceeds
The funds will be used to for everything up to and including the execution of a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. The main costs to get there are:
- Product design and prototyping: creating a beautiful product, that can be produced at low cost with all the functionality required.
- Electronics and software development: designing and building the circuit boards and componentry and developing the app and firmware to make the product fully functional.
- PR: making a lot of noise in the run up to and during the kickstarter campaign will be a huge factor in determining its success. While we will bring the marketing, PR and social media role in house in future, at this stage we will spend some of our funds on getting professional outside help in this area.
There are outstanding directors loans amounting to £16,000. Please note, that the funds raised in this round may be used to pay back these loans.
Our target market is anyone who rides a bike to get around in a city (or would like to). There are some nuances within this group which we've thought about too, e.g. people who commute on the same route every day on carbon racing bikes (don't get lost) vs single speed riders who use their bikes as an everyday functional tool, to get everywhere they go (do get lost) and for whom their bike is part of their image (and so our product will have to fit it).
Our marketing, PR and distribution efforts will begin in London (although, Kickstarter pre-orders will be open to anyone internationally, including the USA). From here we will push into European and American cities, and on to Asia. In Tokyo, a city with a bigger population than London, 20% of all journeys are made by bike.
Characteristics of target market
In London nearly 10% of people (~1M people) ride a bike at least once a week. 2% of all journey are made by bike. In the UK we spend £3B/year on cycling, of which around half is on accessories. We estimate the global cycling accessory market to be $36B p.a.
Cyclists tend to spend a large amount on accessories and upgrades to their bikes. Be these new wheels/saddles, on trend products such as the latest bike lights or gadgets such as garmin navigation. We have found that cyclists are competitive and enjoy gathering data on their own performance, e.g. see the growth in cycling tracking apps such as Strava.
Cycling is growing at an enormous rate and is being pushed hard by government (think development of cycle super highways and hire schemes in London). //In our opinion this growth is driving a shift towards cycling being a lifestyle choice, not a sport, with more focus on style and affordability
1) A Kickstarter campaign backed up with intensive PR to reach a core following of early adopters making pre-orders.
2) Through online and traditional retailers. We already have contacts to several independent and chain cycle retailers.
3) Direct sales through our own website, driven by our own marketing and PR. Through user engagement through functionality provided in the app we aim to create a community of loyal users likely to recommend BeeLine to other cyclist friends.
1) Dedicated GPS navigation units such as Garmin Edge. We have found that these are expensive, have poor UI and are seen as 'geeky'. They rely on turn-by-turn directions which are directive and can often be confusing/dangerous (due to last minute instructions)
2) Phone based navigation, e.g. Google maps (either visual through a phone mount or audio via headphones). While low cost/free these have disadvantages. Using a mount puts your £500 phone at risk of theft or damage and is not a good look. Using headphones cuts out traffic noise which can be dangerous. Both are a huge drain on battery and use turn-by-turn directions which are directive and often confusing/dangerous.
3) New connected bike navigation devices such as Hammerhead and SmRTgrips. In our opinion these are an improvement on the poor UI of dedicated GPS devices but leave much to be desired in terms of clear navigation. Furthermore, we have also found that with only flashing lights or vibrating handgrips to guide you (no visual of the road ahead or audio directions) they seem worse to us than ordinary turn-by-turn navigation systems.
BeeLine will succeed against these by being:
- Low cost. The BeeLine device will cost under £50.
- Beautifully designed for the target market. We are very actively creating our product using design language that will speak directly to our target audience.
- Simple but highly effective. By simply giving the user a direction to follow and distance to travel, there is very little to go wrong. Unlike the black box approach of most navigation systems the user always knows their status and never feels lost. Extensive testing has shown that the BeeLine navigation concept almost always get the user to their destination, often on a shorter route than using other navigation systems.
- Fun. Using BeeLine forces the user to engage in their journey, putting them in the driving seat which is in turn much more enjoyable. This is often cited as the top reason for preferring BeeLine over other systems.
The future: building a community through app engagement.