Bike and scooter rental services are popping up all over the world. But what about clean, readily-accessible helmets to go with them?
Sandeep Chandrasekhar and his classmate Kevin Hawkins began to develop their idea for integrated, protective headgear for the e-mobility space while still attending the College of Art + Design’s Sports Product Design program.
This spring, the now University of Oregon graduates are in the final stages of bringing their product to market.
Chandrasekhar credits the Sports Product Design program for providing a path toward a building successful product.
“The biggest thing we learned in the program was how to maximize, utilize, and leverage every single resource,” Chandrasekhar said, “It prepared us really well.”
In the program, students create innovative sports products through research and design.
“We went forward with equipment,” Chandrasekhar said. “It’s a great program and we learned a lot. We’re definitely using the education.”
The idea for the product came to Chandrasekhar in Copenhagen, where he’d flown to present a paper. With half a day to himself, Chandrasekhar wanted to check out the city, so he rented a bike from a bikeshare service. Things didn’t go as planned.
“I fell off the bike and hit my head,” Chandrasekhar said. He ended up fine. Nevertheless, he thought there had to be a way to make bike and scooter-sharing services safer. In 2019, the solution to this safety issue helped Hawkins and Chandrasekhar win the $5,000 RAINmaker grant.
While developing their product idea and business concept—the business name is pending—the pair of entrepreneurs leveraged mentorship, resources and opportunities provided by the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship, both before and after graduation. Without these connections, the two graduates would not be where they are today, Chandrasekhar said.
“The center was very supportive of our work,” he said. “We’re grateful for that, and we’re excited to continue a long-term relationship with them.”
“By the time graduation hit, we only had the helmet and some vague concepts,” Chandrasekhar said. “Because of the grant, we got a full-scale prototype. It supported us for a few months.”
The grant also helped Chandrasekhar and Hawkins transition to the Portland Incubator Experiment (PIE) after graduation, a curated coworking and community event space and startup accelerator for mutually beneficial collaboration between Portland’s startup community and established organizations.
Through the incubator, Chandrasekhar and Hawkins had access to a whole host of supporting talent and resources, including different commercial Autodesk software.
“The incubator provided facility, networking, and software, giving us the chance to develop our business,” Chandrasekhar said.
Next steps for Chandrasekhar and Hawkins include initial user testing, making necessary refinements, and finalizing the product for mass manufacture. From there, they will look to raise significant funding in hopes of expanding the business beyond Oregon by late spring or early summer.
“It’s a fun journey,” Chandrasekhar said of his experience. “You learn so much every day.”
—William Kennedy, Lundquist College Communications