I recently found the delightful story of Swytch eBike conversion kit. The inventor / founder Oliver Montague discovered electric cycling technology during an engineering internship at Jaguar.
He arrived at work on his bike one day at the same time as the CEO rode up. While Oliver was dripping with sweat, the CEO, in his fine suit, looked perfectly comfortable. The difference was an electric modification to his bike.
Oliver started selling motors and kits on eBay that he purchased from manufacturers in China. His business generated $100,000 in the first year, but he only kept 10% in profits.
Even after Oliver grew his website to include 30 different products he couldn’t make much money. He needed to simplify his product offering to reach a larger scale.
By combining cycling bags with the existing electronics, Oliver devised a handlebar bag with a battery and controller to plug into a front wheel purchased from his store. He completed the design and traveled to China in 2017 to find meet with a manufacturer.
At the factory, he ran into a competitor with ten times more sales than Oliver. This guy had zero technical knowledge and as a result his products had serious quality problems. In response to Oliver’s engineering advice, the guy chided him for being wrong. Oliver realized his own lack of marketing and sales skills held him back from greater success.
Stepping up to the challenge, Oliver put all his energy into a crowdfunding campaign for Swytch – the world’s smallest & lightest eBike kit – certainly a tagline that catches my eye! Four months later his crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo closed with over $1 million of support.
Today he has sold over 15,000 units! They are working on the latest version of the Swytch kit, which features an easy handlebar mount to swap the battery for recharging.
Why did I like this story so much?
Because it shows the limit to engineering skills. Once you invent valuable, unlocking the marketing and sales piece of the equation allows you to reach a broader audience and build a brand.
If you have a product idea, here are a few other posts to check out:
- 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Inventing a New Product
- How Dyson wins by ignoring market research
- Oliver Montague of Swytch Bike on the Bike Rumor Podcast (2021)
And from my bookshelf, check out Invention: A Life of Amazing Inventions and Stubborn Will or 👇