Featured Startup Pitch: Backtracker wants to make the road a safer place for cyclists with its radar-based technology

Franz Struwig, BacktrackerBy Franz Struwig, Backtracker co-founder

ELEVATOR PITCH

Backtracker aims to change the face of road safety for cyclists by providing them with affordable, state of the art, military-grade radar technology to warn them of approaching vehicles from behind, while also warning drivers that a cyclist is up ahead.

PRODUCT/SERVICE DESCRIPTION

The single greatest cause of bicycle fatalities, and likely every cyclist’s greatest nightmare, is rear-end collision. Backtracker uses cutting-edge, military-grade radar technology to inform cyclists of traffic approaching from behind. In addition, it also warns drivers that they are approaching a cyclist who is using an intelligent backlight system. The cyclist safety system is designed by iKubu, a South African startup that specializes in computer vision and radar systems.

Backtracker has two components: A radar/rear light device that attaches onto the seat post to track traffic and warn approaching cars of the cyclist’s presence, and a second component, which attaches to the handlebars and allows the rider to monitor what’s happening behind him.

The intuitive display shows the cyclist a number of things—the number of cars behind him, the distance between the cyclist and the cars, and the speed difference of the approaching traffic. The backlight on the radar component additionally warns traffic of the cyclist’s presence on the road. The lights blink faster and brighter as a car approaches.

FOUNDERS STORY

We were classmates during our computer engineering undergraduate program. Nolan was the top performer in almost every subject, and Denho was a hacker with a heart. I was the guy in the middle—lots of passion but unable to make it happen on my own! A few years later, after establishing ourselves as experts in the industry, we decided to go all in.

Backtracker Product ShotMARKETING/PROMOTION STRATEGY

We are using crowdfunding as a means of getting the Backtracker brand out there, and driving home the first mover advantage. It is not easy to build a strong brand in the consumer market, so we are interested in exploring strategic partnership opportunities with existing brands.

The bicycle industry has established distribution channels, which we intend to make use of. Distributors have local knowledge and expertise, which serves as a critical cog in the sales machine. We will also drive direct online sales through online advertising and social media.

MARKET OPPORTUNITY

The bicycle industry in the USA has an annual turnover of about $7 billion, $4 billion of which goes towards new bicycle sales. This is also a global industry with massive growth opportunity in both established (e.g. UK) and emerging (e.g. China) markets.

The industry is very competitive, however, so we have to be strategic in how we position ourselves. We have to ask ourselves: “Do we want to ship as part of new bikes?” or, “Are we competing against Garmin and bicycle lights?” Time will tell.

Backtracker represents a new category of product. At the moment the bicycle mirror is our biggest competition, since it is cheap and pervasive. We therefore have to provide a lot of user education to convince users to adopt new forms of technology.

HOW WE ARE DIFFENTIATE FROM THE COMPETITION

We are currently the only product that incorporates RADAR technology in the bicycle industry. RADAR has many advantages over traditional rearview mirrors:

  • It works when visibility is compromised, which is when cyclists need it most. For example, in rain, fog, blinding sunlight, or total darkness, RADAR will still perform.
  • It tracks cars from up to 140 yards.
  • It detects speed, which is not easy to gauge using a mirror.
  • It is less distracting. Rearview mirrors can move around a lot, forcing a cyclist to take his eyes off the road.

Backtracker is the first application in the world to integrate military-grade radar technology in a consumer device.

Backtracker Product Shot1

BUSINESS MODEL

We will use direct online sales to prove traction and establish our brand. We will also rely on a combination of sales through distributors and OEM sales to drive the bottom line.

At the time of writing, our crowdfunding campaign—launched in July and aimed at collecting the necessary funds for mass production of the system—has raised over $100,000.

CURRENT NEEDS

Our primary need at this time is to make sure that our crowdfunding campaign is successful (crowd.backtracker.io). A successful campaign would pave the way for our first production run.

Beyond that, we are looking for distributors in each region, and strategic partners with deep knowledge of the bicycle industry.

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Backtracker logoHEADQUARTERS: Cape Town, South Africa

WEBSITE: www.backtracker.io

FOUNDER: Franz Struwig, Denho Geldenhuys, Nolan van Heerden

INVESTORS: Bootstrapped (iKubu)

YEAR FOUNDED: 2010

TWITTER: @ridebacktracker

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/ridebacktracker

CRUNCHBASE: crunchbase.com/organization/backtracker

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