Folding bike helmet project raises more than $1 million

Near-fatal crash inspires young entrepreneurs

Rachel Hall, a student at Temple University, was riding her bike to her last final exam in her senior year when she was struck by a car at the intersection of Park and Diamond in Philadelphia.
She spent the next four months in a coma.

Like most casual cyclists, she wasn't wearing a helmet.  
So her brother David and his classmate Jordan Klein, engineering students at Virginia Tech, set out to create a helmet that people would actually wear.

“We don't really want to be your mom telling you to wear a helmet. We want to build something that fits seamlessly into your life, whether you're somebody who rides a bike once a week or you’re out there every day,” said company co-founder and CEO Jordan Klein.

So the two engineers invented a folding helmet, and named their company after the intersection where the hit and run driver struck Rachel Hall.

The helmet folds because it’s composed of a soft material as opposed to most helmets on the market today, which are rigid.

Their testing shows the soft technology meets or exceeds the safety of traditional helmets.

“The material itself deforms and that absorbs the energy and protects your head,” Klein said.

While serious cyclists already tend to wear helmets, casual cyclists, like those who use rental bikes or scooters -- what the industry calls the "micro-mobility" market -- only wear helmets about 10-percent of the time.

The hope is that a comfortable, attractive helmet that you can take with you will make people want to wear helmets.

It stands to reason that if more people wear helmets, there will be fewer serious injuries.

The early business success has been as remarkable as the technology.  The pair's crowdfunding campaign tripled expectations, raising more than 1.2-million dollars.  The campaign on Indiegogo sold 15,000 of the approximately $80 helmets.

Perhaps it’s not surprising since the team had lots of coaching on how to pitch the product from Virginia Tech's APEX Center for Entrepreneurs. Park & Diamond entered seven pitch competitions, competing against universities across the country.  They won all seven. 

 “They put us through the ringer and tested us before we went to these events and so we had a leg up on almost any of the other universities that we competed against,” Klein said.

The prototype comes in black and has a bill like a ball cap, but other colors are available and eventually there will be a style for just about everyone - all on line and direct to consumer.

The black (is a) sleek kind of city look,” Klein said. “But we're also going to be introducing beanies. Other products that will really appeal to a wide variety of individuals.”

The crowdfunding campaign ended in late November, and the first helmets will be shipping in the first quarter of 2019. 

David Hall and Klein have been traveling to all corners of the world as they source materials and cost-effective manufacturing partnerships.

Rachel Hall recovered and finally graduated from Temple University. 

Klein says he believes the new helmets really will make a positive impact and perhaps create something positive from the tragedy that nearly claimed her life.

About the Author:

John Carlin

John Carlin co-anchors the 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on WSLS 10.

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