While technology is constantly evolving around the globe: it´s rare that we get to experience great evolution of an existing product. Hövding has set out to change how we think about bicycle helmets as a whole – both now and in the future.
It’s no secret that bicycle helmets are often negatively viewed! By creating an aesthetically pleasing alternative – the sensor-sensitive collar Hövding have not only stirred up an existing market, but they may well have changed how we think about bicycle helmets forever.
We spoke to Terese Alstin, co-founder of Hövding, on her experience of taking this from merely a bold vision to a successful product sold worldwide.
Q: What was your inspiration behind Hövding?
A: It started out in 2005 as a master thesis project at the industrial design program in Lund (Sweden) for myself and my co-founder Anna Haupt.
The reason that we choose to work with a new type of helmet was due to the introduction of a new law in Sweden: making it mandatory for kids up to the age of 15 to wear bicycle helmets.
We didn’t know what to think of this as we had never used bicycle helmets ourselves and wondered what the outcome would be if the law was introduced for adults as well: in fact there was a big debate (in Sweden) as to whether or not to expand the law to the whole population. That was the trigger to push us to develop the new era of bike helmet.
“… when you’re doing something that is brand new and other people don’t think it can be done, they don’t necessarily have the whole insight or picture that you do”
The inspiration for the finished product came from both market research and interviews with cyclists. We talked to people and asked their thoughts on the traditional bicycle helmet and why they thought so few chose to wear them – As well as discussing what their ideal bicycle helmet in terms of design and function would be
That gave us a really good overview of the problems. So when someone said: “I would like an invisible helmet” – that was a great motivation because it sounded like the perfect solution.
Q: Hövding attacked an almost untouched market, at least when it comes to innovation. How do you go about convincing people that Hövding is a legitimate and safe product?
A: When you develop something that is radically new, there will be a lot of skepticism. There are people who want to think that what you’re doing is impossible – sometimes even a bit provocative because we are two girls trying to change an industry.
We have definitely had our fair share of obstacles.
At the same time, it´s very much polarized because you gain a lot of fans. You need to surround yourself with the believers, so to speak and try not to listen too much to the naysayers.
“I think being an entrepreneur is being partly naive.”
Just remember, when you’re doing something that is brand new and other people don’t think it can be done, they don’t necessarily have the whole insight or picture that you do, so it’s very easy for people to just say no instead of being positive.
Some applaud new ideas right away, while others need more time to see the markets reaction and to see the product work. Then there are the people who will never change their minds because they think the existing products are good enough.
That’s OK, there’s definitely room in the industry for different products. We don’t need to reach everyone at once and it´s OK for people to get used to us before making their decision.
Q: When you create a new product, what is the process of finding the right market and launching the product?
A: I think being an entrepreneur is being partly naive. But it´s good to be a bit naïve! If someone said to us in 2005 that this would take 7 or 8 years to develop: we probably wouldn’t be standing here today!
You need to take it one step at a time and see one problem at a time – Don´t try to solve everything at once.
We have never looked so far ahead that we have been scared or intimidated by the complexity of the project. You just have to focus on one thing at a time.
For many years, we didn’t even know if it could work – from a technical point of view. But by just believing that it´s going to work: you start thinking in a new and more innovative way!
Q: For those out there that want to create something of their own, what are your best tips?
A: I think that it´s important to find the right team and you have to know that you can’t do everything on your own.
In the beginning, you’re so scared to talk about the idea because you’re afraid that someone is going to steal it away from you. You need to let people in, and you need to do it early – especially if you’re trying to develop something more complex.
Surround yourself with the right kind of people. If you need funding, you need to find the right investors. If you need technical expertise, you need to find the right engineer. You need to understand what your big challenges are and focus hard to solve each puzzle as and when they pop up.
Also don’t listen too much to the skeptics. They will always be there and it´s really easy to be put down and start thinking that they might be right, it´s been a huge benefit for us to be two co-founders. That way, if one of us had a bad day, the other one had to be the positive one.
Q: How well has it gone since your launch?
A: It has been amazing; we´ve reached a lot of new countries within Europe. Next spring we will be in Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium and more.
Its been great to hear about people who’ve used the products and in turn survived crashes and accidents all thanks to Hövding! You can´t get a bigger motivator than that: I feel lucky to be a part of it and I truly think that I have the best job in the world!