Sean Lahman, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle Published 7:00 a.m. ET Oct. 4, 2018
To be a successful entrepreneur, you need persistence and perseverance.
David Werner’s entrepreneurial journey has lasted more than 15 years, and he’s confident that his patience is about to pay off.
The seed of inspiration came to him in 2001. After nearly colliding with a motorcycle that he didn’t see, he came up with the idea for a light that could be mounted to the back of a rider’s helmet and make him more visible to other drivers.
But turning that idea into a working product and getting it to market was a path that has been full of twists and turns.
“It took five years to develop it, three years to get the patent, and then I needed money,” Werner said.
That’s not an unusual timeline for an entrepreneur. The endless onslaught of new challenges and the sheer length of time causes many to abandon their dream.
“Had I known how long it was going to take, or how much money it was going to cost, I’m not sure I would have started down this road,” he said.
Kept his goal in sight
Instead, Werner says he took each challenge as it came, never losing sight of the end goal or getting discouraged by how long it was taking.
Along the way, he discovered that his simple idea required a tremendous amount of technology to actually work. He partnered with an expert in the radio frequency technology necessary to get the motorcycle to talk with the helmet-mounted light, telling it when to activate the brake light or turn signal.
Their work earned one patent, and then another. And along the way advances in technology helped change the landscape. The advent of Bluetooth communication, smartphone apps, LED lighting, accelerometers, and more robust batteries helped drive the product development.
In order to get investors on board, he needed to do two rounds of market research, then conduct trials to get user feedback. Each of these steps added years to the process, but the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Werner traveled to trade shows and to gatherings for motorcyclists across the country to get feedback.
Along the way, his prototypes garnered a lot of attention, earning write-ups in national motorcycle magazines and invitations to show it off motorcycle events across the country.
He launched a trial program with the Atlanta police that has not only provided valuable data but has opened Werner’s eyes to a whole new market opportunity.
The finished product, which is called inView, contains a remarkable amount of technology. It attaches firmly to the back of the helmet with Velcro and makes a wireless connection with the motorcycle’s electronics. The device pairs up when the rider turns his bike on, giving a quick flash and a beep to let them know it’s activated.
The system lights up every time they signal a turn or press the brakes. It also detects passive breaking — when a rider slows down by downshifting — and illuminates both the helmet and motorcycle brake light.
“I’m so pleased with what we’ve been able to do,” Werner said. “This product will save lives and make a difference.”
It’s that goal — and the people he met along the way — that kept him going. As Werner got more connected to the motorcycle community, he kept meeting people whose loved ones had been killed in motorcycle accidents.
“I will be happy when I get my first letter that says my husband, or my daughter, or whoever, came home safely because of you,” he said.
Werner has contracted with a manufacturing company in Victor to produce the first generation of product, which will start shipping in November. Pre-sales have already been strong.
“We looked at manufacturing in China, and frankly that would cost less, but I wanted to make it locally,” Werner said.
In addition to the technology and financial challenges, Werner faced a number of challenges in his personal life.
Coping with life
A fire destroyed his Pittsford home in January, and his wife suffered serious health problems, eventually requiring a kidney transplant in September.
“Both of those events were sudden,” he said. “We lost a lot of stuff, but we didn’t lose our lives.”
The three-alarm fire gutted his house, and Werner and his wife are still in temporary housing.
“It’s definitely been a bummer. But I truly believe that overcoming challenges in life is about your attitude,” Werner said. “If you really believe in something, don’t give up.”
From The USA TODAY NETWORK