When Adrian Cummings arrived for his first Startup Hustle session, he had the prototype for an idea — a complete light kit for bicycles — but no customer research, business plan or marketing concept.
Previous Startup Hustle sessions have led to a number of product launches, including:
online marketplace for local children’s activities
connects artists and art enthusiasts in Sacramento
subscription rental box for STEM toys
application-specific spectrometer measures botanical compounds dissolved in oils
Then came Hacker Lab’s six-week startup boot camp. Cummings completed four workshops, attended public lectures, conducted customer research and honed the business pitch for his Eagertronics Cyclights invention.
Then, on the final day of Startup Hustle in June, Cummings and his wife, Kelsea, were among seven entrepreneurs to deliver a five-minute presentation at Hacker Lab powered by Sierra College in Rocklin. The pitch to about 75 entrepreneurs, investors and guests was so well received that Cummings secured new beta testers and potential leads that may turn his idea into business reality.
“With Startup Hustle, our goal is to provide people with tools and resources to start up a company and have community support around them,” says Eric Ullrich, president and co-founder of Hacker Lab. “We want to provide a safe environment for people to explore entrepreneurship and to launch. The whole strategy of the program is to get people to go through the process as quickly and cheaply as possible.”
Inventing a bicycle lighting system came naturally to Cummings, who works as an auto mechanic by day and attends Sierra College at night. In between, he enjoys cycling on the narrow, winding roads around his hometown of Auburn.
“I needed a way to communicate with cars without taking my hands off the handlebars,” Cummings says. He researched other bike-light products but found “nothing I’d buy.”
As part of his mechatronics class at Sierra College, Cummings created Eagertronics Cyclights, which include a headlight, turn signals and brake lights all wired under a bicycle’s handlebar wrap. The LED lighting system uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery that lasts for about five hours of continuous use. The lights are bright enough to be seen in daylight.
With his background as an auto mechanic, Cummings was comfortable with the hardware and technology required for this complete lighting system but not with the required skills in customer or investor relations. “My weakness is talking to people,” he confesses. “I’ve never been in sales.”
But Startup Hustle helped him through the hard part — talking to potential customers — as he developed his business plan.
“The main pain point people have while cycling is fear of other vehicles on the road,” Cummings says. “Once we identified this barrier, we went back to the people we interviewed and asked if a lighting system such as Eagertronic Cyclights would allow them to feel safer. So far, we have been getting pretty positive feedback, especially from cyclists who commute year-round.”
The six-week boot camp leads participants through customer research, value proposition, web content and a five-minute pitch deck. Participant fees are $46 for Sierra College students, $149 for Hacker Lab members and $300 for non-members. About 20 people participated in this fourth wave of Startup Hustle, which was offered at Hacker Lab in Midtown and Rocklin.
“The program has changed every round and will continue to grow and change,” adds Ullrich, who plans more of a rolling session for entrepreneurs through the end of this year. “But we will continue to hold people accountable for their dreams.”
What’s the next step for Cummings and his dream? More research, a business license and new website domain. Kelsea is taking the lead on social media.
“The plan from here is to get some funding and move forward with manufacturing a small run,” says Cummings, who produced his prototype on a 3D printer. “We want to get the product in the hands of people to test it out and give us feedback.”