New York’s Next Top Makers Finalist MyBell Wins Slot to Demo at CES 2014
When is a bicycle bell more than a bicycle bell? Combine it with technology from New York’s MyBell, and it can blast with the force of a truck horn.
Last night, as part of the CE Week festivities in the city, MyBell founder Peter Pottier pitched his idea for an electronic bicycle bell before a panel of judges from NY Angels. Up for grabs was a free booth to exhibit at next January’s International CES.
MyBell (stylized as MYBELL by its team) edged out five other startup finalists, including NY Tech Meetup alum PowerClip, for the opportunity to show their technology off at the huge consumer electronics conference in Las Vegas.
MyBell is a customizable electronic bicycle bell that emits what ever sounds the users want. “Think ringtones for your bikes,” Pottier said. The idea, he said, is to give cyclists a way to better alert pedestrians and vehicles they share the road with and avoid smashing into each other.
“Every bike accident is extremely severe,” Pottier said. “Unlike automobiles, you’re not protected.” Naturally, cyclists should wear helmets, but they are rather exposed compared with other transportation modes.
The common mechanical bicycle bell, he said, emits jingly sounds around mid-70 decibels. Unfortunately, that can be drowned by the clamor and cacophony in city streets, which Pottier said can be as loud as 80 decibels. “MyBell plays sounds at 85 decibels, which is louder than urban noise and way louder than [traditional] bike bells,” he said.
There are even louder options already on the market; Britain’s Hornit, for example, created an electric bicycle horn that blasts at 140 decibels. Pottier pushed MyBell’s customization options as a key selling point—users pick their own MP3 files to load onto MyBell. The startup is also developing new prototypes, he said, to create smaller and sleeker units.
The team plans to test a finalized version of MyBell in August and launch a Kickstarter campaign in September, Pottier said. “We want to use fall, winter, and spring to manufacture and deliver fulfillment for our early backers,” he said. The plan, Pottier said, is to get MyBell into stores by next April and May when bike season starts again.
MyBell has been honing its idea in the New York’s Next Top Makers program. NYC Economic Development Corp. runs the five-month program, which offers startups guidance from mentors and puts them through a boot camp, run by IncubateNYC, to take their ideas from prototype to commercialization.
MyBell convinced the panel last night that it has a shot at growing. Thomas Wisniewski, a member of NY Angels and one of the judges, said the panel weighed the strength of each presentation, commercialization potential, and the teams’ ability to execute their ideas. While he praised the overall quality of all the presentations, the decision came down to other elements. “When we looked at commercialization, that was where we saw more divergence,” Wisniewski said. “Ability to execute is relatively difficult to get at in this short period of time.”
The other teams presented interesting products, he said, but there were some questions about how companies might be built from those ideas. The judges also scrutinized how proprietary, sustainable, and defendable the ideas could be.
“For us it was about how big the customer base is going to be,” he said. “Is it going to be small, does it have wide use? What are the alternatives out there? Is it differentiated enough?”