Starting a company is a leap of faith and like anyone out there, we, the co-founding team, didn’t know whether to take it. We were hesitant to leave our comfort zone.
It boiled down to digging deep and understanding that its a lot easier to take the plunge when you’re doing the things you love and the market is willing to open its arms to you.
Before the Valour, there was the SF-50—A novel idea to build a bike with a new composite manufacturing process. In the summer of 2011, we were invited to Munich, Germany for Bike Expo to share our innovation. To our surprise, we were finalists for the best initial design award in Carbon Fibre Construction.
Around this time, I was still in medical school on my way to becoming a doctor and Adil (Vanhawks CMO) was building Dita field hockey sticks. We talked about doing something better with our lives on a near daily basis. And the acknowledgement at the Bike Expo was validation enough for us to take that leap of faith. We just knew that Vanhawks had to grow beyond our dorm room.
For a while, we struggled with the idea of just licensing the composite technology to a big name brand. It would’ve been a quick exit and fast cash. But I recalled a Steve Jobs quote I once read,
“We’re here to put a dent in the universe, otherwise, why else even be here?”
This was enough to right the ship and stay true to the course of building a company.
So, we knew we had a damn cool carbon fibre tube but our survival couldn’t rely solely on putting carbon and rubber together. If I am going to quit school and blow my dreams of becoming a doctor then there’s no point in half-assing it. But to go big meant making Vanhawks the best damn thing out there.
Go big or go home as they say.
At this point, we started building the Valour. Adil worked with me to overcome the manufacturing obstacles of the design and I would do the FEA (Finite Element Analysis) to make sure we were on track.
As we poured our hearts into the bike, it grew from being just a product into an idea for a robust cycling experience. We needed the talent to make the bicycle more than an extension of the leg but rather an extension of the mind, body and soul. I called on Ali, my little brother, to come onboard as a UI/UX designer for the connected bike app. Ali then pitched the idea to Niv for making the app, and shortly thereafter, our team doubled in a matter of hours.
Fast forward to summer of 2013 and we found ourselves working out of a shared working space called Project Rhino in Toronto. We slowly started to make connections but nothing was working for us. Summer flew by, Ali and Niv were back in school, I was now a dropout and Adil was no longer making field hockey sticks. We just had to make this work.
Ali’s hustle got us the first interview with FounderFuel – an accelerator program run by Real Ventures in Montreal. Ian Jeffery, general manager of FF, liked Vanhawks and after two rounds of interviews, we were injected with $50k to make our dreams come true. FounderFuel was no cakewalk; I constantly questioned my judgement and decisions. “Will this work? Can we make Vanhawks more than just a pipe dream?”
These thoughts kept us awake at night with ideas running through our heads of all the things that we knew could and wanted to accomplish
A connected bike was a very hard sell—maybe we were only meant to be a composite company. So why not just license the technology and build everything out it. Alan Macintosh and Sam Haffar were the people who helped to strengthen my resolve and teach me to trust my gut feelings.
On May 1st 12:30 pm, Ian Jeffery came to confirm a tweet he was about to send: ‘Vanhawks is about to launch something big’ – I read the tweet and the last two years of our lives flashed before my eyes. I knew that Kickstarter was the next logical push and I knew that timing was everything. At 1:00 pm EST on May 1, 2014 we went live to share the Valour with the world, and on May 31st, we were the most funded campaign in Canada—It didn’t happen just like that, Its not just a journey – its a wild ride
More than three years have passed since we formed Vanhawks. I am now writing this post before we celebrate our office launch tonight. No, I haven’t become a millionaire startup founder, but I know the only team capable of changing the future of personal urban transportation is working at 164 Princess street in Toronto!
Follow Sohaib on Twitter: @saybizz