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“A light, carbon fibre bike that calls home when stolen.”

This was the initial concept of what is now known as the Valour. I was brought on as the CTO of Vanhawks to do just that; add a GPS to the bike and create a mobile app that alerts you when it’s stolen. This was our ultimate goal as a four man co-founding team. As we worked towards this, Sohaib (CEO) would ask me, “Is this really the bike of the future?”. We were approaching the commuting problem in a way that no one else was; we were integrating technology into the bike.

But as a computer scientist, I was stuck in the mindset that software was the only way we could enhance that experience.

Fast forward a few months to Founderfuel; Alex Lynn (Director of Special Projects at Real Ventures) took Ali and I out for coffee while Sohaib was away. He asked us, “what fears prevent people from commuting by bike?” This discussion opened my mind to solutions beyond purely software. We came up with the concept that encompasses the Valour as we know it today; a carbon fibre bike that learns from your rides to give you safer, smarter route suggestions, shows you where to go with LEDs built into the handlebar, warns you of cars in your blindspot, and calls home when stolen.

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This was a lot to digest. I had a strong background with software but had minimal experience with electronics and firmware.

Before we launched our Kickstarter, Ali flew to SF to showcase the Valour to the media. The weekend before he left, I knew that in order for Vanhawks to pitch a convincing case, we needed to have a working prototype. I had to create a LED navigation system, blindspot detection system, and speed monitoring, all of which communicated with an iOS app via Bluetooth. Integrating all of this into the Valour in 48 hours was a monumental task, one that I managed to finish the prototype an hour before Ali had to go to the airport.

People ask me what it’s like to be the CTO of a startup. That weekend is the perfect answer.

That weekend: I didn’t sleep, I worked nonstop, and learned at lightning pace to bring the company’s vision into fruition. I’m constantly on the clock because if any live technology issues occur, I’m the only co-founder who knows how to fix them, and I love every minute of it. When you’re truly passionate about what you’re doing, seemingly impossible tasks truly can be accomplished.

Vanhawks is unlike many other tech startups. On top of web development, mobile apps, and server architecture, we also work on printed circuit boards to house the electronics inside of the Valour, and the firmware to give the electronics functionality. There aren’t enough hours in the day for one person to accomplish all of that within a reasonable time period. We knew that our team had to expand in order to able to deliver a quality product in a timely fashion.

Thanks to our incredible backers, our Kickstarter funding allowed us to expand our company’s technology department and bring on Eric (Head of Hardware), Steve (Firmware Engineer), Amir (Web Developer), and Drew (Android Developer). With them, my role shifted from purely developing to overseeing and ensuring that the “brains” of the bike stays on track. They have alleviated my responsibility of implementation of everything but the iOS app, allowing me to focus on Vanhawks’ main goal, making cycling the number one choice for personal urban transportation. These guys are extremely bright, hard working, and motivated. They have made my job extremely easy. I feel that our team is now capable of tackling any technological challenge that may occur.

Cheers!

~ Niv
Follow Niv on Twitter: @nivivon