Five minutes with: Lumos

The Five minutes with series presents a company with five short, sharp and to-the-point questions about who they are and what they do. This week, we’re joined by Lumos creator Eu-wen Ding.

Can you tell us the history of the company?

Lumos started as just 2 engineers looking for a way to make their bike commute better. We were both bike commuters in Boston and super annoyed by how often we had to keep getting a new set of lights because we either forgot them at home or they got stolen. We came up with the idea for a bike helmet with lights to improve our own safety, and hacked together a prototype. To our surprise, when we rode out in the city with it, we would literally get stopped every time we went out with this hacky prototype by people asking where they could get one. We looked around and didn’t see anyone making a product quite like this, so we thought maybe we could be the ones to bring this idea to life. We spent a lot more time working on the product and its design, then took the idea to Kickstarter in August 2015 where it ended up raising over 6X our goal of $125,000. I believe it is still the largest crowdfunded bike helmet campaign today. 

It took us a little over a year to take the product through manufacturing and production. It was incredibly challenging, but we survived the gauntlet! Since then more people have been picking up Lumos Helmets, and I see it on almost at least one cyclist a day in San Francisco now. More recently we’ve been working on a cool upgrade to the turn signal feature of our helmet, by making an Apple Watch app that recognizes when you’re making a hand turn signal, and automatically activates the corresponding turn signal on the helmet. As a result of that integration, we’ve had the tremendous honor to be launched in over 300 Apple Stores worldwide. It’s the first time that a bike helmet of any kind has been sold at the Apple Store. 

What are you ultimately trying to achieve?

In the beginning, I think we were really just trying to build a product that we thought should exist, and that we wanted for ourselves as commuter cyclists. 

But since then, with so many Lumos Helmet riders around the world reporting how their ride has improved thanks to their Lumos Helmet, it really feels like we have an opportunity for Lumos to play a role in the much broader and bigger movement for better cyclist safety. 

I have always considered a helmet as part of my essential gear as a commuter. The driving question behind Lumos for us has been, “What if a helmet could do more?” Traditional helmets are “passive” safety devices. Critical in the event that something happens, but frankly not very useful otherwise. With Lumos we are transforming the helmet into something that maintains that “passive” safety protection, while also adding a strong “active” safety element that actively warns people of your presence and your intentions on the road, and thereby helping to prevent a possible accident from happening in the first place. 

I have many hopes. Hope that we might save a few lives and prevent some hurt and injury. Hope that we can improve communication between cyclists and drivers, and reduce the tension and antagonism on the road. Hope that we can improve bicycle safety more broadly and encourage more people to take it up in their daily life. 

Ultimately, however, I think we are doing this because we love the work, and we hope that it is doing some good for the world. 

What gives you an edge over other companies in the industry?

We’re very clear on our guiding principle of safety and innovation. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we’re the most visible helmet out there at the moment, especially in a design that, for being so visible, is unobtrusive and commonsensical. Since launching the product into the market we’ve had a ton of feedback that we’ve put right back into improving our product every chance we get.

But for all feedback that we’ve received, we’re always careful to come back to our original passion: Building something that we loved, and that we want to use for ourselves in our own rides. 

What innovations in the industry are exciting you at the moment?

I think the industry has traditionally focused on cycling as a sport, whereas my experience on a bicycle has been mostly using it as a form of transportation. I think we’re in the early days of some of the biggest changes in urban mobility in a generation. Hopefully, and somewhat ironically, the future of our cities might look a little bit like our past, with bicycles having a prominent role to play. 

The scene is all a little chaotic now, but I am optimistic that things will smoothen out. I am incredibly excited to be witnessing this change. 

What does the future hold for the company?

The future is helmets! Our mission as a company is to protect a million heads. That is the future that we are working towards.

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