Have you ever had a brilliant product or business idea ruined by nagging doubt? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life working for someone else? We all want to snatch full control of our destinies, but how do we do it?
A while back, I came across a cool Kickstarter project where a real gearhead took one of those brilliant ideas and made it happen. You could make your big idea happen too. Get ready, here comes some 2-wheel content.
A little backstory
Peter Olt is a Kiwi who got his first motorcycle at age 13 back in New Zealand. It was a homemade special with a janky 2-stroke lawnmower engine that fouled the spark plug ever hour or so. He learned how to fix a motorbike in short order. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.
Two years later, he would find himself on a Honda SL100. It was bullet-proof and he loved it, but it was still way too slow. Much to his father’s chagrin, Peter would “double down” every few months. The 100 was traded for a 200, which was replaced by a 350, which lead to a 750, and so on. 33 years on, I wonder if he’s got one of those V-10 Tomahawks or an MTT Turbine in his garage.
What’s your name, where do you live, what do you do for a living?
I am Peter Olt, live in Clearwater, Florida. I like it here; nice weather, traffic is fairly light, and beautiful beaches, etc.. However, for riding, it has its limitations – no hills or mountains! I always wanted to follow my dream as far as my career. I was working for a company in the fuel industry designing new products, but wanted to work on my own inventions as a commercial venture. The stars lined up late 2011 and I started with two inventions – the Screaming Banshee system and also another (unrelated) invention that, of all things, kills mosquitoes.
What is the Screaming Banshee?
After a “near death” experience on his bike one day, Peter decided that – when it comes to motorcycle horns – stock wasn’t cutting it. He needed something that would really get an inattentive vehicle operator’s attention without giving up civility.
Enter the Screaming Banshee. Give the horn a quick stab and get a toot from your stock horn. Hold the horn button down for a fraction of a second longer (0.25 seconds, to be exact), and a secondary air horn comes online, blasting a 139 decibel note audible three blocks away. It even flashes your lights to deliver maximum visibility when you need it.
Once you had a prototype in-hand, what business-related obstacles stood between you and production? How did you overcome those obstacles?
Good question – firstly money. We didn’t need millions, but 20 grand to do a proper design job. We wanted the control unit (our invention), to be US-made and, although this added costs, we wouldn’t do it any other way. We are proud to say this is fully US made, including the tough nylon case we custom designed.
KickStarter came to our rescue and we have the highest praise for their funding platform. It works great, the only condition being that you take responsibility for driving people to see your project (KickStarter advice you to do this). We learned a lot about social media and used this to drive people to our project.
We are very grateful to all the bloggers who wrote such awesome articles about us – this was the single biggest factor. Then, we built our website and have been constantly been improving it to make it more interactive. Now, we are in negotiations with a dozen or so companies around the world to be distributors in specific regions so this is very exciting and will hopefully take us to the next level.
What were your biggest worries going into the KickStarter stage?
Well, initially, it was kind of “seems too good to be true”. Then we launched the project and saw that it was in fact true. Then the challenge became to drive people to see the project – if they saw it, we found many would support it.
What was the hardest part of getting started on KickStarter?
There really wasn’t, KickStarter has a great platform and it was really easy to compile the project and get it launched. As I mentioned, you still have to drive the traffic to KickStarter if you want to have a really successful project, we had to learn marketing VERY quickly!
Why would you recommend KickStarter to automotive enthusiasts?
I would recommend it because it allows you to take an idea all the way form drawing board through to a commercially viable product. KickStarter also continues to host your project long after the closing date and therefore helps to steer people to a new website. Seeing they only take 5%, it’s really a wonderful opportunity if you want to bring a new product to the market.
How is the Screaming Banshee evolved from the original idea that fateful day in traffic?
Well, actually, the current model has exactly the same working principle as the original prototype. The way we do it is very different with a microprocessor and high spec solid state components, but it still works the same way from the users perspective.
What’s the most unexpected place you’ve heard of this thing being used by a customer?
We have had many, many emails & calls about where people have used our system, I just got a call from a guy this morning saying that it saved him and his daughter from an certain accident while taking her to singing lessons in New York. She was frightened by the loudness but was able to sing like an angel at the lesson!
Where do you see this company and yourself in five years?
We are signing up domestic and international distributors very quickly, we also have a list of about 10 more related products that we are starting to develop. In 5 years we see ourselves as a leading company producing safety oriented products for the motorcycle and automobile industries.
We heard about Screaming Banshee from some friends and thought it would be really neat to learn more about how gearheads can use this service to bring good ideas to life. Have you used Kickstarter to fund a project? Do you have an idea for a business you’d like to get started? What’s stopping you from taking action?