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Smart helmet startup Forcite secures $1 million to prepare motorcyclists for the driverless roads of the future

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Forcite

Forcite founder Alfred Boyadgis. Source: Supplied.

Sydney startup Forcite has secured almost $1 million in funding, to drive its smart motorcycle helmet into the market by the end of the year.

The funding is comprised of an $800,000 investment from Uniseed and an angel investor, plus convertible notes bringing the total to $950,000.

This brings Forcite’s total funding to $2.8 million to date.

Forcite was founded in 2013 by industrial designer and mechanical engineer Alfred Boyadgis, along with co-founder Julian Chow.

The startup is focused on “taking the technology commonly found in self-driving vehicles and re-appropriating it for the motorcycle industry”, Boyadgis tells StartupSmart.

“It’s all about seeing things before they happen,” he explains.

In the early days of the startup, Boyadgis himself was involved in a motorcycle accident caused by oil on the road. A clip-on camera “almost ripped apart the side of my helmet”, he says.

Equally, however, had he known the spillage was there, the accident wouldn’t have happened.

Forcite strives to make sure motorcyclists get home safely, he says.

“It’s a pretty big mission,” he adds.

The helmet includes an advanced camera system that auto-records video, as well as a display system and audio, to relay information collected by the AI system, which monitors about 1,000 different data points.

Information is personalised based on location, the type of bike and where the rider is headed to, and collated from anything from map apps, user input data or community and Facebook groups.

“It’s really like a super-advanced Google Maps, with an AI fitted in the back,” Boyadgis says.

However, the startup is also considering how life for motorcyclists will change when there are self-driving cars on the road, and working on technology to communicate data back to self-driving vehicles.

“In the future, when there are self-driving cars everywhere, where does that leave a motorcyclist?” Boyadgis asks.

“How do we communicate with self-driving cars? Because motorbikes will never be self-driving.”

“That’s where we see the future of the technology,” he explains.

“As a motorcycle rider, you don’t want to get hit by a self-driving Dominoes truck. That would be the worst way to go.”

Changing lanes

Although Forcite is almost six years old, it’s only been motorcycle-focused for the past 12 months or so.

Initially, the founders completed a Kickstarter campaign for a snowsports helmet.

“We had a whole bunch of investors that came on board that pushed us from motorcycling to snowsports … but that wasn’t the best direction for the company,” Boyadgis says.

“We realised we didn’t raise enough capital to bring that product to market, but also we weren’t overly passionate about snowsports.”

After four years of work, the founders sold the snowsports helmet technology to a US sporting entity, and started focusing on motorcycles.

“Within six months, we had the attention of major brands all across the world, and we had the first prototype,” Boyadgis says.

For these founders, it just goes to show “if you’re passionate about a product, you can get it up and running very quickly,” he adds.

Previous investments have helped the founders develop the tech for the snowsports helmet, which is now being used in the motorcycle product.

This latest raise will be used to launch the product for testing days, as riders are invited to try the helmet out, and to place pre-orders.

Then, the plan is to move into a Series A funding round, to build up an inventory and more advanced tools, so they can deliver the product by the end of the year.

Already, Forcite has partnered up with “a major helmet brand in Asia”, Boyadgis says, which is building the traditional helmet section.

The team is working on completing the software, which is “75% there already”, he adds.

“We’re really close to having the product completed by mid-year, then rolling it out in all the different sizes and everything is what takes the rest of that year.”

It may seem like things are moving quickly, but Boyadgis notes it’s actually been a four-year process.

“This isn’t our first rodeo”, he says.

“It’s been an enormous four-year learning curve on how to build a helmet.”

The ability to fall in love

When it comes to launching a startup, Boyadgis stresses you have to love what you’re doing.

“You have to have the ability to fall in love with your own product or software every day that you’re working on it,” he says.

If that’s not the case, when it comes to the tricky parts of a business, when staff members leave or when you’re running low on cash, “you’re going to want to leave”.

If you’re in business only to make cash, unless making money is your passion, “you probably shouldn’t do it”, Boyadgis advises.

“We love motorcycles … and we’re very passionate about them,” he says.

“It puts a smile on our face when we do something that could potentially help somebody, and the unfortunate result is making money.”

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].

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