London cycling startup Blaze has raised £1m from various venture capitalists and private investors as it ramps up exports and develops new products.
Its first product, which projects a green laser image of a bike onto the road up to six metres ahead of cyclists to warn drivers of their presence, is already selling in 50 countries, having only launched in February 2014. Sales of the Laserlight last year were more than £250,000 and founder and CEO Emily Brooke said she expects revenues to hit £1m this year, with growth accelerating in 2016.
The £1m investment adds to the £55,000 Brooke, who was on MT’s 35 Women Under 35 list last year, raised on Kickstarter at the end of 2012 and $500,000 (£337,000) from Index Ventures and the Branson family last February.
Brooke, now 29, told MT that the money, from the Branson family, Pembroke Venture Capital Trust, Raven Ventures and Dr Martens chairman David Suddens, would be used to fund expansion into Germany, US and especially Japan. Half of Blaze’s sales are already from outside the UK.
‘Japan has proved to be a very, very big market for us - there’s 800,000 commuting cyclists in the UK; 11.5 million in Japan,’ said Brooke, who designed the Laserlight as her final year project at Brighton University. ‘It’s a beautiful piece of product design and Japan obviously takes their product design very seriously.’
Blaze currently has a team of eight and is now recruiting a London-based Japan manager, although Brooke said it would be hiring people on the ground around the world, with new offices coming later ‘if necessary’. It’s also launching two new lights this year and looking into clothing and wearable tech for cyclists.
The Laserlight isn’t cheap, at £125 a pop from its website and Evans Cycles, the UK’s biggest biking shop. But Brooke insisted that was down to the ‘very, very expensive’ manufacturing, done in Shenzhen, China.
That perhaps explains why Blaze is going big on its design-focused ‘urban cycling’ brand, as it looks to cash in on City commuters. ‘Typically brands in the cycling world [are] sports and performance brands [and] typically male-dominated,’ Brooke said. ‘We’re focusing on people who don’t necessarily call themselves cyclists, people who just jump on a bike to get across the city.’