In June 2014, I had the incredible pleasure of speaking with Ali Zahid at Startup Grind Ottawa.

Ali is a bio-medical engineering student, the COO of Vanhawks, a connected smart bike startup from Toronto, and the most humble and genuinely helpful person I have ever met.

Here's the full video of the great talk he shared with us:

Some of the most important key points Ali shared with us were:

  • We built the Valour around the urban commuter. It’s a product we wanted for ourselves.
  • We validated the idea with over 100 consumer interviews.
  • FounderFuel and other accelerators are like bootcamps for your startup. They will help you quickly find (or not) product / market fit for your idea. Then they really focus on helping you develop an effective story – which we knew we needed to take the product to the market.
  • We have the perfect team to tackle both the hardware and software sides of the company. We wanted to create a perfect marriage of both sides, just like Apple.
  • I'm a bio-medical engineering student with experience in graphics design and business development, and my cofounders, Adil, is a veteran in carbon fibre composite construction and manufacturing, Sohaib is a medical student with expertise in biomechanics design and Niv has expertise in scaling and creating applications people love.
  • Your customer is king. I didn’t always completely realize this.
  • During FounderFuel I realized that I’m going to be the one who makes or breaks this company.
  • Before the Kickstarter campaign I had a list of 20 bloggers I wanted to reach out to.
  • We hired the same video production studio that Pebble (the biggest Kickstarter campaign of all time) used for their crowdfunding video.
  • We were so busy leading up to the launch of the Kickstarted campaign that I uploaded the video 10 minutes before the campaign went live and I hadn’t even seen it one last time.
  • 90% of the traffic that hits your Kickstater page is driven by your efforts. We noticed that big sites like TechCrunch really didn’t drive that much traffic and the conversion was even lower. But niche, community blogs for urban cyclists drove tons of traffic and it had high conversion rates.
  • It’s important to stagger the momentum. We knew there would be lulls in the campaign and based with a combination of press and a new angle we opened different markets at key moments to keep the excitement and funding flowing.
  • We had spent a lot of time working with these sites, slowly building a community of engaged cyclists looking for something new. We made them part of the process and asked with we could reach out when the Kickstarter went live.
  • We really wanted to build something that is human driven. Every backer has my cell number. That’s my cell number on the site.
  • Magic kinda happens if you’re building something you love.
  • Our bike is a single piece of carbon fiber. No other bike is like this and it’s because of our process. But we aren’t keeping these patents and IP private. We want to keep innovating – not preserving the status quo.

Thanks so much to our sponsors Bizspark (Marc Gagne), StartupOttawa and my buddy Brandon & the gang from TattooHero. Thanks as well to Robert Decher at RDV productions for the videography.