As the lockdown was just taking effect, we sat down with FuseBox residents Eric DeGolier and Jordan Bolland, two parts of the Body Rocket team, to hear more about the recent successes of their company and how they are approaching obtaining investment.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and your backgrounds?
Eric: My name is Eric DeGolier. I am a former elite cyclist and engineer. I grew up in the US and came here to get my master's degree, and I've been in the UK ever since. I've worked on a string of startups and eventually came up with the idea that I wanted to take forward and launch my own company, and that is now Bodyrocket.
Jordan: I'm Jordan Bolland. I started a body rocket about 10 months ago. I'm enjoying working as the mechanical design engineer here. So anything physically working made for Body Rocket, I'm definitely part of. We're looking at sensor calibrations and a lot of data analysis currently through our wind tunnel tests.
How did you end up joining the FuseBox?
Eric: So when I started the company, it was myself and my business partner. I was working mainly from home. Just by chance, I got an introduction to Eagle labs. We were working there for a while, and it was an excellent experience. However, we realised that the Digital Catapult Centre Brighton at The FuseBox was so close by and we fit the description of the kind of companies The FuseBox was looking to join. It looked like a fantastic opportunity to be around like-minded companies with similar skill sets. Fortunately, we were accepted. We moved into The FuseBox just a little over two years ago and set up shop right around the time that we also were securing our first investment which allowed us to grow and start to bring staff on board. Starting at The FuseBox coincides with when we took off, as it helped me start to get some traction.
Can you explain what you have been working on?
Eric: So what we're doing is building a device that measures aerodynamic drag for cyclists in real-time. The reason that we want to do that is that cyclists and athletes in general whether it's skis or bikes or speed skates or skeleton or luge, their bodies are a significant part of their aerodynamic drag and aerodynamics makes up 80% or more of what's stopping them down from going faster. Of course, in all those sports, the whole goal is to go as fast as possible. And so there are considerable gains to be made there. Those gains right now are made at the Olympic or professional level by putting athletes in the wind tunnels. That's a great design tool if you're making an aeroplane or car where the shape of the body isn't changing. And so, once you get into sports, it's a different design challenge. Every athlete is different, so you can't make one athlete and then you know, carbon copy that athlete 1000 times like you would a car. The other problem is even if you did, they're continuing to move during their event. And so we looked and said, "Well, we need something different to understand aerodynamics in athletics. And what we need is real-time and big data."
Jordan: I think a point should be made: all these pieces of equipment can be aero tested in wind tunnel CFD, but the body always changes. So it's always good to have a real-time analysis on the body as it changes through different conditions. So at Body Rocket, we're trying to get as much data from the body itself. And we already know how aerodynamic specific bikes are, but we don't know how aerodynamic the body is. So that's why we have a live data stream of that.
And how is it going?
Eric: We're in a really good place, as what we're offering is a bit of a magic bullet. We're going to have the scientific evidence to back it up. It proves that just sitting on your bike or skis differently will enable you to go quite a bit faster. And we're just giving people the eyes to be able to see this information.
I had a personal passion for this. I've been racing bikes since I was 12 years old, and I started my career in the cycling industry in power metres, which was the first time technology was tied into cycling. At the time the best training methods were using heart rate monitors and measuring the power your legs were putting out. Companies were doing that in the early 2000s when I got into the industry, and I was lucky enough to get a job at one of those companies and watch that whole industry unfold.
Now it's commonplace for athletes to collect multiple data streams of information, download that information, analyse it afterwards and share it with their coaches. It is a very scientific process. There's an equation that describes the training stresses on your body. If you plug your data streams into that and you optimise your training for it. It's a very exciting time to be an athlete.
How has the evolution of sensor technology affected your business?
Eric: I am fortunate that nobody wanted to fund me in the early 2010s because the tech wasn't there yet. So we had a very different experience. We are riding on the backs of the industrial IoT revolution. We are very much tapping into what's going on in autonomous driving right now. The sensors are pushing those revolutions we're using and for sure we're just not big enough for the sensor companies to make the exact tech that we need. So we're very much right on the coattails of some really high tech stuff. We're partnered with the University of Southampton, and we are using technology that was developed initially for navigation in space. There's literal rocket science in what we're doing.
What has been your most challenging moment so far?
Eric: Can I say, raising funds during a pandemic?
Okay, and what has been your proudest moment so far?
Eric: I think we can all agree that it was our wind tunnel testing.
Jordan: Yeah, we had some pretty amazing results. No one's ever done what we've tried to do before, and so we are writing research papers to try and show the difference between the wind tunnel results and our results, which hopefully we can publish very shortly.
Eric: It was a massive moment for us, I mean, we had spent two years building something in the lab on the faith that the math and the science behind this works, but without the ability to prove it. We had little indications along the way, but to have a full-scale athlete on a full-sized bike, going up against the gold standard wind tunnel and getting the same results is just huge validation. And yeah, it was just a fantastic moment for the team to get them.
Do you struggle to get your audience to understand the value of what you are offering?
Jordan: Aerodynamics in cycling is very well understood now, and it is a growing sector. If you take a look at how bicycles have changed in the last 15-20 years; they went from changing the materials to carbon fibre to make the bike as light and as stiff as possible. But now aerodynamics is a considerable player in the cycling industry, and many people do already understand that.
Eric: I think we struggle a little at the consumer level where people understand the value of our system, but not how it works. I don't think it's essential for the consumer to understand, and we're not trying too hard to tell that story. The story we do want to tell is, "Look, the professionals who do need to understand this are working with us and taking it seriously." From my time working in the industry I have contacts at a number of professional teams but as soon as we released our results, we immediately started getting calls coming in. We've scheduled several evaluations for later this summer.
You are using quite a unique investment strategy. Would you mind explaining it?
Eric: I don't think I'm in a position to advise people, but I will explain the decisions that we've made. When you're a pre-revenue startup, unless you happen to be in some massive industry like medicine or the automotive industry where sometimes people will take more significant risks, you can struggle. When you raise money, the first thing the investor will ask you is "Do you have a revenue stream?" Which is a question we have received a lot, for an investor to take a risk without that revenue, they usually need to understand the industry very well. That is why our lead investor has spent decades in the cycling industry.
Now, however, we have results to show that this technology has real value. We thought that we could spread this out beyond just industry experts, we wanted people in the industry to see what we're doing and immediately have confidence that it is going to work. In many cases, that's just avid cyclists. We considered crowdfunding on and off but moved away from things like Kickstarter because we still have another year and a half to develop, and it will be a premium product. So we just didn't feel like that was the right choice.
We chose equity crowdfunding. We're on the Crowdcube platform right now. It allows people to invest in you for equity in your company. So there are still some rewards, and they get early access to the product, but they also get equity in the company. It's a risk for them because obviously, we're still a startup but they don't just get a product for it, but they also have equity. So if we are financially successful, they will also be going to
be financially successful with us.
We've had a fantastic response. Other people share our vision and not at the professional level, but also just out in the cycling community. The platform suggests that you have sort of 30% investment before you go live so people have confidence. They give you this private stage to acquire this. Well, we reached 30% within four hours of having sent an email out to our supporters, and now we have passed our funding goals. I'm grateful and so happy to see so many people share our vision. So now we're live and will be funding for another month.
If you're another company out there considering crowdfunding, hopefully, I explained enough about our decisions that you've gleaned some information from that. If not, I'm happy to talk to anyone in more detail and share our experience.
How has The FuseBox helped you as a business?
Eric: We joined for a couple of reasons. One was the prestige of being in a Digital Catapult Centre. The other was to try to be around like-minded companies. And honestly, because of the Brighton Immersive Lab, there is much work going into AR and VR, so we kind of felt like we were an outlier. It turns out we made a lot of connections. There's a lot of crossovers there. We have worked with several different residents in The FuseBox, who have skills that we need and hopefully we've helped out others with our experiences as well. It's incredible even being in the same space. It was the reasons we joined in and I think it's really worked out that way. It's been very beneficial.
Thank you for your time guys, I'll let you get back to work. Lastly, how do people find out more about what you are doing?
The best place to find out more would be our website bodyrocket.cc