We’ve covered a lot of local startups at Insider Louisville, but we haven’t seen many get as far as Chris Bailey’s GearBrake. Last week, Bailey and co-founder Jason Harrington returned home from the prestigious Techstars Mobility accelerator program in Detroit and got right back to work on their company, which is now called Revio.
GearBrake is a universal brake light module that can detect when a vehicle — primarily motorcycles — is slowing and automatically illuminate the brake lights, reducing the risk of a rear-end collision.
The first week the team was in Detroit, they received more orders than they’d ever received in the past. So, in addition to the grueling 9 a.m.-5 p.m. programming at Techstars, they were staying up late filling orders. Bailey said for at least the first two months of the program, they’d put in their time with the accelerator and then work from 5 p.m. on keeping up with business.
Twice during their stay at Techstars, they doubled their all-time revenue and are now up to around $160,000.
GearBrake pivoted and rebranded in the last three or so weeks of the program. A consultant led them through naming exercises, while staffers at Techstars told them to stick with the GearBrake brand for Demo Day and just announce they will rebrand at the event.
But Bailey wanted it just right. “It went down to the wire,” he said. He pointed out his Revio T-shirt was so new that it was still stiff.
One of the reasons for the rebrand was that Bailey and Harrington developed a second product while at Techstars that had nothing to do with braking. This device, which does not have a name yet, is a telematics module, much like OnStar, but for motorcycles. Telematics devices transmit information over long distances.
In the case of this device, the initial functions will be the ability to alert police and a loved one if it detects you’ve been in an accident, and to alert you if your bike has been moved or stolen. According to Bailey, motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in an accident than motorists. He also said 30 percent of stolen motorcycles are never recovered. The device won’t just alert you when your bike is being stolen, but also if someone is playing around on your parked bike or if a car hits it.
The device also allows third-party app developers to build on top of the system to further enhance its connective capabilities.
During the program, Revio made a partnership with Munich RE and American Modern Insurance Co. The motorsports insurance company will have an exclusive deal to provide Revio products to its clients. Revio received a downpayment of $50,000 and an order for 6,000 units. Earlier in the program, Munich RE ordered 1,000 units of the GearBrakes to distribute for free to clients.
Bailey and Harrington said at first they were apprehensive about going to Detroit for three months, but once they were there, they quickly changed their minds. “It’s an awesome city,” said Bailey.
There definitely were neighborhoods in bad shape, he said, and the level of blight in those neighborhoods was awful. He and Harrington rented an apartment in a neighborhood that reminded them of NuLu.
The people in Detroit were welcoming, Bailey said, “But we have roots here in Louisville, so we had to come back.”
However, two of the 10 teams in the Techstars Mobility program ended up staying in Detroit. According to the Detroit Free Press, “The chief executives and founders of My Dealer Service, a computerized customer service system for vehicle repair shops that was started in the greater Denver area, and SPLT, a ride-sharing service from New York City, said their summer experience persuaded them to move to Detroit.”
Bailey said the Techstars network “plugs you right in” with mentors, coaches and investors. He said the partnership with Munich RE might not have happened without Techstars, because it would have been hard to find the right person to talk to. By the time they finished the program, Bailey and Harrington had met with more than 100 mentors.
Both Bailey and Harrington said they’d go through the grueling program again in a heartbeat, but their business is now at a stage where they have the business development side down. There will be no more accelerator programs in Revio’s future. It’s time to grow.
Being accepted into Techstars is a huge honor; they received applications from every continent except Antarctica. But Bailey and company have been serial winners in the startup community. Bailey won the 2014 Venture Sharks competition, the 2014 Vogt awards, and the 2014 Kentucky State Pitch Competition Contest. GearBrake was in the fall 2014 Velocity cohort and was the accelerator’s first hardware company.
Demo Day took place on Sept. 10 with a room of 220 investors. They’ve been fielding calls ever since.