Airbag for cyclists is 'safer than a helmet'

Small Business Person of the Week: Frederik Carling, CEO, Hovding

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The Independent Online

“We’re the first manufacturer of airbags for cyclists – rather than wearing a traditional cycling helmet, cyclists wear our devices as a loose-fitting garment around the neck. Not only can the look be changed according to fashion, but more importantly, independent tests show our airbag provides three times as much protection as a conventional helmet.

“We’ve been selling the Hovding since 2011, but the company is actually 10 years old. Our founders were inspired by a debate in Sweden over whether cyclists should be legally bound to wear a helmet – they argued that if it takes a law to force everyone to use a particular product, there is probably something wrong with the product that stops people using it of their own accord.

“People associate cycling with freedom – and the idea of wearing a hard helmet on your head doesn’t fit with that. It took seven years to come up with our airbag alternative, but it really tackles that problem.

“I came on board in 2012 and the challenge has been to develop a sales structure so that we can really commercialise the product – until then, we were very much an engineering business focused on product development. We’ve worked hard at that – the product is now available from 400 stockists in 15 markets – mostly in northern Europe, but also in Japan, where we launched three months ago. We’ve sold 14,000 so far, but half of that has been in the last eight months.

“We’re now in the process of an IPO. We’ve already raised around £10m from business angels and other investors, but we need to continue to invest in the product and in building a commercial structure, so we’re taking on a further £3m or so, partly from existing investors but also from the public.”