News - 2016051102 - Leave your boring cycling jacket at home

As self-driving cars are not quite ready yet, bike accidents unfortunately are still a thing. Sometimes, stupid monkey brains can’t see someone riding a bike. Lumenus wants to fix that with smart clothes and accessories for runners, cyclists and motorcyclists. The company is taking part in our Startup Battlefield competition at TechCrunch Disrupt NY.

Lumenus integrates LEDs into clothes. For now, the company is working on two jackets, a vest and a backpack. During daytime, they look like regular clothes and accessories. At night, you can turn on the LEDs for safety and take advantage of the smart features.

“All the system is completely embedded — you’re not going to see wires and LED bulbs,” Lumenus co-founder and CEO Jeremy Wall told me before Disrupt. “You’re easily able to switch out your bike jacket for this upgraded version because you’re not losing, comfort, fit and size.”

The battery is a small circular cell with a male USB on it so you can plug it to any USB charger. On average, you can expect 7.5 hours of continuous light usage, or 24 hours of flashing mode. And the best part is that these lights are waterproof.

When Wall was in college, he started riding his bike a lot to commute. He was a little bit scared when the sun went down. “I almost got hit by a car at one point,” Wall told me. That’s how he came up with the idea behind Lumenus.

If you’ve been following Kickstarter campaigns, you already know about Lumenus, as the company already did a successful crowdfunding campaignlate last year. Lumenus plans to ship the backpacks in July with other items following shortly after. Items range from $150 to $450.

And yet, these clothes and accessories are just the first step. The startup has bigger plans, with a software element, a licensing business and potential new markets.

Let’s start with the software part. Lumenus isn’t just about safety. For instance, you could connect your jacket to your phone using Bluetooth and input turn by turn directions. Putting aside the question whether it makes sense to connect your jacket to your phone, the handcuff LEDs will tell you when you should turn left or right so you don’t have to look at your phone.

Your jacket also could alert you when someone is calling you, or if you’re not running fast enough compared to your target pace. Wall calls this a Zero UI design. The LEDs can give you bits of information without requiring you to tap on your phone’s screen. And your phone acts like the brain for your jacket.

Then there’s the licensing business. Lumenus wants to partner with other clothing brands to add LEDs and smart features. The startup is announcing onstage that Bollé is the first partner and is working on a Lumenus-enabled bike helmet.

The startup doesn’t act as a white label company, as you still need to install the Lumenus app to take advantage of all the features. In other words, Lumenus wants to become the standard of smart clothing for cyclists and runners.

Finally, Lumenus sees a future for smart clothes beyond cyclists and runners. “We see a huge opportunity in the industrial safety space,” Wall said. If Lumenus technology doesn’t get commoditized, the startup could make clothes for highway construction workers, miners or delivery people.

Obviously this is a longshot, but it could also turn this nifty product into a successful business.

Questions & Answers

Judges: Ajay Agarwal, Charlie O’Donnell, David Pakman, Ellie Wheeler, Joanne Wilson

Q: Do you have any data yet that shows that these devices improve safety?
A: In general, 21 percent of deaths happen during just three hours of the day — night time. And the primary reason is lack of visibility.

Q: Are you going through offline retail?
A: For the offline channels, we really want to do an engaging experience in store. When it comes to licensing, we want to follow the Gortex model.

Q: What about wearing it at a rave?
A: We’re looking at ways to make it react to music.

Q: How many people on your team right now?
A: Right now, we’re four.

Q: So you want to license your technology with four people?
A: We want to expand the team. We already have the relationships with retailers, etc.

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