How Three Engineers From Chile Built The Ultimate Unstealable Yerka Bike
Bike stealing is a very common problem in most countries across the world and three engineering students from Chile seem to have had enough of it. Cristóbal Cabello, Andrés Roi Eggers and Juan José Monsalve have always been very close to sports. During one of their class, they were asked to solve commuter's problems. By this time, Andrés had already lost his bike two times. The trio came up with an idea to make a bike that acts as its own lock. The result has been their own startup 'Yerka Bikes'. They created an unique solution to the problem by developing what's now being called world's most secure and unstealable bike.
The Yerka Bike features a very unique lock design. If a thief wants to steal it, he would have to break the frame which is the most structural part of the bike and if he does so, the bike becomes of no use. Read our coverage of the Yerka Bike here. The team has received a $100,000 investment from a state enterprise fund.
In an exclusive interview with CrazyEngineers, we got Juan José to talk about the inspiring story of how Yerka Bike came to life, how they plan to expand their venture, their major learnings from the startup and a lot more. Read on!
Andrés Roi Eggers (left), Juan José (center) and Cristóbal Cabello (right)
Juan José: We have always been very close to sports. Everyone of us, the founders, has practiced various different sports since very young, but there are two things that have always been common to us: our love for bicycles and our enthusiasm for creating things. Our families have been very supportive since always from the very beginning, encouraging us to explore, to play and to create, and what better than legos to do so.
CE: Share your experience from University in Santiago. How did you
meet your co-founders?
Juan José: Andrés and Cristóbal met really young at school and since then have been practically inseparable. I came across with them on our first year on Engineering school in differential calculus, and we’ve been friends since then, sharing some summer vacations and some other festivities.
CE: When and how did the idea of making an un-stealable bike hit your mind?
Juan José: The idea of making it harder for a thief to steal a bike its been always in the collective subconscious, and practically everyone who has gotten their bikes stolen, like Andrés two times. The main concept of making te bike its own lock was born in a class we all shared as a team. We were asked to solve a commuters problem and since we’ve always been in love with cycling we thought we could solve a problem related to this. Here is where Andrés’s previous experience with bike theft was key, because we used it as a pivot or starting point to create a solution.
CE: How did your studies in Industrial Engineering help you in building this bike?
Juan José: Andrés and Cristóbal they both study Industrial Engineering, and I study Civil Engineering, so we all can add different knowledge and experience to the project. I am in charge of the whole Engineering background of the project since I have more knowledge in structures and materials. Cristóbal can apply all his knowledge in accounting and project evaluation among various other. Andrés can also add his knowledge in this recently mentioned areas, but more importantly, he can add his personal knowledge and skills to the project in the whole design area. Our logo and looks of the bike represent only a few of what he can achieve in this area.
The Yerka Bike Lock
CE: What initial research/planning did you do before starting up with Yerka Project?
Juan José: Regarding the class we didn’t made much research, in the first minutes of googling we could realise that the bike theft is a huge worldwide problem, so our focus went on creating a solution, and not justifying the problem. The famous sentence of Henry Ford really came handy in this step of the class. When we really had to research a lot was when trying to make this project public, see if anybody else had thought about this and if not, how to protect ourselves.
CE: Could you tell us about how the Yerka Bike operates?
Juan José: It works on any traditional bike frame that has a lower diagonal tube. This tube splits into two arms that folds, and later crossing the seat tube (extended) through them you complete the lock.
CE: Tell us about the bluetooth based locking/unlocking system?
Juan José: We are currently developing this system and the main advantage is that you won’t have to carry a key. If your phone battery runs out you can always ask for a friend’s phone and use your account and passcode to unlock it, and if there is no one around that can lend you a smartphone, you can always use a morse code like device to unlock it without the need of a phone.
CE: Any word on the pricing of the Yerka bike as of now ?
Juan José: The first units sold on Indiegogo had a price of USD $399, which cover the time ended in USD $499. We do not have a final retail price yet, but we believe it shouldn’t be much more than this last price.
CE: How do you plan to expand your reach? Are you targeting the Asian market?
Juan José: Right now our main targets are the US and the European market, which also were the two biggest buyers on Indiegogo. Our first approach is to enter the US in the next year via an e-commerce. We are working on closing deals with partners who can carry on with the logistics in the next weeks or so, and the e-commerce web page is already under construction, so we should be up and running by 2016.
CE: What are your thoughts about the startup ecosystem in Chile?
Juan José: Chile is still growing in this terms. It’s a relatively young country in terms of crowdfunding, entrepreneurship and innovating. We are not saying that it is impossible to innovate here in Chile, but it’s difficult. There is still a lack of support from third party entities to boost up the innovation ecosystem in Chile. We know lots of people who have great ideas but are lacking of support and smart investing. The good thing is that all this people are trusting more themselves everyday, and hopefully in the near future some entities can realise all the potential there is and back them up.
CE : What are your major learnings from your startup journey so far?
Juan José: It probably is - to never stay still, to always be moving or doing something. We’ve been taught many thing as Engineering students, but one of the most important things that we’ve learned in the process is - to always push. If you want something, go do it yourself. If you want somebody to do or achieve something, you have to constantly communicate with him and always keep track of things. It’s true when they say that nobody is going to do things as good as you, but sometimes yo have to outsource tasks, and this is when you have to be constantly pushing.
CE: What is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur? What do you love or hate the most about it?
Juan José: Uncertainty and not knowing things. I think it’s a love hate relationship. This is what makes us work everyday real hard, to make the uncertain certain, to solve problems that yesterday we didn’t know how to. If it wasn’t for this, we maybe wouldn’t be here. It was the not knowing how to make our bikes more secure that made us create this solution.
CE: Any message for our fellow engineers?
Juan José: As we have been saying for a while now, be creative, always persevering, and stay a bit naive. If we would have known beforehand on what we were going to deal with, we would have probably freaked out with all the problems, but perseverance kept us going.