Originally aired on June 3 @ 12:30 PM - 1:00 PM EDT
Founder Focus is a “Humans of New York” style spotlight on the human stories behind diverse startup founders, their life experiences and perspectives, the origin stories of their startups, and the path they took to where they are today.
This episode features Lelia König, Co-Founder, dashbike.de.
The Dashbike is the first dashcam for cyclists, developed and tested according to the requirements of German legal standards. Lelia König is an avid cyclist, endurance athlete, and entrepreneur.
Welcome everyone to another episode of Founder Focus. I'm your host Jade and today we have our special guest Lelia König from Dashbike. Welcome to the show Lelia. Thank you so much for your invitation. And before we begin I want all of our audience to know that you can either call in or email your questions to Lelia and we will make we will leave a little bit of time for audience questions at the end of the episode. The information for calling in questions is also available right down below. So very briefly can you tell us about the Dashbike device? Yeah so thank you very much. I'm the co-founder of Dashbike. Dashbike is a safety cam for cyclists which is placed right under the saddle as you can see it here. The Dashbike is a safety cam for cyclists where you can also record and you have a daylight on it. So you can also tell your cities about the critical spots. So we have nearly two different kinds of business models. So on the one hand we just sell our safety cams for customers and on the other hand we work together with several cities to tell them about critical spots, frequent accrues, road conditions. So all in all it's also a sensor box. We developed Dashbike because we are a team of cyclists and we have so many bad accidents and bad situations where people are overtaking us much too close. And yeah this was the beginning of our idea in 2019. Now we are at the end of our prototype stage and we go really to the market. So we start with the mass production and yeah the last time was pretty successful on the one hand but also pretty exciting. So before we came on the air you mentioned that people will be able to pre-order this on a crowdfunding campaign. Can you tell us about that? About when it's approximately when it's going to launch and how people can find out? Yeah so we start now with the mass production. That will take us maybe around eight weeks then maybe eight to ten weeks. So because we know that some things don't work like expected but then we will really go on the market in the middle of June. And also we start with a kickstarter campaign and the kickstarter campaign will start in the middle of April. And if you are interested to support us and you can also support us with just sharing it in your network please sign up for our newsletter. So I used to live in San Francisco and I've never been brave enough to commute by bicycle in San Francisco. And a lot of my friends have had you know very close calls with cars buzzing by them and things like that. Is the camera on the dash bike able to do things like capture a license plate and OCR it and maybe share that like would a cyclist be able to share that information with the police? How does that work? Yes so we are filming permanently on the back side of the saddle. This is a click system like all the other action cams are also using. So we are filming permanently and if an event is happening so in case someone is passing with less than one and a half meter or if your bicycle is crashing then we will save permanently the 15 seconds in advance and also five seconds live. So this is what we what we always say. On the other hand for sure it is really important that we have some clear videos that you can really see whose fault it was. We are working on some artificial intelligence solutions but we will not make it in our dash bike. We will make all those stuff in the app and also in the version two as an update. But our software team is really excited about this artificial intelligence stuff and they really love to do it and also train the machine. So in the US some of my cyclist friends seem to be divided in the category of people who are primarily commuting and going between home and work on their bicycles and some other people are primarily recreational cyclists who you know like to go to mountaintops and do very serious cycling. Do you see one group or the other group more likely to be your target audience for dash biking? So I think this is something that really changed in the last one and a half years. So when we started with this we thought okay that's the main problem of the sporty cyclists like I am. And then we talked to several normal people who are just going to commuting, just going grocery shopping and so on. And then I figured out that a lot of people they just don't feel safe in the city and also a lot of people they are scared for their kids when the kids are cycling alone. And also now we have a new topic that a lot of people who are maybe around 30 or 40 tells us I want to buy this for my mother or for my father who is riding now an e-bike and it's much faster than he would be with a normal bike. And sometimes there are some pretty dangerous situations. Not always the fault of the car driver or truck driver but yeah they don't feel safe. And I think the feeling of safety is something we can really support. That makes a lot of sense. So I noticed on your website you had said that it meets the requirements of German law regarding the privacy of recording bystanders. And a lot of our audience is very international and so people aren't necessarily familiar with German law or EU law. Can you educate us a little bit about how that works and how other places in the world have similar laws? So I think the most strictest law are in Germany. We have a lot of privacy and data issues so we are not allowed to film permanently in Germany. This is why we started to think about event triggered videos. And this is also the beginning of the dash bike that we say okay if it's not allowed to film permanently then we will make it the other way around and we will just film if an event is triggering the camera. So this is the main focus. Also for your other countries it is totally fine if you can tell them that the distance between me and the car or the truck and so on was maybe 70 centimeters, 50 centimeters and crash happens. So okay it's not necessary. It may be in the USA that you need to tell the police the distance was about 40 centimeters. But it's always good though you just have an advantage. Nice. Let's see. So a few years ago I remember when a meteor crashed in Russia and there was so much footage of this meteor going across the sky and all these Russian dash cams had footage of the of the meteor. And I was thinking about how ubiquitous dash cams are in Russia that this becomes the case in water. Can you talk to us a little bit about the market forces that would create ubiquity in dash cams in a place like Russia versus a place like Europe versus any other kind of environment? So I think for the German market is a little bit different because people are not familiar with dash cams. Sometimes the dash cam has always the word just the word has something negative. So this is why we always need to tell the people why they need it and what what they can really do with this camera. But on the other side the dash cam market in Germany but also in Europe is growing since 2013 I think about 700 percent. So we talked to a lot of cities because they always need the data from the cyclists and we tell them hey if you really want to have the data then you will have it with a dash cam because this is a consumer product and it's something what is growing at the moment. So it's totally easy to to get the people on board. But for sure you always have to tell the people I don't know why it is so so negative because it's for example in Russia you need it for your insurance otherwise you will not get an insurance because they are not willing to pay for accidents what maybe are because of someone else. And in Germany they are like oh no not sure if I need this on my car and maybe I will just pay for an accident what was not my fault but it's like that. And I think this is something that will change a lot in the next couple of years. So here's something that I'm not familiar with is whether people who drive cars have car insurance. Do cyclists have any form of insurance? Do cyclists have a different form of insurance? So a lot of insurance companies are developing some programs at the moment. This is why we already work together with several insurance companies because they try to get something on for the cyclists. But for the cyclists it's a little bit difficult to really say whose fault it was. The only thing you know after an accident between a cyclist and a car is that normally the cyclist gets really hurt because the cyclist is not even protected. So you wear a helmet yes for sure but you can't fight against the car. Right you're flesh they are metal. Yeah I mean it sucks to be flesh when you are up against the metal. Yeah and they are so much faster and heavier than you. Yeah absolutely. So you are a cyclist yourself. Can you tell us about, I mean you do races, can you tell us about your cycling history? Yes so my cycling history is very short but intense. I started cycling in 2016 so until 2016 I was playing soccer my life long. Then I met my boyfriend and he was totally into the cycling game and I was like okay so I will just buy me a bike and I will come for 10 kilometers or so. So just to have some fun and after two weeks there was a funny situation and I just registered for a race. It was just for fun and I was just like don't think about it just do it and it was totally fun for me and I saw those people who are racing world cup in my hometown and it was the first time I didn't even knew that there's a world cup in mountain bike in my hometown and I was like okay I really want to jump in. I want to do this and yeah so I started directly to train every day and now this year it's the first time where I really qualified for the world cup in Albstadt. So yeah I really like mountain bike. That's amazing. When does that take place? So on the 9th of May so not long anymore. Unfortunately with no spectators this year so no one can come and cheer for me so yeah. But presumably it will be live -streamed. Yeah for sure yeah. Red Bull TV will always cover this. I wish you the best of luck. I hope you get some good coverage for for Dashbike before and after the race. Are you allowed to wear a company shirt or something like that during the race? Unfortunately not because I have to wear my team jersey so maybe I have to tell my my yeah maybe we can make a hat sponsoring. Yeah nice way to represent your way to represent your uh your brand. Absolutely always also on Instagram and I always share this also the journey to just yeah come to this. So um I want to ask about so 2020 and 2021 has been a very interesting year for everybody to say the least um and uh like how how large is your team? Have you all have I assume you're probably working remote how how has that been working out working from home transitioning? Um yeah so we have been growing really much um I started in 2019 together with my boyfriend Sandro and we have been a really good team but there have been some challenges we couldn't face at our own um so we have a totally different startup because we have a family startup. Um I asked my uncle because he is an uh yeah he's a software guy and I asked him if he wants to join us um and give us a little bit of help and he was pretty open he's also living in the U .S. and so we always have the time shift between um and he was yeah pretty open to just help us and in the beginning it was pretty less work but now um he's the CTO and has to look after our yeah our after our team. So um yeah he always faces his challenges um after my uncle came into our team we didn't have an investor yet so um we didn't have the money to pay someone so the brother of Sandro was joining our team and he's doing everything related to marketing and design and he's doing really great work and yeah so we really survived the first year and after that we decided okay now we really need an investor um we can't uh yeah spend our whole money into this project so it was really it was the end after one and a half years so that we we need to say okay now we also we we need to make this professional um we made a lot of good solutions and yeah we had a lot of different projects but it was not a consumer product you can really sell and you can really produce in masses so we got this step and we found an investor here directly in Thuringia um the BMT and we have been so happy to work with them together because they didn't have been just an investor they have been like a real partner so they helped us in every situation and for a startup this was yeah pretty important we have been so motivated but some things we couldn't solve at our own because we don't have the experience and this was how we started also with our team so um we needed someone in software we needed someone in hardware because it was crazy how people um yeah how people are if they see that you don't have some experience they really take your money and just give you at the end a really bad result and yeah but they want a lot of money from you so we decided okay we need our own software and hardware team um now we are 11 people now so it's totally crazy we work with the first cities together um so that we also have some revenue yet because we work together with them and work on their data platform so um how can we improve them how can we make them more digital um just for example we can um yeah we can watch the road conditions every day with our dash bike but at the moment they are working really like this that someone is um driving around every year on every street and is watching how is the road condition here and this is something we can digitalize they can just say okay we need 1000 people who ride uh their bikes with the dash cam and then we have all those data so it's much much cheaper than just having a person who is driving around the whole day and also the results are better yeah i i can imagine they would you know that's such a use of human capital to drive around and also clogging up the roads i mean the city could just purchase a thousand of your devices and raffle them off to winners yes well normally we do it like that that we really um do some marketing campaigns and search directly for the for the test riders um because the main problem is if you just um ask for some people you get normally the always the same group so you have some men between 30 and 50 and that's absolutely no bad not bad but you need for the statistics a much more diverse group so this is why we always really refute the applications that we can say okay we have some mothers who are just writing um for grocery shopping we have some men who are commuting we have some other women who are um yeah just riding for fun and also for sport we have some men who are riding for sport so this is um much easier and also much better for the cities nice yeah that that makes a lot of sense um so i would like to shine the spotlight on on you personally uh for a bit further in the in the episode and um can you tell me a little bit about uh you know your life experiences growing up about germany 2020 what was that experience like it's it's always uh funny i just hope that you will not find it on the Internet but it's okay um so i grew up in in germany in um this is between stuttgart and the lake of constance so in the south and yeah it's pretty hilly there and you nearly always have snow so um i'm a really good and um yeah i have a little brother and yeah i lived there together with my family until 2017 and then my boyfriend and i we decided to just start studying because i was a bank clerk and i was not so happy with my job so i decided to just quit my job and do something else and so i started to study sport management um because i still like really to have those um mathematics stuff also um yeah the journalism stuff so it was pretty interesting for me yeah and then our startup was growing so fast so that i um yeah make a break at the moment of my of my study time um because it's it's crazy i go to work and i learn so so much in my startup every day it's crazy i never learned so much in my life like in the last i don't know two years so and also i try to learn still a lot by my own so i started programming um it's okay i'm not a good programmer but it's it's fun for me so i always try to be open and yes and my hobby is mountain biking i think that's clear um also i write the blog because i just always want to yeah that something where i can show all my my memories and so on and share this with the people and yes last year i i was at the and i got really far and it was a a funny experience for me because it was absolutely not my world um they they wanted they wanted to change this they they told everyone that it's not anymore about um about your face about your body and so on it's really about being a woman who can can do something who achieved something and so on and i thought i was only always a woman who was so oh that's so crap and don't do this ever and then i was like okay they really want to change it and now i can be part of this change and i i think it's important to just tell the people it's okay to not be uh really thin to not be with underweight and so on and i thought okay that's the possibility to change something and this is why i wrote that application but to be honest it was like always and i feel totally in a totally wrong place and yeah so it was a little bit crazy and i told told also my followers and so on after the first day i told them okay that's absolutely not my world um it's it's a good experience now and it was funny because also i told this um the the newspapers and so on and they wrote some articles about it and always i get into the next round and i was thinking don't you read those articles yeah but but i will not miss it because it was it was a yeah it was my my way to just try to change something i tried it i also tried to talk with them and tell them what they maybe could do better and so on um they have not been interested but i tried it you know it's always good to have more and different experiences and experience more different worlds going and you know what i regardless of whether they uh you know understood all of your feedback right away i'm sure it sort of marinates over time for them absolutely and i think maybe i i empowered also some some women to just apply there because a lot of people they they wrote me some messages and told me wow you're so strong that you applied there and it was like you can do this too it's it's absolutely no worries just try it because i always think that the the things that happen in your life they are really for a reason so i just told them to just try it and try it out so uh so one of the last ones questions that i have prepared um let's imagine that i in i invited you to a magical zoom call where you are talking to yourself from 2019 um can you tell me about what that conversation would be like talking to your past self like knowing what you know today and having it have all of the experiences that you've had so in 2019 i would be totally optimistic that it's super easy to bring a hardware gadget on the market um so i would tell myself how in three months you are done you are on the market i think i would also have tell myself it's not that hard like anyone tells you and yeah but also i think i knew at this moment that this is teamwork so really a startup is teamwork and this is something i realize every day so the startup in sports they are so similar you have to train so hard you have to be so consistent you you really need endurance it's not a sprint it's it's really it's a it's a hard marathon because sometimes you are nearly at the finish line and then you get back and then you have to start from kilometer 11 or so and have to do it again and you really need that motivation to never give up that's a very i i love that that is so true um you know a lot of people have advised me over the years that you know it's not a sprint it's a marathon but from coming from an athlete like yourself it really means something with the sports analogy and the consistency and the day in and day out yeah absolutely and always trust also in your team i think that's something also if you have not the leadership experience like like we we are a startup and we have with not the experience in leadership yet i realized in the last year how much we have grown in this topic but yeah if i'm thinking back one year ago for our first employee oh my gosh it was it was horrifying so we thought we can all be best friends and we will do everything different to the other companies and it will not work don't reinvent the wheel for everything is that the advice yeah so um let's see we have about one and a half minutes remaining in the episode do you have any parting advice for our audience many of them are you know software startup founders many of them are you know maybe thinking about doing a startup in the future so if you want to start a startup i think just do it always go on because we had so many bad moments and it always have been going on so it was never ever the end so i think that's something really important and also the network is the key so if there are some people who just think our startup could match or so so just feel free to send me a message in linkedin or so on because um i realized in the last two years you have it so much more easy than you know some people and i think it's it's not so good to just work with your own startup so also talk to other startups and this is what we always try to do thank you so much for being on our show i'm really well done all right thank you bye bye so you