We interviewed CEO Doug Storer, who calls himself “an accidental entrepreneur,” after injuring himself during a nighttime run. As for his future plans, he said their next project is “a bluetooth connected smart version of our shoe lights that will give the user performance bio-feedback in the form of “Flash Alerts” for distance, pace and time. We also are developing an occupational safety version for workers who need hands-free lighting to do their job more safely such as postal, delivery, public safety and construction workers.”
Here’s what else he told us about…
How the Idea Came About
Three years ago I tripped in a pothole during a pre-dawn training run. After hobbling home, I turned to my wife and said, “I need headlights for my sneakers.” After researching the available night safety/lighting products and talking to other runners and retailers, we knew this could be a big idea.
Working With His Wife to Build the Company
My wife and I are both runners and we soon became obsessed with the vision for Night Runner. Our kitchen became a makeshift laboratory and the night streets, a testing ground. We soon learned that being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 rollercoaster in attempting to perfect an idea. Nights are spent dreaming about new ways to achieve a concrete goal. Our bank account, vacation fund, 401k, and house became ways to keep the quest alive until we found others who believed in our vision too. Orlando has a strong entrepreneurial community and we were able to find outsourcing resources in product development, manufacturing, PR and sales.
Experience With Kickstarter
Money is always the life blood of a startup but we decided to undertake a Kickstarter campaign to validate the product and gain customers. In February 2015, we launched our campaign which raised $43,000. But more importantly, we earned 500 customers in 28 countries around the world.
The 1st Prototype
My wife and I both have design backgrounds, but not product design. We had a vision of what we wanted and had very high design standards and performance criteria. We knew we needed a working prototype — an object that an investor can hold to help them see the light. We built crude prototypes in our kitchen and experimented with lumens, light placement and mechanical devices to keep the lights stable on moving feet. But costs started accumulating quickly. We relied on our network of friends and family who believed in our mission to provide us seed funding to fund the first prototype. Then we were able to raise additional funds to evolve the prototype. All in all, it took two years, three engineering companies and three prototypes to develop Night Runner 270 Shoe Lights.
Interested in Night Runner 270? Buy one here.
His Father’s ‘Shark Tank’ Influence
We know we faced long odds with making it on the #1 TV show in the country. But why not us? It’s also important to note that my 85 year old father is a Shark Tank fanatic who asked us daily “When are you going to be on Shark Tank?” No one will be prouder on Friday night then dad.
Prepping for the ‘Tank’
We were prepared! We outlined 62 business metrics on our company. Every conceivable question the Sharks might ask we drilled them over and over again. We knew that no one knew our company better than we did. We also had revenues, customers, a patent pending and a great product that could help a lot of people.