Banking & Finance and Investing and Inventions

Inventor to try crowdfunding to launch cycling product

August 20, 2014

An Indiana inventor plans to use the power of the people—and the World Wide Web—to secure funds to produce prototypes for the Land Zeppelin, a Zeppelin-shaped apparatus that allows bicyclists to ride in the rain without getting wet.

Jim Gorman, a civil engineer by trade, got the idea for the project in November 2011, though it took years to bring the Land Zeppelin from notes on paper to the prototype stage.

Named after the airship of the late 20th Century, the Land Zeppelin is a plastic, see-through cover, roughly shaped like a a football — though much larger — that encloses the cyclist and bike and protects him from the rain.

"One ride will convince you," Gorman has said.

When he rides the Land Zeppelin in the rain, Gorman said it feels as though he is cheating the weather.

But to protect the invention with a patent and to produce more LZs for beta testing, Gorman and his business partner, Mark Keillor, a semi-retired social scientist and tinkerer, require about $50,000, the Greensburg Daily News reported.

They are launching a three-week crowdfunding campaign at indiegogo.com to collect funds from bike-enthusiasts around the world. Indiegogo, like Kickstarter, enables people to spread their ideas via the Internet and to ask other people around the world to donate money toward achieving a goal, from writing a book to producing a video game or supporting a new invention.

Gorman said Tuesday that he is "really excited about the opportunity."

Supporters can go to www.indiegogo.com and search for the Land Zeppelin and pledge to donate money. Money will be withdrawn only if the campaign reaches its $50,000 goal. If the campaign falls short of its goal, no pledged donations are withdrawn, and the money remains with whoever made the pledge.

The website features an explanation of the project and an animated video that shows the approximate look of the Land Zeppelin and its use.

It also lists perks that people get for pledging certain amounts. For example, people would receive cycling socks with an LZ logo for a $13 pledge, an LZ T-shirt for $27 and an LZ logo classic cycling jersey for $70. A pledge of $975 will get you the beta testing package.

Hoosier businesses have more options available to them now under new crowdfunding laws.

Through crowdfunding, Indiana firms can use the Internet to raise up to $2 million in a single securities offering, and Hoosiers can invest up to $5,000 each online, according to rules the Indiana Secretary of State's office announced in July.

The rules apply to a law the Indiana Legislature passed earlier this year. The state passed the law to mirror similar legislation on the federal level.

Crowdfunding began as an online fundraising strategy to collect donations for not-for-profit, artistic and humanitarian projects. Indiana's new rules allow small businesses and entrepreneurs, for example, to sell equity stakes to investors online.

If his crowdfunding campaign proves successful, Gorman hopes to set aside about four months for production and deliver the product to beta testers in January.

Gorman said that getting prototypes produced and into the hands of other bicyclists is critical to spreading the word about the project.

The crowdfunding campaign primarily will pay for patenting, which is projected to cost $10,000, and engineering, testing, and production, which is expected to cost about $30,000.

Gorman said he knows that the product works, but he would like to get feedback from about 50 other beta testers who can tell him what they like and dislike, what they think about the ease of installation, what happens in a crash and how the design can be improved.

Gorman emphasized that perks and the LZ's parts will be sourced and made primarily in southern Indiana. The jerseys, for example, will be made in Bloomington, and the socks in Martinsville.

The Land Zeppelin is projected to cost about $650 retail, and the inventor envisions a kit that can be assembled by the cyclists at home. And bike shops probably will assemble some of them and sell them as sets with the bike.

Gorman said that worldwide, 130 million bikes are sold every year, and about 10 percent are to serious bikers and/or commuters. He figures that he can generate significant revenue if he can sell the Land Zeppelin to just 1 percent of serious cyclists.

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