Watch the video above:
Turn signal gloves for safety
Better than before – Available now at Zackees.com
Click here: List of 3rd gen Zackees improvements
Zackees Turn Signal Gloves are gloves that light up for safety. They were conceived by Zach Vorhies, a former Google employee who spent over 5 years there as a Software Engineer. Prior to that, he worked at LucasArts as an AI Engineer. I asked Zach a few questions about these gloves and his journey to offer them on Kickstarter.
Q: Hey Zach, you must be pretty busy with all that’s going on. What’s the Kickstarter goal and how many days do you have? I’m looking forward to hearing more about your company and the actual gloves. Did you feel the need to consult with the cycling community or are you a bike rider yourself?
I’ve been super busy, but I thrive on that. Our goal is $35,000 in 30 days. This happens to be my first product launch and experience forming a company. I was a Software Engineer at Google prior to this. Even though I own a bike and use it regularly, I’ve found a new form of transportation that I really like – electric skateboard! Zackees gloves work really well with electric skateboards. They’re great for joggers, too.
Q: Your gloves really seem like a great safety idea. What’s the current status on meeting the funding goal? How did you test the gloves prior to Kickstarter? Are you getting a lot of orders from NYC? I imagine so. Bikes are everywhere here.
Given the current trend, it looks like we’re going to hit our goal sometime this week, which is really exciting! Since we began offering the Zackees on Monday, we have over $18,000 in pre-orders, and this is just Day #3. We product tested using myself, my co-founder and friends. Our friends really liked the gloves and said if they weren’t wearing them while biking, they felt “naked!” I’ll always remember that feedback. And yes, we’ve seen a lot of people from NYC ordering the gloves.
Q: Good! I hope more do. We need that extra safety, especially now that the sun sets earlier. I heard you made it into the Huffington Post! Congrats!
Thanks! Yeah, Zackees got onto the front page of Huffington Post’s tech section. It felt very validating. The TODAY show has also expressed interest in our story. We’re also in CNET, Wearable Tech Insider, Fast Company, TrendHunter, VentureBeat. Everything’s really exciting.
Q: What else should folks know if they’re thinking of getting Zackees? Do you think Zackees could be in stores someday? Can you tell us about possible next steps for the company?
We are offering gloves that take rechargeable and disposable batteries. The batteries themselves are the same dimensions as the standard coin cell that powers many electronics. It’s called the 2032. A ‘low battery indicator’ is built in. It’s a red light that only comes on as the battery is nearing the end of its life. The price difference between the rechargeable early adopter Zackees model and the standard is $99 versus $69. $99 will get you the glove plus two sets of rechargeable batteries so that you never have to wait for the batteries to charge. Yes, we’d love to see our gloves in stores – we think it will be a very strong seller. However, the challenge for a hardware company is scale and bringing the price down. Our Kickstarter campaign allows fast access to go directly to an economical scale. So the retail story for Zackees begins with Kickstarter to drive the initial inventory.
We have a rough idea of what we want to do after the campaign, but we know that we could pivot for the right opportunity. We have a bunch of ideas we want to push through using our company as a channel. We want to improve on gloves so that people riding mopeds and motorcycles can have turn signals. A lot of times motorcyclists make their turn signals as low-profile as possible. I can see a lot of motorcyclists preferring a light board for signaling, in addition to their actual turn signal.
Q: Can people overseas order the gloves?
Yes, they can. They’ll receive the product in 2Q 2014.
Q: Do you feel your ideas hit you from out of the blue? It’s kind of amazing – and great for you – that the gloves weren’t dreamed up by anybody before you.
Actually, I want to give credit where credit is due. After I made the first few gloves, I started doing viability research because my instinct told me, ‘There’s NO WAY I’m the first person to think of this.’ Lo and behold, it turns out other people did try, but they didn’t see success. But yeah, I get ideas all of the time, but most of them don’t pan out. Some of my ideas, such as Zackees gloves, gain traction with my friends. At first I didn’t want to commit to making a business. I simply wanted to make a cool pair of gloves that made me safer on the road. I love it when people come up to me and and ask, ‘Where did you get these things!?’ And that’s what I set out to do, originally. I wanted to work at Google during the day, but at night I wanted to create fantastic art projects that amaze people. Then the glove idea just grew and I thought, “Maybe there is something here…” So I started making gloves and decided to be consistent in my efforts to improve them.
Q: Do you consider yourself the type that comes out unscathed from tough situations, most of the time?
Let’s face it, the business world is tough. I have all sorts of ‘scars’ on my body and mind from past mistakes, so I wouldn’t say ‘unscathed.’ Everything’s a learning experience. People may look at someone and say, ‘Wow, they’re a great success, they must be naturally successful.’ But I don’t think that’s right at all. I think a lot of successful people are that way because they’ve failed a lot, but they keep going. Someone said it takes ten years to be an overnight success, and I certainly agree with that. Imagine the time and dedication required to succeed in software engineering. As a Software Engineer at Google, I also helped design the best navigation system in the world – the MMI3G. It’s in Audi’s and Volkswagens. Those cars have Google Earth in them!
Q: Wow, very cool, Zach. Is there a subculture within the crowdfunding scene? Tell us more about your experience with crowdfunding. Did you feel your time at Google gave you some insights?
In San Francisco, there’s a subculture for sure. Most of us meet each other through meet ups facilitated through meetup.com. The crowdfunding trend is really exciting. I like seeing these new companies emerge to challenge dominant positions. It’s like David versus Goliath, except there are like 1,000 Davids, and 10 Goliaths. I think one of the best things about my experience with Google is that I know their online tools such as Google Docs. The ability to stay organized as a small company is really tough, especially when everyone has their own computer. Naturally, when I went looking for a solution, I realized Google had all of this software that was perfect for a small business.
Q: How deep does your appreciation for tech go?
One of my loves is user experience, and that comes from my psychology background. I’m very perceptive when it comes to UX. A lot of people think integrated devices usually give a poor UX, but it’s not always true. Sometimes integration is good for the UX. A lot of car companies prefer their own navigation systems instead of just a holder for your phone on the dashboard. With the MMI3G, Audi solved certain challenges through integration – and I mean ones that are very hard to solve with discrete devices. For example, our cellphones have inconsistent data coverage. Imagine your navigation system saying “Sorry, I’m not going to accurately work anymore. I can’t load the road data because I don’t have a connection.” We accept that as smartphone users, but when it comes to designing a car navigation system, it’s completely unacceptable. To get around this, Audi stores a copy of the road network locally. That way, when the connection drops, they still have their road data intact, even if the terrain images might get a bit fuzzy. So that’s one example of how integration has a positive effect on user experience.
Q: Tell us about Zackees’ core team. Who’s in it? How’d you meet? Where’s all the info if people want to learn more about the gloves?
The core team consists of two founders, myself and Murat Ozkan! I’m a software engineer by trade, and now I can say business strategy and vision are part of my arsenal. Murat is a hardware/firmware engineer and handles the fabrication and assembly of the electronics. We met through a mutual friend who said “You have to meet Murat, he’s awesome.” And true enough, we hit it off. When I thought of the idea for the Turn Signal Gloves, I asked for his help. He got really into them and so I asked him to join, and here we are, 6 months later, in the thick of our Kickstarter. It’s super exciting. To learn more, visit www.zackees.com.