SUTD start-up WHYRE wants to revolutionise road safety for motorcyclists

If you ride a motorcycle, not only could this new helmet attachment get you to
your destination faster with GPS directions, it could even save your life one day!

The soon-to-be-released two-piece attachment “Argon Transform” is the
brainchild of WHYRE.

Fresh from a trip to Las Vegas, where they showcased Argon Transform at the prestigious Consumer Electronics Show (CES), WHYRE talks to #WeAreSUTD about the ups and downs of their entrepreneurship journey!

The device, which can be used on any helmet, provides the rider information from its front- and rear-facing cameras, GPS and the Internet—via an augmented reality heads-up display. It will be out later this year at a lower price than existing smart helmet solutions!
The team comprises four SUTD graduates — Chief Executive Officer Tan Yishu, Chief Finance Officer Lim Qun, Chief Technology Officer (Software) Muhammad Hafiz, Chief Technology Officer (Hardware) Dylan Tan,— and Chief Business Development Officer Glen Ong, from the Singapore Management University.
What is your backstory? Do you all ride?

The idea for our smart riding attachment began with a discussion on how vulnerable road users are, especially motorcyclists who have the least protection.

Take Chief Business Development Officer, Glen Ong for example! He was a medic with the Singapore Civil Defence Force, and he witnessed many major accidents involving bikes. It discouraged him from getting a bike license only until recently!

How did the idea develop from there? Why did you make an attachment instead of a whole helmet?

As much as riders can gear up with protective equipment, the most ideal outcome will be to prevent accidents before they even happen. We originally wanted to build a full helmet, but
later pivoted to making an attachment instead. This way, our product can be adopted more broadly.

Chief Technology Officer (Hardware) Dylan Tan and Chief Finance Officer Lim Qun
What were some of the challenges you faced?

There was no job stability! Sadly, we have to work with little or no pay. We also felt that we lacked experience in the business world. (That’s where our Chief Business Development Officer Glen comes in!)

The SUTD entrepreneurship department was a big help throughout. They signed us up for competitions, which won us much-needed funding, and also helped us with grant applications to the government.

SUTD also gave us access to mentors who are experts from their various fields, such as Senior Director of Marketing & Communications Corinna Choong, whom we consulted on marketing matters.

Chief Executive Officer Tan Yishu and Chief Technology Officer (Software) Muhammad Hafiz
The five of you spend a lot of time together working on Argon Transform. How do you deal with conflicts?

We are really good friends, which means we always communicate freely even if we are upset with one another! We voice our opinions openly for the betterment of the start-up and keep each other in check because our work is highly dependent on one another’s progress.

Come to think of it, we really operate like a band of brothers because we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, and coming to work isn’t a chore. Even on the weekends, we get together and jam since our music taste is very similar!

Any regrets so far? What’s the best part about doing your own start-up?

What was really exciting about the start-up journey is we had total control in the whole product development process! That’s something you do not often experience in a corporate setting.

We also love the flexibility it gives us not only in terms of working hours and job scopes, but also the flexibility to conceptualise and create with little constraint.

Chief Technology Officer (Software) Muhammad Hafiz
So how was CES 2019? It’s the biggest event for consumer electronics!

It’s a big deal! We’re talking about the biggest consumer electronics fair in the world. There was a lot of media attention.

How did the exposure help?

We’re developing a product that is consumer-centric, so it is crucial that we explore every available option to reach out to our users. In that light, CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is a very apt and relevant exhibition for us.

Other then exhibiting our own products, we were able to exchange ideas with like-minded engineers at the forefront of the industry! This gave us a lot of opportunity to not only further improve our product in its future iterations, but also our current processes to get it into the market more effectively. It was an eye-opener and also an honour to be at CES; a humbling experience overall!

Did you get any useful feedback on the product?

Definitely! As much as we have conducted our own market study, any opportunity for us to speak to our users is a good one. There were a few comments about the price point, but we are confident that the product is priced very reasonably. As riders ourselves, we truly want to bring our product to life in the best way possible, for as many people as possible.

Chief Business Development Officer Glen Ong
Did you get any inspiration from other products exhibited at CES?

As mentioned, it was a humbling experience for us, and being exposed to the forefront of the industry gave us new ideas to move ahead, especially with what WHYRE will be developing this year.

What are your next steps?

We plan to launch a crowdfunding campaign sometime in March, and the final retail price is expected to hit the market around US$680. We have to strike a balance between pricing and maintaining quality — we cannot compromise on safety!

We are confident that our customers will see the value behind Argon Transform!

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