This Collapsible Bike Helmet Could Save Lives

red bull launchpad winners 2017

By Ty McMahan

Meet the people behind the first bike helmet that fits in the shape of a water bottle.

NEW YORK — Among the apps, algorithms and virtual worlds on display at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference, attendees lined up to try on a revolutionary bike helmet.

Most bike helmets you’ll find at your sporting goods store are toaster-sized hunks of foam. The Park and Diamond helmet, however, is as thin as a baseball cap and just as protective as traditional safety gear. Made of a composite material, the stylish helmet can be collapsed, folded, rolled and stuffed in a water bottle or pocket.

Created by Virginia Tech students David Hall and Jordan Klein, the idea — in the true spirit of the conference name — seeks to disrupt a product category that hasn’t budged in decades.

The co-founders were driven to create the company following a tragic event. Last year, Hall’s sister — who wasn’t wearing any personal protection — was riding her bike through the intersection of Park and Diamond streets in Blacksburg, Virginia, when she was the victim of a hit-and-run bike accident while going to campus. She spent four months in a coma, more time than the person who hit her spent in jail. Thankfully, she’s made a full recovery.

Watch the story behind the invention:

Most riders who eschew a helmet do so because they don’t want to be stuck carrying around a bulky object after parking their bike. Some people only wear helmets that are comfortable, convenient and look good.

“We thought, ‘What does every bike and bag have? A place to store a water bottle. So, if the helmet fits in that space, the rider can always be covered,’” Klein said. “Carrying a helmet becomes a seamless part of life.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 74 percent of fatal crashes involve a head injury. Of those killed, 97 percent are not wearing a helmet. By creating a helmet that is ultraportable, Hall and Klein believe they will be able to save the lives of riders who previously would have gone without a lid.

The winners of Red Bull Launchpad 2017

Two Red Bull Launchpad 2017 winners
Two Red Bull Launchpad 2017 winners
© GABRIELA URBINA

The company’s inspirational story and innovative design helped it take the top spot in this year’s Red Bull Launchpad program, a collegiate start-up competition. The competition is designed to “give wings to collegiate entrepreneurs,” helping them turn big ideas into reality. Park and Diamond bested nine other competitors from esteemed institutions like Harvard, Yale, Brown and Carnegie Mellon to take the prize. By winning, Park and Diamond earned an all-expenses-paid trip to New York to exhibit among other top entrepreneurs at TechCrunch Disrupt, considered one of the premier tech conferences in the country, and a coveted spot in StartUp Alley.
“We have had made so many contacts with investors and other entrepreneurs,” Klein said from the Park and Diamond booth at Disrupt. “We’ve gained a ton of exposure.”

The team also had the opportunity to get some feedback from Red Bull athlete Austin Horse, considered one of the fastest courier-style street racers in the world.

“People will choose not to ride a bike because they don’t want to wear a helmet, and I think this is something more accessible,” Horse said.
Horse said he could see demand for the product growing alongside the popularity of bike-share programs. If it’s easy to pack a helmet, more people are likely to jump on a bike.

Bringing the product to market is the next big challenge for the Park and Diamond team. They’ve raised about $175,000 to prove out the technology and build prototypes. And, with the buzz they’ve been able to generate through Red Bull Launchpad and TechCrunch Disrupt, they hope to raise $1 million for tooling and production to deliver the helmet to those who pursue an active lifestyle.

Red Bull Launchpad will return later this year, with the winner earning the opportunity to participate in TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco. Stay tuned to Launchpad.redbull.com for details.