SFU alumnus Thomas Plywaczewski has a new way to customize helmets. The product is a luminescent cable that is charged by a detachable, water resistant, USB-rechargeable controller called LightMode. The cable can be put on the helmet in any pattern, and when seen in the dark, looks like something out of the movie Tron: Legacy.
After graduating from SFU engineering, Plywaczewski went into “job-hunting mode.” The next eight months he had “many interviews, but no job offers.” During this time, he began developing LightMode out of his passion for motorcycles. He added that his “friend told [him] about Kickstarter and that’s how the idea to start a ‘Tron helmet’ business was born.”
LightMode ran its first Kickstarter campaign in August 2014. This campaign raised roughly 11 times the original funding goal, at just over $26,000. As Plywaczewski explained, “[. . .] that was the original ‘Tron helmet’ Kickstarter campaign, and the birth of my full-time business.”
The company’s latest campaign has developed a new version based on customer feedback. Plywaczewski and fellow SFU engineering alumnus and LightMode team member, Jordan Angelov, created prototypes using 3-D printing in an effort to optimize the design. Plywaczewski also spent six months in “scripting, planning, filming, and editing [his] Kickstarter video.”
The current Kickstarter campaign, as of publication, has raised more than $56,000 from 389 backers. Most of LightMode’s customer base is in the US, according to Plywaczewski, since it has “warmer weather in general, making it a more optimal region for motorcycle riding.”
While Plywaczewski said that “we may have heard back from one customer out of the thousands that they got pulled over,” he added that he has driven past many Vancouver Police Department and RCMP officers with the LightMode on, without any issues.
The products are currently in retail stores, and LightMode is now looking at US distribution channels as it expands. LightMode has also worked with Canadian plastics and prototyping manufacturers, as well as offshore ones. The company is now looking at manufacturing new controllers in Taiwan, while still sourcing some of the other kit components in the US and Canada.
Plywaczewski has some simple advice for students wishing to start their own business one day: “Listen more than you talk, and learn from people’s mistakes, not just their victories.”