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Urbanminded is February's Featured Business of the Month

Fri, 26 February 2016

Mason Holden won a Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Award in 2015 for his business, Urbanminded.
Their first product, BikeVault, is a high security bicycle docking station that lets you lock and unlock your bike with your mobile phone. BikeVault helps to address the urban problems of pollution, transport congestion, and poor health by encouraging cycling as a means of urban transport. 
 
Urbanminded’s flagship product, BikeVault, was initially developed as a University project in autumn 2012 while Mason was studying Product Design Engineering at the Glasgow School of Art. Mason and his two co-founders, Daniel Harkin and Michael Evans, founded the business after graduating in 2014.
 
The business is helping create a smarter future and solve urban problems through product design, technology and data. As it stands, city councils work largely independently to address shared problems like pollution, transport congestion, poor health, crime, waste management, and civic engagement. Urbanminded believe that through a collective effort and a pooling of resources common problems can be identified and addressed universally through the targeted application of product design and technology.
 
Shell LiveWIRE sat down with Mason to catch up with him and to see what’s next for Urbanminded.
 
What was the inspiration behind Urbanminded?
There wasn't really what you call a lightbulb moment. We took a roundabout route to where we are now. I would say the primary inspiration behind Urbanminded was the Internet and the business models surrounding it. We live in a global society where high quality services are provided for little to no cost to the user. We would like to do the same for public services.
 
How did you get into entrepreneurship? Did you always want to go into business for yourself?
I am interested in tackling big problems that affect the way we live, like health, energy, transportation, urban planning and sustainability. I don't necessarily feel the need to work as an entrepreneur, I would happily work for an organisation that I felt was addressing these problems. When the university project that initiated BikeVault was over, I felt that it had potential that was not yet realised and helped to address a few of the problems above – so I continued to work on it. It slowly developed into what you see today.
 
How did the business fare in its early days and how is it doing now?
In its early days we were 100% focused on product development – it would make sense from a team of product designers. We have evolved a lot to share focus with the commercial aspects of the business. It used to be a case of build and test the product, now it is shifting to focus on selling the product. A lot will be proven in the coming year commercially.
 
What is your proudest achievement with the business?
 
There have been lots of firsts and achievements as a designer (in particular sending my first components to manufacture and having them come back and work correctly), but as far as achievements with the business I would have to say being featured in FastCompany’s FastCoExist.
 
You won a Shell LiveWIRE Award last year, how have things changed for you since then?
We’ve undergone an extensive design and prototyping period to bring our idea from a computer rendering to a fully functioning prototype. We then went a step further to work with manufacturers to develop our design into a mass producible product. We conducted extensive beta testing with the production samples to validate the security and usability of our design, simulating up to 10 years of continuous operation. Designs were tweaked to resolve any issues that arose in the testing, then we added in a theft detection system to further improve security.

We have been featured on a number of media outlets including an article in FastCompany and a segment on BBC Click. This coverage has led to purchase enquiries from city councils, transport partnerships and private companies globally. We are now working to secure our first customers.
 
What’s next for Urbanminded?
We would like to have broken ground on our first citywide installation by the end of the year.
 
Entrepreneurs drive innovation. How do you think this can be used to help create a smarter future?
If entrepreneurs drive innovation, then there must be an incentive for entrepreneurs to work in areas that contribute towards a smarter future. This can be a financial incentive (funding grants for businesses operating in this area, inspiration from examples of businesses that are sustainable or healthy but also profitable) or a personal incentive/motivation.
 
What role do you think entrepreneurs will play in the transition to a low carbon society?
I think the responsibility lies on entrepreneurs, government, and the media. In general people will do whatever is cheapest, easiest, safest, and the most socially acceptable. It’s up to those responsible to make sure that these motivations coincide with what is necessary for a low-carbon society.
 
What advice would you give to aspiring young entrepreneurs?
Make sure that you are motivated by the right reasons. It’s a marathon so you need to be wholly behind what you are doing and a bit crazy to stick with it. Understand that most will fail, and you might be one of them (I also might be one of them, I just don't know it yet). But in general go for it, there are plenty of problems left to solve.
 
Got a Smart Idea for a Business?
Do you have a smart business idea that will provide a solution to the world’s future transport, food, energy, or natural resource challenges, or make our urban environments cleaner and more sustainable places to work and live in? If so you can apply online now for funding!

 

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