The team behind Blaze began with a mission to upgrade urban cycling to the experience it was meant to be: liberating, easy, and open to all. Driven by a passion to solve real problems, find beauty in simplicity, innovate technologically and produce quality goods, Blaze crafted a bike light unparalleled in quality and safety. In this interview, founder Emily Brooke talks about the personal journey that led her to create this revolutionary life saving device.
WHAT IS BLAZE LASERLIGHT?
The Laserlight tackles the biggest problem for cyclists on the road today: safety. The most common cause of fatality is a car turning across an unseen bike. The Laserlight allows a biker to be seen when they’d otherwise be invisible. 79% of cyclists hit are actually travelling straight ahead and a vehicle turns across them.
The Laserlight is a front facing white light, but it’s housed in beautiful diamond cut, aircraft grade aluminum casings. It’s completely waterproof, USB charged, has a backlit control panel and most importantly a laser! The laser projects a symbol of a bike onto the road in front of you, giving you a presence out of your usually small footprint.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED ON BLAZE?
In school, I studied a lot of science, but what I really wanted to be doing was art and design. I was quickly told that I could do art and design in my spare time and that I should concentrate on academics. I ended up going to Oxford where I majored in physics, more because I could rather than actually wanting to. I left Oxford after a year. When I took physics in school I loved it, but in university it was all theoretical—it was nothing that I could touch or feel. I left to do product design at Brighton. In my third year, I did a placement at design school in Milan and during that year I decided to cycle the length of the UK for charity, having never been on a road bike in my life. A friend and I decided to cycle 1,000 miles for a charity that’s very dear to both of our hearts—injured soldiers coming back from Afghanistan.
After that, I got the biking bug very badly—I’ve been on a bike pretty much every day since. During that ride, I realized that cycling in the countryside was wonderful and relaxing, but cycling in the city was exhausting, stressful and dangerous.
I went back to my final year at university and had to design a product from a problem to a marketable product. For the project I decided to focus on urban cycling. I set myself the challenge to find the biggest problem facing urban cyclists and tackle it. During that time, I worked with driving psychologists, the Bus Company, talked to a lot of cyclists and did a lot of statistical research and the thing that I found most shocking was that 79% of bikes hit are traveling straight ahead and a vehicle turns into them. I had that stuck on my wall as the challenge that I wanted to solve.
As I was biking around town, all I could think was that the car or truck in front of me couldn’t see me. If I could just be five yards ahead, I would be fine. That’s where the idea for the Laserlight came from and it became my final year project.
WHAT SPARK MADE YOU WANT TO FULLY PURSUE THIS IDEA?
When I got to America, that really opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship, and when I got back to London I got accepted into an entrepreneur course at an accelerator called Entrepreneur First. I got into it because of Blaze and the success that I had with that, but they wanted me to build a tech company—an online business. I spent the summer learning to code and looking at what we could be building and hacking a few things together and testing them. That whole time, I was still working on Blaze—I just couldn’t leave it alone.
Then one day, I came out of coding class late at night and found my bike was gone. It was the bike I had done the long ride on. It completely and irrationally ripped my heart out. I was utterly mortified and devastated. I then went to the police station and eventually got home and it was quite late. I went online and I saw that there was a young guy who worked at a startup in East London called Moo, who was just killed by an Olympic bus turning across him on his cycle home. I just had this slap-in-the-face moment of, “What the fuck am I doing? Look at me, look at how upset I am. This is what I care about. If this is what I really care about, why am I not doing this?” I called my mum and she answered in the middle of the night. She said, “We all know you should be doing Blaze. We just had to wait for you to figure it out yourself.” That was September 2012 and I decided to commit myself full time.
WHERE DO YOU SEE BLAZE IN FIVE YEARS?
I want to be the urban cycling brand globally. There are so many problems for city bikers. I want to start tackling all of them and I want to be known around the world as the urban cycling brand, creating really innovative products. Everything has got to be thought about from the problem first—the problem we’re trying to solve and then what’s the best way to solve it.