Vanhawks are the makers of Valour, the first ever connected carbon fibre bicycle. The company launched on Kickstarter, where they raised over $800,000 from more than 800 backers.

Tell us a bit about Vanhawks.

We are building the first ever connected, carbon-fiber commuter bicycle. We looked at the very fundamental things that a cyclist undergoes everyday, like taking a turn when there’s a car in your blind spot and getting hit from the back. We provide a blind-spot detection system that will vibrate if there’s a car in your blind spot. Some people bike with their phone out to get directions, which is super dangerous. With us, if you put in the address, we give you turn-by-turn navigation.

You sent personalized messages to everyone you knew when your Kickstarter campaign launched. Could you tell us about that?

It was the hardest and the longest thing I have ever done.Three nights before our Kickstarter launch I wrote a script on Facebook that had me download my entire friends list as well as my friends’ friends list. That whole night I sat down for 10 hours where I wrote every single one of them a personalized message. Then I took that Excel sheet and sent it over to my sister and my sister-in-law, and I asked them, “Hey, could you guys do me a big favor? On launch day, copy this message with this person’s name, find them on my Facebook and send them this message.”

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How much time would you say put into sending out these messages?

It wasn’t just with the Facebook. I also did that on my email list. I downloaded a list of everyone I have ever emailed.
Usually I’m pretty good with keeping up with people’s lives because that’s just the kind of human being I am. But a lot of times, I would be writing a message and I thought, “I don’t know anything about this person anymore.” The only way I would get to know more about them is through their LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Whatever avenue I had, I took two or three minutes to see what they were up to. Then I’d comment on that. I’d say, “Hey, I remember you talking about this.”

Pitching journalists is grueling. What is the most important part of getting your story out there.

The company story is the heart of everything; if you can tell a good story, people want to write about it. People forget that journalists are writing a story for an audience; they read that story. To have a chance you need a good project that is unique and different. Campaigns run quickly, so I’d say hire someone else to do it. Your time as a founder is better used elsewhere.