I spent the last three days in meetings with our affiliated carbon fiber composite product factories discussing all aspects of our current products, and planning for the future.
As the first installment reviewing the visit, I’d like to post a refreshed and more detailed explanation of the Velocite brand. Most of this is of course familiar from the “About Us” section, but I hope this expanded version provides further insights into why Velocite is truly unique.
Velocite product development approach and brand philosophy – what makes Velocite products possible?
To state up front – Velocite is not a sticker brand. We have some open design products, carefully selected and tested, but our core products like our frames for example, are our own Co-designed and developed with our manufacturing partners. This is very similar to the largest of brands, we just prefer not to hide it.
How can Velocite claim to develop original designs? Simple answer: because it is true. Meaningful answer: it is because of our unique relationships with the factories. We work with them very closely and donate our technical solutions to them for their own use and further development. A good example are the most recent Helios, Magnus and Flux designs that were co-developed and tuned by us and the factories.
Scott, our team leader for Taiwan and a mechanical engineer came with me to visit the factories and his comment was: “I cannot believe how good your relationships are with the factories”. It is hard to explain, and the details are confidential, but the nature of these relationships is our one secret and I cannot share it.
Magnus for instance started as a single size mold prototype (we do not make that size right now) that one of our factories showed us. We asked the factory to make a prototype frame using that one mold for us to test. We got the sample, we tested it, fine tuned the fit, finish and stiffness targets and asked them to make 4 sizes for us. We did not ask them to close these molds so that they can directly benefit from the input that we gave them.
Helios started off as a frame that I completely ignored for almost a month and then I saw it again and was blown away by its potential after some tuning and modifications. We made 7 versions of it, version 4 was the first test version, while the version 7 made it into final production. We again did not close this design, allowing the factory to benefit directly from our work.
Flux is the same, and our future seat posts, stems, and many other future products as well. One factory in particular is amazing. I discuss with them a potential design or a project, and a few weeks to a month later, prototypes arrive in the mail!
When I was at this factory on Saturday, I felt like I was in a fantasy world. Many of our designs were there, further modified and developed in some instances to make them even better. I cannot wait to see new amazing products that will result from the extensive discussions during this visit. We will try to make as many of them available by developing them further for Velocite.
This is all very good, but now that Velocite is growing and since the future is really bright, the problem with this approach that I anticipated to occur much later, may actually occur rather soon.
And that is…
Wait, so does this mean that I can buy Velocite products under a different brand name? The short answer is: no. The somewhat frustrating answer is: you may indeed see products that look very much like Velocite products, but wearing a different brand name.
The “problem” is to do with carbon fiber composites and the way carbon fiber composite products are manufactured. All carbon products invariably come from some kind of mold (except for the quaint lugged frames that just use carbon tubes and jigs to set the glue). Thus, since we did not close the molds for the Helios, Magnus and Flux due to the shared development costs and the nature of our promise to the factories, it is virtually guaranteed that someone else will make the frames using the same molds.
The second feature of carbon fiber composite products and the manufacturing process is that the same mold can be used to make vastly different products. Think of the carbon fiber mold as a cookie or a pastry mold. You can get the same shape whether you are cutting cookie dough, or cardboard, but only one of them will taste nice after baking.
Velocite material choices, production methods and stiffness targets are a lot higher than usual. It costs a lot to make a Velocite frame. This alone is a very high barrier for the simple sticker maker to agree to, however it does not eliminate the possibility of them claiming otherwise.
This situation frustrates me for a simple reason that whoever does decide to use these co-developed (Velocite + factory) molds and designs, will invariably claim that they did all the work, or other such nonsense that is unfortunately so prevalent in this industry. Due to my own philosophical stance regarding nonsensical claims, I would find this situation personally unbearable.
If we were an ODM (original design manufacturer), I would be ecstatic every time I saw our frame, but we are not an ODM, we are a super high end bicycle product brand.
So what will you do? Again, the solution is simple, but it could not have been done at the start. We will close the future molds so Velocite frame shapes will belong just to us. We will still share the technology with our manufacturing partners (no I cannot explain the details of our new agreement, but it more than levels the playing field between us and the largest of bike brands), but only Velocite products will look like Velocite.
Umm, so does any of this really matter? No, not at all. It does not affect the value or performance of Velocite products in the slightest bit, I am just writing this for my own personal benefit to try and lessen the future frustration of: “OMG I just saw the same frame with a different brand on it !!11!!1!”, and similar distractions.