People say that manufacturing in America is a thing of the past. They say that we no longer make things here. Two young entrepreneurs from Bellingham, Washington, disagree.
Not only have Josh Bechtel and Gabe Starbuck created a successful manufacturing startup out of thin air, but they’ve created an innovative redesign of one of the world’s most ubiquitous pieces of equipment: the bicycle.
“I’d been designing fixed-gear bikes and was looking for a way to make the bike simpler,” explains Josh. “I drew up a bike that didn’t have a chain at all, but instead the pedals were attached directly to the back tire.”
The result is the Bicymple.
“We had this idea, and the next step was to create a company,” says Gabe. As two friends who live just a few miles from the Canadian border and who had never owned a business, Josh and Gabe knew they’d have to do things in a different way.
They used Skype group video calling to build relationships with suppliers, distributors, designers and fabricators – both across town and across the planet.
“It’s really cool to use Skype to connect with other designers to make sure the product is exactly what we need it to be,” says Josh. “We can see changes real-time, kind of looking over their shoulder digitally and see what they’re working on.”
While they are hand-building the forks and assembling Bicymples at Bicymple World Headquarters (AKA Gabe’s basement), they are sourcing parts from other experts in Washington State, California and The United Kingdom. They are even collaborating with a 150-year-old unicycle hub manufacturer in Switzerland.
Gabe says, “We’ve receive a lot of positive feedback from people in the tech startup world who like that we’ve applied the ‘lean startup’ approach to manufacturing.”
While using Skype group video calling for conference calls has helped them reduce travel and startup costs for production, it has also allowed them to get in touch with an audience of bike enthusiasts and consumers around the world. Proud new owners of Bicymples can be found from Germany to The United Arab Emirates to Australia.
Both Gabe and Josh still work from home offices or “on-the-road offices” (when a mountain biking trip calls). By embracing technology, they’ve been able to create their own company and keep the outdoor biking lifestyle they love so much. Now that’s work-life balance!