To their colleagues, Adam Kalamchi and Kane Hsieh seemed a little crazy when they left RRE Ventures last year to start a bicycle company. Nine months and $1.5 million later, they’re officially launching Brilliant Bicycle Co. to sell reasonably priced bikes to people who care more about simplicity and color than specs and ounces.
The $1.5 million in seed funding was co-led by four general partners at RRE. Brand Foundry Ventures, Great Oaks VC, Aspiration Growth, and angels including Bonobos founder Andy Dunn and DogVacay CFO Bryan Wolff participated.
Brilliant’s first bike, the Astor, comes in three speeds, three sizes and six colors. It starts at $299, ships for free to New York in 24 hours (and the rest of the country within a week), and can be assembled in under an hour (depending on how handy you are).
The assembly process is meant to be more idiot-proof than Ikea — all necessary tools are included, each part is labeled clearly, and an instruction manual with videos on Brilliant’s site makes it difficult to screw up.
“A bike is a simple product. There are people who are hobbyists and enthusiasts who really want to talk about specs, but there should also be an easy option for a normal person who just wants to ride to the park and has a budget in mind,” says Kalamchi.
Kalamchi and Hsieh are approaching the bike industry with a startup mentality. By cutting out unnecessary parts on their bikes, optimizing production and shipping, and removing the middleman, Brilliant is selling a bike at half the cost of comparable products on the market.
“When you go to a bike shop, you’re implicitly paying for things that you’re not totally aware of — storage, because that bike has been there for six months, choice, because there are 100 models to choose from, assembly, and usually a year or two of included service,” says Kalamchi.
And bike shops are intimidating to the casual rider.
“It’s all very dudely,” Hsieh says, pointing out the Instagram profiles for a few leading bike brands, which are filled with pictures of high-end racing bikes ridden by middle-aged, spandex-clad men.
For people who want to own a bike, but not shape their lives around biking, the options are limited. And for the U.S. consumers who currently spend over $2 billion per year on used bikes, Kalamchi and Hsieh are betting that Brilliant’s entry-level bikes will be a more appealing option.
Brilliant will be rolling out additional bike models, accessories, and services over the next year. Kalamchi tells me they’ve already started experimenting with a concierge service in San Francisco and New York — “the geek squad for bikes,” as he calls it.
“Our goal is truly to get more people riding — we want to offer a bike at a margin that keeps us sustainable, but also keeps the base entry level price as affordable as possible,” Kalamchi says.