Frey ’09 and Haugen GS ’12 pursue sustainable bike venture through Kickstarter
Aluboo Bikes, a company founded by Nick Frey ’09, Drew Haugen GS ’12 and James Wolf, has launched a campaign using the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to support their production of sustainable bicycles with bamboo tubes inside aluminum frames. Frey and Haugen spoke about their experiences with entrepreneurship and crowd-funding at a talk on April 11 hosted by the Keller Center.
The company, based in Fort Collins, Colo., launched a campaign on Kickstarter, a crowd-funding site that allows members of the public to pledge donations to support independent projects. Project creators set a funding goal, which must be reached in order for the project to receive any money. Aluboo’s campaign, which began March 23 and runs until May 7, met its goal of $50,000 in nine days. As of April 14, 143 backers have donated over $70,000 to the project.
Frey, Haugen and cofounder Wolf created Aluboo in the summer of 2012 in order to widen the accessibility of its parent company, Boo Bicycles, which markets high-performance racing bicycles. Frey created a prototype bamboo-carbon fiber bicycle while at the University in 2008, and founded Boo Bicycles after graduation a year later. Aluboo, which targets a more general audience, uses aluminum frames made in Vietnam instead of carbon fiber frames. Haugen explained that aluminum frames allow his company to save time and money while still allowing them to make hand-crafted products.
While Boo Bicycles’ bicycles are priced between $5,000 and $14,000 per bicycle, a bicycle from Aluboo would cost between $945 and $2,795, Haugen said in an interview.
“We wanted to offer a bike that would be price-accessible to more people and maintain the riding quality of a bamboo bike,” he explained.
Frey and Haugen said that they chose to use Kickstarter because it is one of the largest and most prominent crowd-funding sites. Furthermore, Haugen noted that the site’s audience is willing to try new products such as bicycles made from bamboo. “Those folks are the ones who are gonna tell your story,” Haugen said.
Kickstarter also offers potential customers the opportunity to obtain data on a variety of models without having to build the models first, Haugen explained. Without Kickstarter, Aluboo would actually have to build bicycle models to show them to customers interested in that model.
Both Haugen and Frey said in an interview that their experience at the University greatly influenced the development of Aluboo. Frey, who studied mechanical and aerospace engineering, said that the difficult classes he took in the department taught him to approach everything with a “can-do attitude.” Haugen, a Wilson School graduate, said that the classes he took in entrepreneurship and financial management gave him the basic business skills, knowledge and resources to pursue selling bicycles commercially.
Frey and Haugen both took ELE 491: High-Tech Entrepreneurship, taught by professor Ed Zschau ’61. They said that Zschau has been a constant mentor for their project.
Zschau explained that he and other experienced entrepreneurs in the area have experiences that enable them to make suggestions to young entrepreneurs.
“We’ve seen what the challenges are, and we’ve also seen how they might be approached,” Zschau said.
Inspiration for Boo and Aluboo also came from Haugen and Frey’s cycling experience. Frey, who became a professional cyclist in 2009 and is a two-time Collegiate National Champion, races on a Boo bike. He explained that the two biggest lessons he has learned from cycling are perseverance and an understanding of what bikers look for in a good bike.
The Keller Center was eager to host the lecture because Aluboo is a wonderful example of Princeton alumni who were able to start a business right out of college, said Cornelia Huellstrunk, Associate Director of the Keller Center. She cited passion, great ideas and the energy to push forward with those ideas as personality traits that have made Haugen and Frey successful entrepreneurs.
Zschau cited passion as the main reason for Frey and Haugen’s success. “To be able to have your job be your passion, that is not all that common.”
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