Lighting up lives: Clemson entrepreneurs put cycling safety in limelight
Matt Brown will be the first to tell you he’s no visionary. But he is an entrepreneur, and has been for some time.
The Florence, S.C., native caught the entrepreneurial bug at an early age, growing up in the southeastern part of the state. His father, an assistant superintendent of Florence School District One, and mother, a speech pathologist, instilled in him a strong work ethic and a desire to succeed by encouraging him to take charge of his future.
As a kid, I used to sell candy to help fund school trips and ran a car wash and detailing business out of our driveway,” Matt said. “I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit in me. To this day, I live by two phrases that were often repeated by my parents: one being ‘good things happen to those who hustle,’ and ‘The more you read, the more you know, the more you know, the further you go.’ ”
Matt is putting to practice that work ethic and desire to succeed as an MBA candidate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Clemson University. The part of his learning experience requiring the hustle is a start-up business that aims to make cycling safer.
“It’s called GET LIT and the idea is to make the road safer for bicyclists by providing them with the technology to help communicate better with motorists,” Matt said.
GET LIT is a lightweight neoprene belt with an attached flexible LED matrix that cyclists can wear on their back, or anything of their choosing. Safety images can be uploaded to the device from an instrument located on cyclist’s handlebars to notify motorists of the cyclist’s next move. Essentially, it’s a directional blinker on one’s back that works with a wireless receiver so cyclists can better communicate with motorists.
Matt has teamed with fellow cyclists and Clemson students Scott Reed, a master’s candidate in automotive engineering and Hunter Freeman, who just earned a business management degree with an entrepreneurial focus in the College of Business and Behavioral Science.
“Scott is an engineer with ‘MacGyver’-like skills and is the brains behind developing the product. We couldn’t have done this without him. Hunter is a go-getter who executes in a very thoughtful way. Like me, he’s on the ground executing.”
GET LIT is evolving as a product. “We’re not there yet with the product. We want this to be disruptive innovation where, essentially, we leap frog the competition already in the marketplace and differentiate from anything else that’s out there,” Matt said.
The threesome’s vision for cyclist safety was one of 20 entrepreneurial business plans recently showcased at Princeton University’s “TigerLaunch.” It’s a national competition where select start-ups are invited to present their plans to business consultants, mentors and venture capitalists for a chance to win money for their startups. In order to be selected to present at Princeton University, teams had to go through three different rounds of judging and critiquing. GET LIT is the first and only Clemson startup to present at Princeton University.
“The goal for us at TigerLaunch was for us to win money for our startup, to make connections, expand our network, and learn from the synergies that existed at the event. We aren’t the first to attempt to provide a solution to safer cycling, but what makes us different is our path of execution. One of the biggest challenges we face is finding people that the problem of cycling safety resonates with, and we made many connections at the event.”
A crucial audience and doors the team wants to get their foot in are bicycle shops and cycling associations.
“It’s important for us to establish relationships with bicycle shops and with cycling groups. These people understand the need for what we’re doing. We need to build momentum and awareness of what GET LIT brings to cycling safety and vital to that is getting it into the hands of the right people.”
And, of course, equally important is capital. “Recently, we placed second in the Clemson EnterPrize Awards winning $6,000 to be applied to our startup. Some of the money will go toward expenses related to product development and manufacturing, and to build the brand and online sales.”
Matt is the first to admit the GET LIT team has plenty of work to do, but one thing he’s certain of is they’ve identified a problem and believe they have a solution within reach.
“What we’re trying to do is save cyclists’ lives and become the next game changer for cycling safety. Entrepreneurship is about identifying a problem that more than one person is having and finding a solution to that problem. We think we’re on the right track and there’s still plenty of work to do, but we’re up to the challenge.”