I (this is Kevin) began running earnestly shortly after the 2011 Tsunami and Earthquake in East Japan. At that same time, we had just bought an apartment and moved along a beautiful riverside path that extends for many, many miles. A few months later, our first son, Ken Ernest, was born and brought immense joy to our lives. I was running almost five times a week at this point and was enjoying morning runs along the river. But a few months later, my wife went back to work and our son began going to daycare. I take my son to daycare every morning, which is the highlight of my day. However, my morning runs had to become very early runs or had to be abandoned. Instead, I started running home from work at night. Our apartment is only 6 miles away, which is a great distance. By taking different routes, 6 miles can increase to 9 miles or even more if I am ambitious. The river runs were great and peaceful. Running through the city of Tokyo was a bit more difficult. Aside from having to wait for stop lights, the number of pedestrians and bikers sharing the sidewalk was tough to manage. Around this same time, my friend shared a very hilarious video. See below. This video gave me inspiration for Runbell. I started running with a cheap bicycle bell that I picked up at our neighborhood store. The bell worked, but was not so easy to carry in your hands. Slowly but surely the concept of Runbell formed in my head during each run home. We modelled and printed our first prototype in August of 2013. We met our production partner shortly thereafter and introduced our idea to him. He was skeptical about who we were and why we wanted to work with him. However, after seeing the improvements in the design, Mr. Shimizu has become one of our biggest supporters. His headquarters is literally a five minute bike ride away (or a five minute run). We have met with him multiple times and have received great advice each time. We are now partners working not just on Runbell, but on creating other prototypes for some of his other projects. The growth of Runbell has been fantastic and we can't wait to share our product with all of you. Our Kickstarter campaign is launching on May 5th. Subscribed now to be the first to hear of our launch! Kevin of the Runbell Team
Kevin is a structural designer by trade and works with a famous Japanese architectural company in Tokyo. Runbell was created during the late evenings after work while run commuting home. Runbell started off as just a silly idea using a bike bell while running the streets of Tokyo. Pedestrians fill Tokyo streets, but the bike bell easily alerted the pedestrians of a runner's approach just like a biker would do. However, the bike bell was clumsy and hard to grasp. After learning 3-D modeling software from scratch and 3-D printing the model, Kevin created the first Runbell prototype. It was a crude version of the elegant Runbell 2.0, but still a serious start. We took the first prototype to Mr. Shimizu, a Japanese artisan, with refined skills in bell making. Over the next year, Kevin refined the prototype and prepared for his first Kickstarter launch. In June 2014, Kevin successfully funded the Runbell Kickstarter campaign raising $25,000 from 700 backers.
[caption id="attachment_103" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Runbell and various prototypes[/caption] We got started with our concept more than one year ago. I had trouble running through the city streets here in Tokyo especially at a few key locations. The subway exits would sometimes be swarmed with people. Bus stops had people jumping off the bus. And grandmas would just dart out of convenience stores. I needed a better way to run. I started with a cheap bicycle bell. Obviously, it wasn't the perfect tool, but my runs were much easier. The first prototype arrived in September. The day the 3-D printed Runbell came in the mail was so exciting. I immediately put Runbell to work on a run home from work. Almost perfect. Over the next six months, we have been refining and making the Runbell not just work, but also look awesome. The bell slowly reduced in size and the sound slowly grew more and more beautiful. Brass bells are really just so pleasing to the ears. Enjoy these pictures of our prototypes and final product. [caption id="attachment_104" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Runbell and various prototypes[/caption]
Getting prepared for a Kickstarter launch is a daunting task. So many tasks to do and, of course, everything has to be perfect. This past week, we've taken quite a few pictures of our final prototype. The prototype looks awesome. The prototype was modelled in Rhino, printed in 3D in Belgium, shipped to Japan, got stuck in customs as the Japanese authorities tried to figure out how to tax 3D printed objects, and now it has arrived in our hands. The custom made screws arrived the same week along with the custom made silicone inserts. We went to the fabric store and picked up black wool to make the Runbell pouch. If we are going high class with the Runbell materials, then you have to store them in their proper place. Next up is shooting footage for our video as well as wrapping up our website/kickstarter launch page. Sign up for our email list and be sure to get our launch email!