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The raving thoughts of a misanthropic academic

February 21, 2012

Innovation in America: The TiGr Lock Story

I've been staying up inordinately late the past couple of nights, devouring the Suzanne Collins series The Hunger Games Trilogy. I think my approximate bedtime each night has been between 3:30am and 4:15am. I understand that moderation is the appropriate virtue that I should be seeking to develop - particularly with Lent beginning tomorrow. Still, there's something very satisfying about greedily reading a book into the wee, small hours of the morning.

After realizing that my long blinks were becoming increasingly longer, I decided to hit the sack. But a final check of my Email suddenly left me wide awake. Extricating myself from the vice-like snuggle of our pooch, I padded down the hallway as not to wake my wife. I fired up the computer, and in the dead of night I logged on to an obscure website called http://tigrlock.com/.

The TiGr Lock is a kickstarter project that I have been following for almost nine months. The vision of a father/son duo, their goal was to create and market a bicycle lock that hit the holy trifecta of cycling - a bike lock that is secure, light weight, and aesthetically pleasing. Anyone who has cycled will immediately understand how such a lock has the potential to change the game in terms of bicycle security.

The problem is that most bike locks on the market tend to be large and cumbersome - think massive chains, and weighty U-Locks. Needless to say, such prophylactic devices are hardly very convenient when riding around on a road bike that is engineered to be light weight and relatively minimalist in stye.

There's also the unfortunate matter that bicycle security devices, in general, aren't terribly reliable. Security cables can be cut, and the ever popular U-Lock can be easily picked. As the market stands today, locking up a bike is more about theft deterrence than actual security.

Enter the TiGr Lock.

In preliminary testing, the TiGr Lock outperformed the typical U-lock in a series of three tests, using common bike theft tools: a tungsten-carbide handsaw, an angle grinder, and a (massive) pair of bolt cutters. And aside from its security benefits, the lock itself weighs about 1.5lbs  (or 24oz as the manufacturers cleverly note). The video below shows a side-by-side demonstration of the tests.

Aside from the potential to revolutionize bicycle security, one of the things I find most exciting about this project is the way in which the TiGr Lock story so closely mirrors the adventures and misadventures of countless entrepreneurs. The scrappy idea began in the workshop of its father/son inventors John and Bob Loughlin. Realizing they were on to something, the two inventors first sought outside investment capital from grassroots supporters to get the project off the ground. In a matter of weeks, supporters funded the TiGr Lock Kickstarter program at roughly 300%.

Sensing the lock's obvious momentum, the next step for the team was to follow their Kickstarter program by doing live product testing using complimentary product samples for the same supporters who originally backed the project. After mailing sample locks to supporters of a certain donation level, they obtained device feedback over a period of several months. In the meantime, the team formed its own LLC, and sought patent and trademark protection from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Finally, last night, the TiGr Lock website went live, offering customers the company's first product run. Assuming the launch is a success, the rest may well be history. Already, the TiGr Lock story has been featured in a number of major publications including the Wall St. Journal, Forbes, and USA Today. Let it not be said that innovation in America is dead.

After my clandestine rendezvous in our home office and another hour of reconnaissance, I quickly ordered my own TiGr Lock before slipping back into bed. Seeing as I neglected to inform my wife of the purchase, the $200 question will be how long I can keep a secret...

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