Altum Designs is a London based company, run by Mr. Daniel Varney. He designed, manufactured and now markets a unique and pioneering bike tool, which won a Tapei Cycle Design & Innovation award in 2017, and the business is now starting to really get off the ground.
The product comes under Altum’s MODUAL range, which consists of an innovative 14 function bicycle multi-tool and an accompanying tool roll that are “comprehensive enough for use at home, yet compact enough for the road – a portable yet powerful alternative to conventional folding bike tools”.
Dan always had the burning desire to start a business of his own, and throughout his life his entrepreneurial spirit has always been a constant. As a child, several of his family members owned small businesses which gave him a deep respect for the beauty of small business entities. His interest in design, however, was more of an innate thing.
The idea for this multi-tool was a long time in the making, having started life as Dan’s final project at university where he was studying degree level Industrial Design. He and his friends were cycling enthusiasts and their frustrations by the shortcomings of other commercially available bike tools formed the inspiration for MODUAL. Over the following years, Dan worked as an engineering consultant on the development of an armoured fighting vehicle to sustain himself while he continued to develop his ingenious tool.
In November 2015, Dan decided that the tool had matured enough, and so he left his engineering post in order to focus on taking his product to market.
Dan says that finalising the design was the easy part – it was preparing it for manufacture that was tricky. Making sure that mass production is feasible for an invention such as the MODUAL bike tool is a complex process, where striking a balance between technical feasibility and the retention of the original design is critical.
He now works full-time on the business and his first product rolled off the production line late last year. Having launched on Kickstarter in the summer of 2016, he supplemented his crowdfunding with a loan from the Start Up Loans Company and began trading in early 2017.
The mature yet ever-blooming cycling industry is an exciting wave to ride, but Dan says that this also poses problems. Having such an original and innovative product was essential, but it wasn’t the only important aspect of his fruitful business plan. Marketing, PR, business analysis and strategy, along with many other aspects are crucial to ensuring success.
If he could’ve done anything else differently, Daniel says he would’ve found a partner or other well-established businesses he could have collaborated with at an earlier stage, so that he could share the work load and get the leverage of associating his brand with a reputable business. He says he envy’s others who got this together, and having a partner is something he yearns for. Going solo has been a perpetual struggle for Dan and he finds it hard to be able to see the bigger picture when needing to spend so much of his time engrossed in the details. Laying the ground-work with just one person covering all the roles has been very challenging, and whilst he gains market traction and a dependable flow of sales, he’s had no choice but to grin and bear it.
Daniel has great gratitude for the Start Up Loans Company. He found the mentoring very valuable, and he continues to benefit from it.
“The Start Up Loans Company was an excellent resource and service. They were reasonable and flexible when it came to funding, with a competitive and fair interest rate; there’s no need to find equity diluted investment, and you don’t have to deal with the bank! SULCo is a happy medium start-up, and I’m very glad that it was in existence to help me through starting up my business – I would definitely recommend them!”