In our latest series, we’re getting to grips with the brands that you deal with every day. The ‘Five minutes with’ series will present a company with five short, sharp and to-the-point questions about who they are and what they do. This week we’re joined by Hövding CEO Fredrik Carling.
Can you tell us the history of the company?
Hövding was invented over a decade ago in 2005, by two Swedish design students as part of their Master thesis. The project was well received by the university community and, following its initial success, the pair entered one of the most prestigious design innovation shows in Sweden, Innovationsbron. Here they won the Ideas Grant that allowed the pair to start developing their idea into a real safety product for urban cyclists. Fast forward to 2012 and Hövding was finally released – first to the Swedish market and, not long after, the wider European market and Japan followed suit.
In 2015, the company released the Hövding 2.0 - a new, lighter version of the product, which was also programmed to work on foldable bikes such as Bromptons. To date, more than 1,200 stores stock Hövding and 73,000 have been purchased by cyclists across the globe. What’s more, the company is aware of over 1,600 cases where the airbag has potentially saved a cyclist’s life.
What are you ultimately trying to achieve?
Our main aim at Hövding is to make cycling more enjoyable and accessible, whilst keeping people safe. Indeed, we know that half of our customers never wore head protection before discovering our product. I find this encouraging as, thanks to Hövding, those people are now protected when on the road.
In the wider scope of things, I always remember something we used to say early on in the inception of the company. The founders used to say that they felt like they had made the impossible possible. Before Hövding, no one could imagine a viable alternative to cycling helmets – let alone a safer one – and an airbag for cyclists was impossible to picture. This pushing of boundaries and challenging of the status quo has stuck with the company, and I always hope to inspire others with our story.
What gives you an edge over other brands in the industry?
Hövding is a vastly unique product. However, it is still compared to helmets because ultimately, both aim to deliver the same end result.
That being the case, Stanford University looked at the effectiveness of a number of head protection products and compared Hövding directly to cycling helmets. This was done via a simulation of the most common cycling accident – a single fall. This study found that Hövding provides eight times better protection against a risk of concussion and head injuries than that of traditional helmets. What’s more, the researchers called Hövding’s design ‘near perfect’ in terms of protecting both a cyclist’s head and neck in an accident.
What innovations in the industry are exciting you at the moment?
We live in a time where technology is constantly evolving. For me, it’s great to see the rise of cycling tech specifically. More and more companies are coming up with innovative cycling gear that is able to not only deliver greater safety on the roads but also promote cycling in general.
I am particularly interested in the road interconnectivity technology that is currently being explored across the globe. This aims to have systems in place that would enable road users to communicate with one another – no matter the transport method they are using. This is something we are looking at building into our next model, the 3.0.
Another exciting development is that some UK stores, such as Look Mum, No Hands! and Flying Dutchman Bikes, are deciding to exclusively stock Hövding as their only head protection offering. I am also very interested the evolution of nanofabrics and the dockless bikes vs. driverless cars debate. I think our cities will look very different in the future and it’s up to us to make them as clean and safe as possible.
What does the future hold for the company?
Well, as mentioned above, technology can always evolve. We are always looking ahead at how we can add to the product that we are so proud to have built. I believe there is plenty more in store for Hövding. On a national scale, we have historically been focused on cracking the London market, but are now aiming to expand across the United Kingdom. On a global level, we are looking to stretch our reach further beyond Europe and Japan, helping to make cyclists safer everywhere!