Hammerhead, maker of the Karoo cycling computer, has secured $4.1 million private equity funding. In part, it will use the investment to add staff – the company currently employs 35 and is now advertising for managers and tech staff for its New York and Pennsylvania offices.
Co-founded by South-Africa-born Piet Morgan, a childhood friend and riding buddy of four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome, Hammerhead started in 2013 by creating a hammer-shaped smartphone-connected navigation device for bicycle handlebars that worked by flashing LEDs at turns. This secured $160,000 in launch crowdfunding via manufacturing-consultancy Dragon Innovation.
Hammerhead’s first product – known in the company as the H1 – has since been discontinued. Dragon Innovation – which, incidentally, launched the hugely successful Pebble smartwatch – no longer has a crowdfunding element.
Hammerhead, now without its original product, launched the Karoo cycling computer last year. The Karoo – named for a South African desert, and available in the U.S. and Europe from the company website – is a navigation device and training aid, featuring a high-resolution, anti-glare touchscreen and many connectivity options for uploading maps and routes. It mounts to bicycle handlebars via a twist-on clamp.
Competitor products include two Garmin bicycle computers and one from Wahoo. The Karoo – billed by Bikeradar.com as a possible “Garmin Killer” – is priced at $399, the same as the Garmin Edge 820. The Edge 520 and Wahoo’s Elemnt Bolt retail for under $250.
Aside from Morgan the other co-founders of Hammerhead were Laurence Wattrus, Raveen Beemsingh, and Jon Morgan. Following the capital injection, Morgan is joined on the board of directors by Steve Schlafman and Keith Bank from the lead investors Primary Venture Partners and KB Partners. Also participating in the “seed plus” funding were Courtside Ventures, Maveron, Robin Thurston, the co-founder of MapMyFitness and previously chief digital officer at Under Armour, and Andy Ording, CEO of Zipp.
Existing investors in Hammerhead – which, according to Crunchbase, has raised $7.4m in VC and angel investment so far – include Techstars, RGA Ventures, Foundry Group, and Vegas Tech Fund.
“The next major innovation in cycling will take place in software,” said Hammerhead CEO Morgan in a statement.
The bicycle of the future will be intelligent and data-driven. It will guide riders to the safest roads and best trails. It will facilitate the right workouts to achieve an athlete’s fitness goals. It will speak to a world of connected sensors, and it will facilitate smart fleet management for bike-share.”
Karoo runs on a locked-down Android-based operating system. It does not sync to Android or iOS smartphones. Since launch, Karoo OS has been updated numerous times, adding extra functionality. From the get-go, Karoo OS has included turn-by-turn cycling-specific navigation. However, unlike standard satnav systems, including those available on smartphones, the Karoo does not offer audio alerts for turns.
The company is soon to launch a Karoo OS app store and is hoping third-party developers will create additional programs for use by Karoo owners.
“The end goal is to become the default platform for cycling,” claims a company statement.
Third-party developers, says the company, will gain by “putting their own branded software experiences directly on the handlebars of the sport’s most engaged, competitive and ambitious riders.”
The company has declined to reveal the number of Karoo computers sold to date. However, by not publishing such sales figures it remains to be seen whether Hammerhead will convince third-party developers it is worth the time, trouble and expense to create apps and other programs for the Karoo.