By Andrew Seale
After hearing a horrific story about a motorcyclist crashed in the North Carolina wilderness for three days before succumbing to injuries, Marina Mann and her fellow riders/technologists Nick Dunlop and Alex Crookes decided to launch an app to tell when motorcyclists had crashed.
Roadtripping through North Carolina’s infamous motorcycle route Tail of the Dragon, Marina Mann and her riding partners heard a story of a motorcyclist who’d disappeared along the 200 mile route, only to be found by a hunter later that year at the bottom of the ridge.
“An autopsy had shown that he’d been alive for three days,” says Mann. It was horrific, something that felt close to home for given that a broken collarbone, an often paralyzing injury, is common amongst motorcyclists. It also seemed senseless given how most riders carry around smartphones capable of tracking their movement, pace and location.
“We realized using an algorithm (we could) teach the phone how to know the motorcycle has crashed and to send an emergency message with the exact location,” says Mann. “Someone wouldn't need to be alone, someone wouldn't need to suffer and die just because they went off the road.”
Mann and fellow riders, Nick Dunlop and Alex Crookes, had been toying with creating a community to help motorcyclists connect, find gear, share routes but the safety angle became glaringly obvious after hearing the story so they began working on EatSleepRIDE (ESR), a social community, and CrashLight a cycling safety app.
“We started developing the idea in 2011,” says Mann adding that they teamed up with the University of Toronto’s mechanical engineering department. They also joined Ryerson University’s newly established Digital Media Zone, releasing the first iteration of the CrashLight app in 2013.
Four years on, they still call the DMZ home.
“Being a part of the Ryerson DMZ really puts you at the centre of the tech community in Toronto,” says Mann. “I think the biggest part of (being here is) it gives us credibility so when we're going out and looking for partnerships we have an infrastructure behind us that supports us.”
It also helps when it comes to finding talent as they steadily scale up.
“Having an environment where people can feel comfortable, where you can meet with other people and discover new technologies and expand your horizons… as an employee and an individual that's really important,” says Mann.
The support network has been invaluable as ESR has bootstrapped it without raising a round of funding. Instead, the company has relied on partnerships like its recent with Harley-Davidson, celebrating the brand’s 100 year anniversary in Canada with a campaign where riders earn points from motorcycling along one of 20 iconic Canadian routes, checking in at dealerships and going to the motorcycle show.
“Every time a ride reaches 500 points, they get a ballot to win a motorcycle worth $30,000… the chances of winning are pretty high,” says Mann. The aim is to grow the motorcycle community both through the contest and ESR’s platform. “It’s great, they’re 100 years old but still looking to innovate.”
She says it’s not necessarily about getting riders on Harley-Davidson bikes, it’s more about a shared vision.
“They said: ‘we don't care what people are riding let’s just get people riding, more people riding more motorcycles,’ ” says Mann. “Which was our vision and our mission as well, so there’s a real synergy between the two of us.”