HUCKLETREE RENEGADE SEARCH: MEET HEXR

BY Natalie SimpsonMay 16, 2019

Applications for the Huckletree Renegade Search are officially open.

If you haven’t been following the beautifully intergalactic themed launch of our ‘Global Search For The Most Innovative Idea in the Universe’, then 1), where have you been, and 2), you should get really excited for what’s about to come.

We’re on a hunt to find the most exciting, groundbreaking, and tech-savvy idea from a company that’s looking to scaleup with us. The winner will receive a year’s free membership, starting at Huckletree Soho (perks and community hookups absolutely included). APPLY HERE.

In light of the launch, we sat down with Huckletree Shoreditch member Jamie Cook, Renegade Search Champion and Founder of HEXR; the world’s first custom-made 3D printed cycling helmet.

Read on to find out what he thinks makes a true Renegade founder…

What are you be looking for in the Renegade Search?

There’s a lot going on in technology, and I always find it interesting when people are doing tangible things. On this side, you’ve got so many things to be worried about in terms of testing, and a lot of that can change peoples’ lives.

Tangible stuff takes a lot of time to build up and once it’s there it can fundamentally change something for a long time, so I’m always interested in other founders that are messing around with material projects.

What’s the story behind HEXR?

I was cycling a lot in university and would often see people having accidents. All foam helmets are pretty much the same and sometimes they don’t fit, so I thought it would be fun to try and 3D print a helmet for the first time.

At the time, it was a stupid idea because it costs about £1000 to make, so commercially it didn’t make sense at all. But I was just really interested in the idea of it, so I built this test rig, tested out different types of structures and landed on the honeycomb structure. It performed really well in the impacts, but I didn’t really understand why.

So, I went on to do a Masters in Material Science at Oxford University. I found an expert in Impact Mechanics and we created a brain lab where I started testing loads of different types of 3D printing materials.

Through extensive testing, I found that foam helmets were designed about 50 years ago on the premise that our heads are flat. But our heads are curved, so what you really want is a structural material with post-yield softening, so you impact it and it starts bending, buckling and softening. This structure can potentially take the efficiency of the normal helmet – about 30% – up to around 60%.

That was the fundamental research behind why we should be using other types of structures, and 3D printing is one of the only ways where you can make this type of structure. I decided to start Hexr to make this a reality.

I raised money for Hexr in Oxford, then came to London, while working with a friend of mine who I’d met at UCL years ago. He was an absolute genius at CAD, and is now our CTO and Co-Founder.

Together we were working on the tech side of it as well as the material science and 3D printing bit. So round about 12 months later, we had designed and certified the world’s first custom made helmet.

That’s incredible – what are you doing now?

At present, we’re working with one of the biggest 3D companies in the world and we’ve brought the cost down to something that works well for our business model. In a few years time the cost will come down to another 60% so it’ll open up to more consumers.

Hexr: Renegade Search is open

What would you say has been your most renegade moment so far?

Originally I didn’t get into my first uni choice – UCL, but I really wanted to go. My best friend had gotten in to UCL to do Engineering, and he gave me the name of the admissions tutor. I borrowed my friends ID card to sneak in and went to the admissions tutor’s office, I waited for ages to see him and told him that I really wanted to do Engineering there and gave him my CV.

I literally had the basic bottom grades to get in out of most people that applied, but because I went in and asked him, he offered me every degree under the sun. I asked for the most simple basic engineering degree and that’s how I got my spot.

In terms of challenges with HEXR, what would you say are the most prominent?

Early days it was a completely different ball game. It was just an idea and commercially it didn’t make any sense. The science side of it was hard as well because 3D printing is a really complex way of manufacturing. You also have a lot of rejection, especially in the early days where you question whether it’s worth it.

Recently, it’s been about making sure that the product is as good as we claim and making sure we sell enough. The challenge now is trying to find product-market fit for Hexr, as we’re selling at £350. Also, when a product is custom-made you can’t afford a mistake so it has to be bang on. Every. Single. Time.

From your point of view, what’s the importance of supporting founders from outside the typical mould?

I think there’s a huge amount to say about nurturing, and making people feel like it’s okay to go down a path that people haven’t gone down before, it’s supporting when people fail.

To be honest I think Americans are better at doing this than we are: acknowledging that failure can be a good thing.

What advice would you give to founders on turning a renegade idea into a viable business?

Do something you care about doing. I don’t know why I became so invested in helmets, but for me, I loved that Hexr could genuinely help people, and it was super interesting technology. I liked that it was tangible and big brands could be associated with it, so really caring about it lets you have the passion to really execute those dreams.

Why is it important for founders to be part of a community like Huckletree?

What I really like about Huckletree is that it has a nice mixture between being creative, whilst having a professional side to it.

I think the more subtle things like how people treat each other in the environment are important – it just sort of feels right.

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Think you’ve got what it takes to scaleup in abundance? The 12-month Huckletree Soho membership could be yours. APPLY HERE.

AUTHOR

Natalie Simpson

Marketing Assistant