With a “difficult road” to investment ahead, the Moto Tattoo founders explain how entering The Start-Up Series snagged them £150,000 from Worth Capital
Motorcycle culture is famed for its rebellious image expressed in bold designs emblazoned on anything you’d care to use as a canvas: skin, clothing, bikes, and helmets.
But until now, decorating a motorcycle helmet was an expensive and laborious process, requiring it to be completely taken apart, stripped, sanded, painted and masked for hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds.Until now…
Solving that problem has seen motorcycle helmet customisation start-up Moto Tattoo crowned the winner of the October 2017 Start-Up Series.
Co-founder Sam Mather had been working in the motorcycle and design sectors since he was 22, building a group of companies throughout the 80s and 90s encompassing everything from distribution to design studios, marketing and full-service advertising.
Sam describes his colourful business history: “Several businesses that I had all crossed paths and cross fertilised each other. My marketing and design businesses would create brands and ad campaigns and design products for my motorcycle product businesses, with which we distributed some of the most famous names in the motorcycle industry.”
He sold this group of companies in 2001 and moved to California to become vice president of sales marketing and design at a “very large” motorcycle helmet and accessory manufacturer.
During this time, he “spent many years thinking: how could this be improved? How could this market be changed – turned upside down?”
Using his background in design, alongside the support of Kim Mather, he founded Moto Tattoo, which uses a system that can customise and decorate finished motorcycle helmets quickly and affordably.
Sam says that “All the decoration on motorcycle helmets is done at the manufacturing stage and therefore it can only cope with mass production so all the helmets look the same.
“We can do it fast and relatively inexpensively, for as little as £20. Our system is permanent, it’s flexible, we can do any colour, and we can do it in effectively 15 minutes.”
The Mathers had been self-funding their business operation which was “doable but slow”, and began looking into other funding options including crowdfunding and banks but struck a problem as Kim explains:
“Because we’d just moved here from the States we didn’t have credit or anything to show investors so it was more of a difficult road than someone who’s been here forever.”
And then Kim came across The Start-Up Series whilst searching for funding options online. The competition is the largest of its kind in the UK and is run by Startups.co.uk and Worth Capital, offering two start-ups every month the chance to win £150,000 SEIS equity seed investment.
With the ‘let’s have a go’ mentality, Kim entered the equity funding competition and reflects that that the process was “really straightforward. In fact, it was so easy we were able to do it in an hour.”
The decision to enter was the right one as Worth Capital and Startups.co.uk awarded Moto Tattoos as its October 2017 winner.
Sam recalls his excitement and surprise at winning: “We were looking down a long tunnel: all the banks and investors and business plans that I’ve had to put together over the years, I just thought that we were going to have a really long and drawn out process and lots of rejections. So, I was surprised that it was just: Wow. Bang. Easy.”
Not Kim though, who had a more optimistic outlook “In my experience as a positive Californian I knew it was going to happen all the time and that we’d secure the funding we needed”
What do they think set their business apart from some stiff competition and won over the investors? Well, expertise in their sector certainly went a long way.
Kim: “One of the biggest things that helped us impress Worth Capital I think is the amount of background that we have in the business. We weren’t just people with no industry experience going ‘gee wouldn’t this be a great idea’.”
A unique business idea and a clear businesses strategy also helped them win the investment, explains Sam: “Once you see what we do, our offering is a unique world first.
“The investors liked that fact that It was a contained industry as well. I think a lot of the businesses that apply for the competition have got a great idea and a great product but It’s a wide-open game as to who they are going to market that to.
“Whereas we’ve got a trapped market and we know exactly who we’re going after and how. We don’t just have a product that you’d say, who out of 60 million people in the UK would want to buy this?”
Bolstered by investment from Startups.co.uk and Worth Capital’s Start-Up Series competition, Moto Tattoo is now targeting its primary dealer network, has put its website together and has a finished product and service ready to go live in April 2018.
The brand is also launching its first advertising campaign in trade and consumer publications and is in the process of finding sales agents to come on board and represent it across the country.
And what does the future hold for the ambitious young start-up?
“The US is the big potential market”, explains Sam, “The motorcycle market alone in the US has just huge potential for us.”
But they’re not going to stop there…
“We’d like to move into sports helmets, with baseball and American football; it’s a huge untapped market. Because, presently, there are zero solutions for all the famous brand’s helmets in the States: the clubs, the school leagues, the players. And then past that we want to extend into the snow and skate market – all sports helmet protection markets.”
Kim: “Every kid is playing some sport and all of them have helmets. And there’s no way to know your child’s helmet from Tommy’s helmet. So, we would have that completely covered and no one else does that.Beyond that there are “other peripherals such as eyewear” to explore.
Moto Tattoo has embraced motorcycling’s counter-culture image with a fast, rebellious and exciting brand. We can’t wait to see where it goes with its £150,000 Start-Up Series funding.
Could your business be next to win?