Startup Showcase: A hip alternative to avoid backpacking back pain
Two of the most common activities that cause back muscle strains and sprains are summer fitness and long trips. According to an Outdoor Industry Association report almost half of the U.S. population participated in an outdoor activity at least once in 2017. That is a lot of potential sore backs.
HipStar is out to change that with a new, “hip” invention that allows people to travel hands-free over any type of terrain with little effort, literally doing the heavy lifting for you — back pain free.
Name: Igor Koshutin
City you live in: Rochester
Country of Birth: Russia
Colleges Attended: Undergraduate work in Electrical Engineering, Moscow Engineering Physics Institute; Russian State Professional Pedagogical University; Russian Foreign Trade Academy
Q. What led to this point?
A. I am the founder of HipStar and have been on the cutting edge of smart solutions for over two decades. My motto has always been to find easy solutions to difficult problems. I spend time carefully studying the market to find opportunities and then work to develop something that will create wide appeal.
Q. What is your business?
A. I developed HipStar, a new type of travel gear: a collapsible hands-free cart for all terrains. It also can be used as a backpack or bike trailer. HipStar will redefine the way people carry on the go. It will change the way hikers, campers, backpackers and other travelers move by literally taking the weight off their shoulders. It is designed to handle tough terrain and reduce carrying weight by over 90 percent.
Designed with an active lifestyle in mind, the HipStar allows users to travel for longer periods of time without having to sacrifice any important gear. It will help people achieve full mobility with only the power of two legs and accomplish physical feats they never thought possible, no matter if they’re young or old.
Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. The idea for HipStar came in 2014 as I was traveling across Europe on business and later with my family. Between the three of us, we had one backpack to carry everything. There was so much to see, but after half a day’s worth of walking around, all I could think about was how the straps of my heavy bag were digging into my shoulders. No matter where and how you travel, even a light backpack begins to weigh as much as a few bricks. You get tired. You get impatient. That’s when the idea for the HipStar was born.
Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. The struggle between packing all the essentials while minimizing total weight has always been a challenge; a challenge that has too often meant having to sacrifice important gear to cut down on weight. Even the best prepared travelers discover that a few hours of carrying a light pack begins to sap their strength, often forcing them to cut excursions and sightseeing trips short.
Heavy backpacks create a forward trunk lean (rounding of upper back), which causes a forward head posture with extended neck, creating a neck and shoulder pain and make it difficult for muscles and ligaments to hold the body up. After a long day on the trail, even 11 pounds will feel heavy no matter what you are carrying it in.
Q. What are you most proud of?
A. Our potential customers are excited about our product. Our passionate supporter, John Pernu from Australia, wrote: “The most versatile and effective hiking trailer! Everything seems to have been included in the design — multiple adjustments, shock absorbing, running, walking or resting flexibility — really impressive!”
Q. What obstacles must you overcome to be wildly successful?
A. To date we spent near $100,000 and we are currently finalizing the product development stage to take the product design even further and seeking for seed capital. Although, we are seeking $1.5 million for the whole project, our immediate needs are to cover and start a product development stage of the HipStar heavy-duty version that would be around $100,000.
Q. How are you funding your business — organically, angel or VC investments?
A. Family and pre-orders.
Q. What is your business model?
A. Collecting sales revenue directly from customers and distributors in exchange for the product. Both Direct and Indirect Sales (tier-1, tier-2) depending on the region/market.
The units will be manufactured after the final CAD Build design is completed. Once the manufacturer has been identified, the company will focus on the fulfillment end of the operation. The intent is to secure a firm that can handle both individual unit sales as well as larger orders for major clients. The users will also be able to order directly from the site and have the unit shipped globally. Outside sales will be handled by commissioned sales personnel who will sell to both individual and regional retail operations. All national sales will be handled by one of the management team members. We also have been contacted by potential distributors from France, Germany, Australia, U.S., U.K., etc.
Q. What would be success for your business in the next 2-3 years?
A. The potential users of HipStar find the HipStar’s unique design a convenient addition to their activities and the market for HipStar units is diverse, including outdoor recreation equipment, in-town use and specialty equipment.
Q. How did 1 Million Cups St. Paul help you? Did you get valuable feedback? Did you get connected to resources? Did you pivot because of the experience?
A. We needed help finding financing, marketing and introductions to angel investors, so it was a great opportunity to have exposure to those possible audience members.
You can hear from startups like this every other Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. Please check the calendar at jjhill.org/calendar for up to date information. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.