When it comes to ease, enjoyment, and practicality, few means of locomotion can compare to the bicycle. And at the moment, one of the most exciting companies on two wheels is Brilliant Bicycles, captained by co-founder and CEO Adam Kalamchi. Adam used to work at Bonobos, and in venture capital as well, but has recently put his love of bikes into this brand-new venture. We caught up with Adam while test-driving a few of his fine-wheeled wonders, and got the scoop on what's involved in starting your own bikery. Brilliant is getting ready to launch this spring, and you can sign up for early access to their limited first edition run at www.brilliant.co and enter to win a bike here.
EQ: So what made you want to switch from venture capital to being an entrepreneur?
AK: I found focusing on building a single idea over time to be more personally rewarding than pounding the pavement to look for undiscovered companies. It's a personal preference, but I love coming to work each day and becoming an expert on a specific market and building a vision, a team, and a plan around making a difference in the bicycle market.
EQ: Why bikes, then? What makes Brilliant bikes different?
AK: Bicycles represent many qualities that are important in my life—being healthy and active, feeling connected to my surroundings, and taking pleasure in simple things. Probably for the first time in my life, I felt like my personal and professional interests are perfectly aligned. Going to work is exciting and a pleasure, even during the hard times (which are frequent when starting a company).
Our bicycles are beautiful, reliable, easy-to-ride, and cost half as much as a similar bike at retail. But that's viewing it through a very pragmatic lens and we consider these elements table stakes.
What makes us truly different is our emphasis on customer experience and service. When you go to our website, it's beautifully designed and explains how to choose a bike in three simple, plain English steps. No buzz words, no jargon. When the bike arrives in your home, it's in a large sexy box that makes it feel like you're getting a Christmas present. When you open and assembly the bike, our video instructions are dead simple and every customer says that they feel more connected to the bike after opening and assembly.
We also offer in-home assembly and anti-theft insurance for customers to give customers peace of mind if they're worried about assembly or theft.
EQ: What's been the toughest part of starting a whole new company like Brilliant Bicycles?
AK: Everything! Honestly, I've never learned so much about both business and myself. Every day there are new challenges and no one is there to tell you how to solve them. You try things, make mistakes, learn, and move on. As soon as you feel in control, something new happens. It's really emotionally taxing, but on the other hand, so is showing up every day to a job you don't love. Everyone says starting a company is harder than you think, and they're right. The things that trip you up or kill the company are never things you could have planned for.
I think I can honestly say the thing that's surprised me the most is that building this company has made me a much better person. You face decisions where you simply have to become better—intellectually or emotionally or interpersonally—or else the company fails. And you just find a way to do it.
EQ: What advice would you give someone else who's starting out?
AK: Accept that everyone outside of the company is going to be very secondary for a long time. You're going to have almost no time for friends, family, dating, hobbies, the gym, or do much of anything that's not company building.
Pick your partners well. Pick partners who have complementary skills. Pick partners who you get along with, but more importantly, who you are able to resolve conflicts with.
Build a Board from the beginning. Most entrepreneurs avoid Boards and we did this for a while, but it's been so helpful to have two outside voices and perspectives to hold you accountable and expose holes in your thinking. Just knowing you have to report to someone and share will make you think that much harder about decisions.
EQ: We heard you guys are moving from NYC to LA soon. What drove that decision?
AK: It's a mix of business and personal. We're a bike company and our home base needs to be in a place where we can ride bikes! We ride all the time in New York, but it's 1 degree out today and that makes it challenging. In LA, our team can ride to work 365 days a year and take a quick surf during lunch. We can build a company culture and rhythm that our employees are passionate about and that translates into happier employees and inspired work.
Personally, I love LA and being able to live near the water and be outside all the time. I see myself running Brilliant for many years, so it was important to me to put myself in a personal situation where I could think in terms of 5 - 10 years. I couldn't see myself in New York for that long, so it was time to make a move to give the company and myself stability.
EQ: If you could get around by bike in any city, which would you choose?
AK: I've only been to Amsterdam once, but the bicycle culture is really mind-blowing. I'd love to take a week or two and ride around the city.