By @SimonCocking interview with Oleg Vlasenko, CEO and co-founder of HURU
Describe the company – the elevator pitch
HURU is a premium quality, waterproof backpack, made of heavy-duty fabric, which is used by the US military. It can expand up to two times: from 24 to 40 liters. It has a hood for its owner in case it rains, a built-in belt bag for long trips and a separate pocket for oversized items like a tennis racket or a camera stand.
For a year and a half we have been researching backpacks made by world-famous manufacturers, as well as inventors from Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
We spent many months honing the design of our backpack; we sewed seven high-grade prototypes and tested them thoroughly. To perfect HURU, we had to apply more than three dozen changes. As a result, we have achieved a product in which we are so confident that we have given it a lifetime guarantee.
— Olga Limanska (@olgalimanska) August 8, 2017
When was the company launched?
HURU originated in USA in 2017, but its history began a year and a half before its official registration. That fateful day my wife gave me a backpack as a birthday present. It turned out to be one of those presents they call a good gift for an enemy!
The shoulder straps were constantly being stretched due to a poor-quality clasps, and in the end they annoyed me so much that I lined them on the back and sewed them more tightly. The fasteners clinched as if everything was ok, but they hardly worked – I had to button up the main compartment, and then check whether it was closed tightly enough. They sat on the harnesses, which also went back and forth.
I then took the bag to Formula 1 and got caught in heavy rain. By the time I reached the track, the tickets inside my bag had been reduced to worthless mush. Back at home I told my wife: “I am going to make the best backpack, which will never let me down, no matter what happens.” That is how it all began.
How are you different?
1. No cheating.
Most worldwide bag manufacturers are not always honest with their customers.
Remember I told you about our research? As part of our initial study I bought a series of the best backpacks from around the world. One well-known brand stated that they use the best waterproof fabric in the world – Cordura. When I tried to reach this company for a sample of this fabric, I was told: “We don’t manufacture such a material. It is a Chinese knockoff”.
Another bag cost me around $325. The manufacturer boasted of its superior zippers – Japanese YKK. It looked cool and I wanted to buy it. Alas, YKK company representatives responded: “We manufacture only sliders for this zipper, which wasn’t made by us.” Just great: to take a cheap zipper, decorate it with a company slider, and pose it as the best zipper in the world! Why do they do that? Original zippers are quite expensive – $7 for a meter. For HURU each bag requires around 5.5 meters of zipper, totalling about $35.
HURU has it all, and it’s the real deal – waterproof Cordura fabric, water repellent YKK zippers, and everything the perfect backpack could possibly need.
2. The best quality brand materials.
We’ve chosen the best materials from all around the world for creating HURU. I researched 45 manufacturers for only one fabric that is used in bag production and asked them to send me samples.
In the end, we used over ten different types of material, so I have looked through a large number of samples, before deciding on the best of the bunch: American, German, and Japanese. For each material, we asked for quality certificates from their manufacturers.
This gives us firm confidence in our product, so that we can guarantee all the elements of our products will work for life. The backpack will not break at the seams, the zipper will work indefinitely, the velcro will not stop sticking, and so on.
3. Individual human labor goes into each element
No robots were involved in making HURU – it is fully handmade. Each assembly, starting with the cutting of the fabric and ending with the finished product, is watched by a human eye. This ensures no errors in the process.
Manual control of the manufacturing process allows the creation of a premium-quality product, because only a human being can place all the fasteners, zippers and other parts in the right place. Quality such as this cannot be achieved in factory-made backpacks, which the conveyor produces in the thousands.
4. Features that really work and are not just part of a trend.
Most of the time, backpacks have a beautiful finish, but their technical attributes leave a lot to be desired. A customer hopes that a solar powered battery backpack will charge his smartphone, but in reality, it hardly manages to perform its task. He buys a bag with a hood, but it is sewn in such a way that it will rain down his collar.
I’ve tested all the functions of HURU by myself multiple times.
5. Production of custom fittings
For our first backpack prototype, we used a quality buckle produced by a famous Australian company, but later decided to create our own unique product. To achieve this we had to study 50 different types of locks, and with this knowledge we have been able to develop a reliable HURU lock. We have demonstrated this lock to fittings sellers and they told us that they want to buy it from us.
6. Combination of functionality with awesome design.
In one of his interviews, Apple’s chief design officer Jonathan Ive used the analogy of creating cupboards to describe his method. The design should not only look good on the outside, but also on the inside. This idea is embodied by the well-crafted architecture of iPhone’s microcircuits.
This is the same principle we used while working on HURU.
Why will the product do well?
HURU will be a great success for three reasons:
· None of the product’s elements will ever let its owner down.
· It has unique built-in features, like detachable belt bag, hood, etc.
· The backpack has all the functionality of modern design trends: the ability to expand, laptop compartment and many others.
It is our firm belief that HURU not only embodies all the latest trends, but will also create its own. Constant research allows us to progress in the right direction. The hood that we invented 1.5 years ago is only now starting to appear in other manufacturer’s’ products.
What are the long-term plans for your product?
We will not be sending our product to re-sale after our Kickstarter campaign. However, we will start sales via the product’s brand own platform, and probably on Amazon. After that, we want to open a service center in the US. On each buckle of the backpack, we will embed a serial number, through which we will identify our customers. They will have the option to come to our centers, or send their backpacks to us, so we can fix any problems that may appear– the same way Apple does repairs for iPhones in their service centers.
We also have plans for creating a product line in new colors, as well as branching out with HURU for kids.
What type of people are you trying to attract to your product?
Our target audience is young, active people, who prefer to pack their gadgets and go straight on a trip to the mountains after work. They don’t need to worry about their expensive tech and can rely on HURU’s safety.
Tell us about your team
Our team is HURU’s most important asset. To build the team, I had to use all the experience I gained through five years of working as a product manager for Johnson & Johnson. I am extremely lucky to have such passionate and dedicated professionals on board with me.
How do people get in touch with you?