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Curtin Ignition 2014 – Lee Batey

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Marcus Holmes

Lee Batey was a delegate at Curtin Ignition this year, and we got his opinions on the program

//SN: What’s been your impression of the Curtin Ignition program?

LB: It’s a fair bit of work, nothing I can’t handle, but it’s cementing the work I’ve done already. What I’ve done so far all by myself has been alright, I’ve done a lot of the things they’ve been saying, and it’s worked out quite well for me. But they did point out some places where I was kind of “I didn’t know about that, I’ll take that on board”. And there’s been some things that I’ve sort of absorbed the information and used it to confirm that I’m going in the right direction rather than writing it down as something I must do.
But it’s pitching the idea is what I’m really after. It’s that getting up in front of people and pitching my idea to them. I have no idea how I had the courage to pitch the idea to the people I did, because I had no clue what I was doing. I just thought “this is a good idea, I’m just going to go pitch it to someone”, and then I’d find these big companies and pitch it to them. And they’d say “that’s a great idea” and then I’d never heard anything back. Because to them I was just some guy of the street and they knew nothing about me. And now I understand that and I look back and go “how the hell did I do that? Why did I do that?”. So that’s why I’m here, when I’m pitching it to the panel here it gives me a better idea if I’m pitching it right or wrong.

//SN: So what’s your idea?

LB: My idea is a set of safety glasses that convert rapidly from a pair of sunglasses to a pair of goggles.

//SN: Sounds interesting, what applications does it have?

LB: The main application is military, but there’s also the industrial side, mining or any industrial workplace where they’re required to wear safety glasses. Because let’s say you’re in a woodworking factory, and you’re OK for most of the day just wearing a pair of safety glasses, but then you start sawing something and the dust is really kicking up. You press a button on the glasses and now they’re a sealed, airtight pair of goggles that protect you from all liquids and airborne contaminants, like fine sawdust.

//SN: Excellent product idea, has Ignition helped you move it forward?

LB: I’ve been given a lot of leads, and there’s a lot of people out there who are willing to help, it’s whether or not I’m capable enough to move my idea from my mind to their pocket so they give me the money to continue developing it. I’ve spent a lot of money developing it to this point, and there’s got to be a point where I say “right, I’ve done everything I can to make it what it is today and I can’t keep committing too much more”. If there’s no market for it, then there’s no market and I need to walk away.

//SN: Ignition is famous for putting people in touch with the absolute one person that they need to talk to make their idea a real goer. You haven’t had that experience yet?

LB: Not yet. There’s still this evening, but I think next week will turn up a few things. I’ve been told about various people who could help and there’s been some promising connections that I’ve yet to hear back from. My mentor seemed confident that this is actually not a bad idea, it’s just not at that right pitching level yet, especially with myself pitching!

//SN: So what do you need next?

LB: Well, that’s always been a problem with me; what do I really want next? I’ve just let it flow itself, and find it’s own way. Honestly I don’t know how I ended up here, I just did. I went from being a soldier to being with this idea that kinda just appeared. I had my prototype when I used it for swimming but it wasn’t until I started training with the military and was in a helicopter evacuation, when you’re upside down, you can’t see anything, water’s flowing up your nose, and you’ve got to get out and up to the air. So I understood the difficulties in getting out of a helicopter in that situation, but it wasn’t until there was an actual crash and someone died that I realised there is a real missing link here where these people could have survived if they could have found their way out, that this is a real problem. I passed my idea up my chain of command but they must have thought I was nuts “a pair of glasses that turn into goggles instantly? what the hell’s he talking about?”. The hardest thing was convincing people that the idea would work, so that’s when I just went away and started producing a prototype that wasn’t just two pen clickers taped to a pair of glasses.

//SN: Pen clickers?

LB: I was clicking a pen one day and noticed that the amount it was clicking was the exact distance I needed to move the headstrap away from my head. When I was in the military I was given a pair of sunglasses, a pair of waterproof goggles and a pair of ski goggles, just to do my job. There are times you need a pair of sunglasses that are comfortable for long-term wear, and there are times when you need a pair of goggles that are strapped to your head and won’t fall off, but you can’t wear the goggles all the time. I found that there are times when I needed to switch between them fast, even to the extent of ripping the goggles off and throwing them away. So I saw there was a need for this type of device in a pair of sunglasses, and that’s where the pen clickers came in. I stuck two pens to the side of my glasses as my first prototype. You can see why I couldn’t convince people with this, they thought I was crazy going in, then they saw the pens stuck to the glasses and they knew I was crazy. But the pen idea really did work, it was just bulky. All I had to do was move the clicker mechanism from the outside into the ear stems, which I did but was a bit too complex, so I looked at simpler ways to do it, and ended up with a ratchet-type design.

//SN: excellent story, but you didn’t answer the question: what do you need next?

LB: I guess as I’ve moved on with the idea, I’m comfortable with the prototype, it’s something I can actually show people now and they won’t think I’m crazy any more. I believe in my idea and I’ve got it this far, I just need someone to see the potential in it as well and invest it in and help me take it the rest of the way. The point I’m at now is that I’ve invested so much money and time into getting it here and I can’t take it further because I just haven’t got the capital to go the next stage.

//SN: well, it’s a really great idea, we hope you get the help you need.

LB: That’s the type of response I get from everyone every time.

//SN: sorry we haven’t got any money to help you build it.

LB: That’s OK, as long as you think it’s a great idea.

//SN: we do! Good luck with it! Thanks for your time.

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Marcus Holmes

Gentleman Technologist and co-founder of Startup News. His vision has made //SN a sustainable media cheerleader for the startup community. Former CEO of Phnom Penh Post, he can be found somewhere in S.E. Asia coding away...
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