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DJ-turned-entrepreneur makes bike safety cool

Power Pitch

This former DJ is mixing his passion for music, lights and biking to produce a new hit that promotes safety for pedestrians and bikers.

“I wanted to create a safety product that appeals to today’s generation. Not only does the product have to have functionality, it needs to be able to relate to society’s personality and culture,” said Vincent Pilot Ng, founder of Halo Belt Company.

CNBC gave Pilot Ng just 60 seconds to Power Pitch his bright idea to a bike-riding panel with Andrew Bernstein, Bicycling Magazine’s marketing manager; Matt Compton, venture capitalist and REI Board member; and Eurie Kim, principal at Forerunner Ventures. The segment was hosted by CNBC’s Mandy Drury.

Click the video to see whether our panelists will ride on with—or without—the Halo Belt.

Lighting the way

Vincent Pilot Ng has deejayed all over the world, controlling the light boards at nightclubs from California to the UK. But when he wasn’t spinning tracks, he was often cycling in the Bay Area. And at 25, Pilot Ng created the Halo Belt, named after an angel’s halo.

Vince Pilot Ng turned his passion into cool bike safety tool

The belt can be clipped around the waist, over the shoulder or onto any bag and is charged via a mini USB. The belt, which contains LED bulbs and fiber optics, does not project light, but rather illuminates to avoid light that might be distracting.

Halo Belt in action on a biker

“I understand the importance of being visible and safe at night. I've had many close calls, and I realized a small bike light just wasn't cutting it,” he said.

According to the U.N. News Centre and World Health Organization, every year more than 270,000 pedestrians are injured or killed in traffic, often due to poor visibility.

Pilot Ng said he believes his Halo Belt, which glows in different neon colors, can help reduce these accidents. “Looking super cool is just an added bonus,” he told CNBC. “The first reaction that most people get is, ‘Wow that reminds me of Tron!’” said Pilot Ng.

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Although Pilot Ng does not have exact statistics on how many lives his belts have saved, he did tell CNBC he receives emails every day from Halo users all over the world thanking him for helping to keep their kids and loved ones safe.

“Being a part of Halo and creating a product that helps saves lives is the most rewarding part of my day,” said Pilot Ng.  In fact, he’s recently stopped DJing to work on the Halo Belt Company full time.

The latest model available for pre-order is the Halo Belt 2.0, with delivery beginning this summer. These belts are brighter than the original Halo Belt with a larger surface of illumination. The Halo Belt 2.0 retails for $39 to $45 and is sold on the Halo Belt website.

Beyond the belt

Power Pitch panelist and Forerunner Ventures Principal Eurie Kim asked about the start-up’s plans to create a lifestyle brand around the Halo Belt.

“Over the past two years, people have expressed to us that this product can be used in a variety of different situations, not just cycling,” Pilot Ng responded.

He said the belt is also used in construction, child safety, military and law enforcement. The company also sells mini Halo Belt pet collars for his customers’ furry friends. Additionally, the start-up has partnered with the Rickshaw Bag Works Company, a San Francisco based bag manufacturer, to design the first illuminated messenger safety bag for commuting. The two companies launched another Kickstarter campaign early this year.

Child wearing a Halo Belt to be visible at night

Although major retailers like Amazon (AMZN), REI and Toys R Us offer other safety products like reflective safety jackets, clip-on lights for handles and helmets and LED lights for bike wheels, Pilot Ng told CNBC he does not see these products as competition.

And while other illuminated safety belts exist from brands like WalGap, Pilot Ng also told CNBC his company is working on getting a full patent.

Halo Belts clipped onto a standard backpack

Customers are also lighting up their party outfits with the neon red, green and blue belts when going out to bars or raves. “It’s not only a safety product, but it's also a fashion tool,” he said.

A bright future ahead?

Halo Belt Company began as a Kickstarter campaign pledging to reach $10,000, and hit its goal in just one day. Pilot Ng told CNBC he’s now raised a total of $290,000 via Kickstarter alone. To date, Pilot Ng said his company has raised $300,000 in total funds. However, Halo Belt has not raised any venture capital, and is 100 percent bootstrapped from Pilot Ng’s personal savings. “Today Halo Belt Company has zero debt and positive cash flow,” he told CNBC.

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Sales of the Halo Belt have brought in  $600,000 in revenue since its launch in 2012, and Pilot Ng projects upwards of $1 million in sales for 2015. So far, the start-up has sold approximately 26,000 units. “We estimate about 20,000 people have purchased our products. The remaining 6,000 units are repeat customers or customers purchasing in bulk for their family, team or loved ones,” said Pilot Ng.

Halo belts are manufactured and sold overseas, but Pilot Ng said the start-up is in talks with major U.S. bike and outdoor retailers. He would not disclose specific names.

Watch Vincent Pilot Ng pitch his safety studded start-up to Andrew Bernstein, Bicycling Magazine’s marketing manager; Matt Compton, venture capitalist and REI Board member; and Eurie Kim, principal at Forerunner Ventures. The segment was hosted by CNBC’s Mandy Drury.  

--Additional Reporting by Erin Barry and Kelly Lin

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