Story

Why did we do this? 

As responsible humans, we believe more people should ride bikes instead of burning fossil fuels.

As designers, we believe that safety products should be beautiful and pleasurable to use.

As bicycle commuters, we believe that the status quo on the roadway should be more balanced.

As entrepreneurs we did something about it.

 

We believe in bicycles

The bicycle has not changed significantly since its invention, but the world has. The number of people who commute by bicycle has increased by over 40% since the year 2000. Cities across the US and the world are investing in bicycle infrastructure and awareness and are realizing what a powerful tool the bicycle can be. Bikes are becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to driving, which will hopefully reduce the strain on traffic congestion and subsequent pollution, while promoting a more self sufficient and healthy lifestyle.  The point is we love bikes, and we want to contribute to the advancement of the bicycle in the 21st century. 

 

Safety should be beautiful 

Project Aura is a small part in making the bicycle a safer and more equal member of the roadway. We are just two guys in a sea of thousands of people out there working on promoting the bicycle. We salute all the policy makers, engineers, bike shop owners, lobbyists, mechanics, designers and everybody in between who work for and with bicycles. Our goal is to promote bicycle ridership and commuting by creating a safety product which people actually want to use because it is easy, beautiful and highly effective.

 

 


How we got here  

Never in our wildest dreams would we have thought you would be here, reading about Project Aura. It all started in the Fall of 2010 while we were sophomores studying industrial design at Carnegie Mellon University. We were both becoming increasingly interested in bikes as well as hacking and technology.  Before this project we never had even soldered a wire, read a data sheet, or written a line of code.  But we had an idea and won a small grant from the Undergraduate Research Office at CMU, so we started building the prototype in our free time. Our first prototype was, at best, sometimes functional.  But hell, we did it. So we made a video and posted it online. Within a couple days, Core77 wrote an article about it, and within a week the video had almost 100,000 views. From that moment on we knew we had something special on our hands, something which people actually cared about. Since then we have completely redesigned the product several times.  We also won a Core77 design award and recently received an Alva Fellowship

We have to thank many people who have helped us, and who continue to inspire us. The Carnegie Mellon School of Design for all of their support over the years.  Nick Durrant and Gill Wildman who have helped us find our voice and brand. Kit Needham and Project Olympus who work tirelessly everyday to help Carnegie Mellon entrepreneurs. Anshul Goyal, The wiz kid we dreamed of who helped so much with our software and with getting this project off the ground.  Jiwon Choi, the fastest Adobe Illustrator hands around and who helped design our brand. All of our classmates from the School of Design class of 2013 who are the best family away from family. And of course our own families who have always believed in us, because it's their job. Since our graduation from Carnegie Mellon we are now working out of the Thrill Mill, a business incubator in Pittsburgh PA. 

Pittsburgh is the home of project Aura. It was developed here as a result of both of us biking regularly in this city. We love this place - the people, culture and attitude this city is overflowing with. Pittsburgh is a city of bootstrapping and making, and we are inspired by the industrial history, as well as its transformation into a center for technology and innovation. We could do without the potholes and arctic winters, but the beer is cheap and the people here are some of the friendliest we've ever met. Yinz gotta know we still love it. 

 


Awards and Honors 

Core77 conference panelist, Bike Culture - 2014

Project Aura was asked to participate in the first annual Core77 Design Conference to discuss our perspective on the future of bikes and bicycle culture. 

Business Bout $25,000 Entrepreneurship Award - 2013

Given by the startup incubator Thrill Mill to the best business idea in Pittsburgh, PA. 

Alva Fellowship - 2013

Comprising of a $13,500 seed grant and a $1,500 travel stipend to visit GE's manufacturing facilities given through 99u, an organization run by Behance, and GE.

Core77 Student Transportation Design Award - 2011

For recognition of excellence in design in the Student Transportation category of the core77 Design Awards.

 


We are

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Ethan Frier

Co-Founder

ethan@aurabicycles.com

As an optimistic skeptic, he challenges and questions the world around him. His work to further promote the bicycle in the modern city is inspired by the complex implications of such a simple machine.

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Jonathan Ota

Co-Founder

jonathan@aurabicycles.com

With a head full of clouds, rainbows, and who knows what else, he has ambitious dreams and even more ambitious realities. Well, as long as he gets some California sunshine every once in a while.

 

 

Matt Powell-Palm 

Mechanical Engineer 

mpp@aurabicycles.com

He hails from a Montana farm where he learned the value of hard work and organic manure. Shameless plug, he is the sexy sax man in a funky band called Beauty Slap.