Three years ago, Sumi Wang was a senior business development manager at the University of London, dreaming of one day working for herself.
Now, thanks to Crowdfunder, she’s sitting on pledges of more than £100,000 for her award-winning, electric, fold-up scooter, eFOLDi - and her dream has become a reality.
Sumi’s father Jianmin broke his leg in 2012 and came up with the idea of a lightweight, folding scooter because he couldn’t get around his home city of Beijing.
The following year, Sumi was struck down with vertigo, spent two years in and out of hospital, and was eventually forced to give up her day job.“I was taking a salary every month, and I probably wouldn’t have given that up,” says Sumi, 39.
“But vertigo forced me to. It’s funny to think how two unfortunate events - mine and dad’s illnesses - led me to Crowdfunder and eFOLDi.”
eFOLDi folds up easily into a suitcase and can be used as a chair.
It weighs less than 20kg, has a range of up to 22km, can reach speeds of up to 20km per hour and can be fitted with an air-safe battery pack so travellers can take it on flights.
You can even charge your iPhone and laptop on it.
It has been attracting attention from as far afield as China and the United States, from everyone to pensioners to commuters and parents with young children, and in March was named British Invention of the Year at the 2016 Gadget Show Live.
In May, Surrey-based Sumi launched a Crowdfunder campaign with the hope of raising £20,000 to test her design.
Thanks to Crowdfunder raising her profile and a viral Facebook video featuring her 11-year-old son, Qianyi Sun, 58 backers came forward in just six weeks, pledging an astonishing £132,586.
Sumi says the unexpected sum will allow her to make a more mature prototype ready for market in October. “Crowdfunder is absolutely amazing,” says Sumi.
“It’s a very low-risk start for any product, it’s economical and it’s a great marketing exercise because you can see whether people are really interested.
“If you don’t get the interest, you’re not ready for market. It’s that simple.”
She says feedback from backers - who pledge anything from £1 to £22,999 for a simple ‘thank-you’ to the chance to be one of the world’s first eFOLDi distributors - has been particularly useful.
Even Boris Johnson has lent his support to the project.
“He said he was definitely going to try one when he was Mayor of London,” says Sumi.
“His secretary sent me a letter wishing me the very best of luck for the future.”
She says Crowdfunder’s technical support is second to none.
“The way they communicate is absolutely fantastic,” added Sumi, who is one of six finalists in Virgin Media Business’ £1m VOOM competition for entrepreneurs. The final is on June 28.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say my dad’s invention and Crowdfunder have changed my life.”