Next kiwi gamechanger: GolfPod to take on trains, planes and automobiles

After selling Freeload’s lightweight bike rack IP to Swedish company Thule in 2012, Pat Maguire’s heart has been captured by golf. His new project is making GolfPod, a water-proof hardshell pod and a proprietary rack for mounting the pod on a vehicle for transportation.

Pat Maguire reckons his friends always outdo him at golf, but with a track record of innovation in sports and leisure products he could be on to a winner with a new golf bag pitched at air travelers.

Maguire’s the industrial designer, engineer and Masters level entrepreneur who came up with Freeload, a lightweight rack for hi-tech bikes, back in 2006. By the time he sold the IP to Swedish carrier and rack giant Thule in 2012, the Freeload company had made about $300,000 in annual revenue and sold 20,000 racks.

Now he’s got big prospects with the GolfPod. He says golfers who travel annually number between 6 million and 8 million globally. And he has recent New Zealand research that values the global golf travel and tourism industry at as much as $30 billion per year.

The company is already grabbing global attention with accolades coming in from the golfing community, including catching the eye of Golf Digest at the PGA show in Orlando recently, making it to the editor's picks.


Hardshell, waterproof

The GolfPod is a very different proposition for the roving golfer – it’s a hardshell bag where others are made from fabric, so it’s durable and weatherproof. It’s a bag of two halves, with compartments that put golfballs and accessories in easy reach, and it offers protection for clubs with the hard outer case that turns it into a pod for travelling. 

A patent is also pending on an attachment that uses ‘The Link’, a proprietary rack that lets the pod be vehicle mounted. That’s planned for sale this September.

Aeroe

Maguire spun a new company out of Freeload – Aeroe – in 2013 to give the GolfPod dedicated attention to investment and development.

“Because of the long and costly R&D cycle for the Aeroe products, we needed to commit a full three years investing in the GolfPod alone [and] to raise capital and focus the investment on Aeroe, we decided to split the team and develop both ventures concurrently, but with separate direction and management,” he says.

Freeload and Aeroe share Dunedin design offices, with staff contributing to both ventures. Maguire is the owner and CEO of Aeroe, with son Mike as co-director and Campbell Booth as design director.

GolfPod's designer Patrick Maguire

Kickstarter, slow start

Aeroe took to Kickstarter late last year with an ambitious US$75,000 goal, but fell well short. It drew 50 backers and US$18,422.

Maguire says it was a big ask to convince potential pledgers to give a minimum of US$295 for a product that wouldn’t be available for a year.

“What we didn't know is that sports people, including golfers, don't account for a very big following within the Kickstarter community. In order for us to get golfers to pledge on the GolfPod we have to reach them via the normal golfing channels including Facebook and Twitter, sell them the idea of the GolfPod, then convince them to go onto a generally unknown platform to them, Kickstarter, sign up with Amazon. They then have to pledge a sizeable amount of US$295 minimum for a product that won't be available for 12 months. The 50 or so pledgers who did buy were all recidivist Kickstarter junkies.”

Maguire likes Kickstarter as a platform for startup support, but says a product with more widespread appeal is more likely to succeed there.

Finding golfers

But Aeroe did have a fruitful showing at the 2015 PGA Golf Merchandising show in the US, an event with a 60,000-strong crowd. Maguire says distributors and buyers for the US, EU and Asian markets want to sign for country distribution rights once the GolfPod goes on sale. The company will attend more golf trade shows to build its global distribution network, he says.

And it’s keeping ties with partners Freeload used – it’s continued working with its manufacturer of eight years, Taiwanese outfit Solink, and with Michael Noer, the former Thule business development director Freeload worked with in the US. Noer is working on another US venture, but is collaborating with Aeroe on design and marketing, Maguire says.

With prototypes and market validation done, Aeroe is refining its offering ahead of production and talking with potential US-based investors as it eyes a market launch by year’s end. 

And the GolfPod may not be its only market entrant. “We have designed Aeroe as a design innovation company that will develop a continuous stream of new products and IP in the sports and leisure sector,” Maguire says.