There are a million ways to ruin your phone while skiing or snowboarding. You can drop it on the chairlift, lose it in deep snow, crack the screen, get it wet or drain the battery in sub-zero temperatures.
Ramin Sahebjavaher, veteran skier and co-founder of YodelTECH Inc., knew there had to be a better way.
“Right now, me and my brother ski and snowboard a lot. [This company] came out of our own frustrations that we felt on the mountain. After we felt those frustrations for many years, we finally decided to do something about it and that’s when we started YodelTECH,” he said.
The company’s first product is YodelUp, an on-glove wearable that acts as a sort of hybrid cell phone and walkie-talkie. The device connects to users’ cell phones using Bluetooth technology, allowing skiers and snowboarders to seamlessly play music and chat while on the mountain. Best of all, winter is cold and YodelUp lets you keep your gloves on while you use it.
While the product is mostly just for fun, better communication can also mean better safety for skiers and snowboarders.
“Imagine you’re flying down the mountain and someone’s behind you. You’re both listening to this device and you’ve just barely made it past a really big rock — you can immediately warn your friends,” he said. “Imagine taking your glove off and trying to call them — there’s no guarantee they’ll hear that. So this opens up a lot of possibilities to improve safety.”
Ramin holds a PhD in engineering from UBC and previously worked with UmbraCity, the umbrella sharing service that launched on campus this fall. He’s become a bit of a serial entrepreneur, having already established a consulting firm that specializes in automation, medical devices and electronics.
After leaving UmbraCity this summer, Ramin began working on YodelTECH Inc. with his brother, Darius. The brothers are still running on savings and adrenaline — In true start-up fashion, the company headquarters are currently located in their parents’ garage.
Now the pair need cash to keep moving forward with production. Although they had hoped to fund the project entirely on their own, the material costs associated with the device soon made that impossible. Instead, they’ve turned to crowdfunding. The brothers are launching a Kickstarter campaign on February 24 that aims to raise $60,000 for up-front tooling and manufacturing costs.
“If we’re successful, we’ll have the money to basically start manufacturing right away and we’ll be able to ship by next ski season,” said Ramin.
Ramin also hopes to build hype for the product via an online yodeling competition. Participants can enter to win a variety of ski prizes by uploading a video of themselves yodeling to the YodelUp Facebook page.
Those interested in the competition are encouraged to revisit the goatherd scene from The Sound of Music and to learn more online.