A story of sacrifice, incredible stamina and mental resilience is revealed, to bring the product successfully to market

Jeff, before we get to your latest invention, combining safety and clever design, what drives a man to be an inventor in the first place, is it in the blood?

That's really an almost impossible question for me to answer for sure because it's hard for me to be objective about this. I've always been a touch outside the envelope in my thought process and haunted by ideas about how things could (and should in some cases) be done differently. I've been told that my dad bought me a train set when I was about five or six for Christmas and tried to set it all up for me so that it would be working when I woke up. He couldn't. The story goes that when he woke up on Christmas morning I was playing away merrily with it; I'd wired the plug, set up the track, plugged in the controllers etc.

The world simply fascinates me. All the time. In all areas of life, and I often find myself wondering how things happen /work and then deconstructing them, either in my mind or physically.

I never set out to be an inventor, it kind of happened by default.
I designed a new kind of power saving device for trains aged around eight and I was one of the first people in the world to be making (and improving) white light holograms when I was in my late teens. Why? Because I loved holograms the first time that I saw them, thought they would change the world and had to get involved.

Is it in the blood?

Possibly; my late grandfather invented the Jif lemon (juice in a jiffy) and my late mother invented some pretty awesome accounting and diary systems.

What did you do to receive an OBE in 2011 for services to innovation and business?

Mainly luck. Almost 100% the luck of being in the right place
at the right time. I was at the time the British Inventor of the Year for MicroMap, a miniaturised mapping system that I produced and manufactured in the UK. There was a debate on innovation in parliament and the MP who had called the debate had his researcher contact me (because I was that year's inventor of the year) to ask about innovation. I had lots to say so he met with me and asked me a great deal about my views as an inventor and how the government could help with innovation. I was at
the time in a battle with a large UK company who were attempting to steal an idea of mine (long story) and he was fascinated by my story of this conflict. I was invited to go to the viewing gallery for the debate and went with my father. It was however very bitter sweet because my wonderful mother had died a few weeks before but being mentioned again and again in the House of Commons was one of the proudest moment of my life. They even handed around MicroMap, my invention, from MP to MP and there was a great deal of praise for it. The late Rudi Viz said that I should receive an honour. This didn't mean anything to me and it was only when I received a letter from the Prime Minister, a couple of years later, telling me that I was being considered for an OBE that I realised what had been instigated on that great day.

What's the background to your latest invention, the Morpher folding cycling helmet?

Many years ago, I had a bike accident. I only survived because I was wearing a helmet. I broke my chin, some ribs and my collar bone. I have never been as comfortable on a bicycle since.

 When the Barclays/Boris bike share scheme started in London, I noticed that there were almost no people wearing helmets, despite the obvious risks. I thought that I had the answer and commissioned a survey. It showed that more than 83% of cyclists didn't wear helmets because they are too cumbersome to carry around when not in use, just on the off chance that they might need one. I decided to see if there was a way to produce a safe helmet that also folded.

How long has it taken to get from "light bulb" idea to marketable product?

It's taken almost five years of stress, trial and error... but we got there eventually.

Has finance been a problem during the development stages?

Yes, every day and in every way. I have not earned a salary for five years which has been absolutely hell on me and on my family.           

Who would be your typical customer?

Anyone who rides a bike, who doesn't wear a helmet, from occasional cyclists, like the 200 million people worldwide that use bike share schemes, to regular commuters who don't want to carry a helmet.

Highs and lows along the way?

One of the biggest highs was the success of my first reward based crowdfunding campaign, I set a modest target of US$35k and we hit over US$400,000. Other great moments have been the five prestigious awards Morpher has won, including Popular Science Invention of the Year, Edison and inclusion in the top 3 TIME Magazine inventions of the year 2016. 

The worst part about all of this is that it has been extremely hard on me but especially hard on Lily, my just 17 year-old daughter. I've spent so many months living in China, on almost zero budget, in cheap hotels and with cheap economy flights. Extremely wearing but I just could not stop putting in the effort. It was especially a strain on my connection with Lily but to give up would have been foolhardy, so I just ploughed on and on, trying to turn my dream into a reality. For her as much as for me.

I was told to give up sooooo many times... by family, by friends... even by my doctor!

Also, I have had hell from people trying to rip me off and steal the company. One of my original investors tried to steal the idea from me once he saw the true potential. I've had a Californian lawyer who did everything that he could to cause me problems. I have learned some unbelievable (and sad) lessons about human nature.

I quickly learned that goldfish can turn into barracudas!  

Is the intention to sell internationally or are you already?

We have already sold almost 5,000 helmets to cyclists all over the world. We are currently running an equity crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs, smashing our target of £600k within two weeks of the launch. We are now at nearly £800k and it means that we can now gear up to sell helmets all over the world. Bike share schemes are growing rapidly, so the market is enormous.

Lastly, as an inventor, what do you see as your greatest strength?

You could say I have tenacity in droves.  I don't give up and I always believe that there is a solution to every problem, I haven't let the hurdles stop me, whether they've been with production, dealing with delivery, design issues or distribution challenges.
I just keep plodding on. One day at a time.

Get involved with the Morpher story at www.seedrs.com/Morpher