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What it’s like to pursue a dream for 30 years and fail (thehustle.co)
652 points by davesailer 81 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 177 comments

I read the article with fascination, and googled his name to get a website with some media upon which I found a link to a page with a non-clickable link to this video (likely the same as has been featured earlier):


As a fellow passionate creator, it pains me to see a video production like this. Having never seen this product before, I'd argue what interests most people first and foremost is seeing the product in action, and what's possible with them (which wouldn't be possible without).

It takes 18 seconds until the video actually shows them being used while worn. 25, if you want to see them running in real-time. The first time you actually get a sense of how they compare to anything else (bikes / cars) isn't until one minute and 16 seconds into the video. It boggles my mind. I understand that not everyone can be a video da vinci, but this video could be 1000 times better in so many ways.

It's literally the ideal product for a click-baity - WE OUTRUN A CAR/BIKE/OLYMPIC MEDAL WINNER - type video. Sure, have a little bit of a lead in, but then show him squaring off against 3 other commonly known modes of transportation etc. etc.

And don't even get me started on that constant heart-beat and increasingly present jet 'woosh' noise O_O.

I had to turn the volume to its minimum, this woosh noise is borderline painful.

You are spot on, most of the video shows somebody running alone. It is uninteresting, just having shiny boots does not make such a clip attention grabbing..

Someone running alone on various types of terrain and various levels underbrush. This is fairly important, and very interesting.

It shouldn't be the start of the video, though. Right after showing how cool they are, is when you show utility (you can run in the woods as well!)

The rubber bands are a really dangerous catching hazard.

He has great control (lots of practice I expect), but it also seems a longer lever should give greater acceleration - it's not quite hitting it. Hence no clear comparison and obscuring sound effects.

OTOH the story isn't about boots, but tilting at windmills, a perenially relatable theme. There's magic in realising an imagined experience.

The marketer in me shuddered when I saw that - if I were in the States I'd literally offer to redo that for free. As you mention, short of being an intentional spoof, it's about as skewed as a promo as you can get.

Goes to show how much marketing is enormously important for a product. I only realized he compared to vehicles after reading your comment, because I had closed the video before it showed up.

I’ve seen his work in the past and cosmetics aside, I think the real use case or value at least could be learning from his design experiences and applying to research in robotic motion. I feel like companies that were a bit before their time, like this, Segway, etc, are about to become much more relevant as we need mobility solutions for different robotic tools.

It looks fun in video, but to expect to see it to go 'viral' is too much. I've tried parkour-style-running-fast around streets few times as a teenager. I once slipped and was about to knock my head on a concrete corner. This looks 10x times more dangerous.

He needs to be giving these to professional parkour athletes.

Nobody wants to run around looking dorky. That would be fun for about 5 minutes. Absolutely not worth what these cost.

Start doing double backflips and 15 foot gaps and you have a sport.

Really surprised that the article doesn't mention PowerSkips (aka powerbocks or jumping stilts), the remarkably similar product which were invented around 1999 and featured in the 2008 Olympic closing ceremony.

They're pretty common, with several manufacturers making them to this day under different brands. Several of my friends own a pair.


To be fair, jumping stilts don't use quite the same mechanism as Bionic Boots, but the results are almost identical.

There was clearly a market for this invention - and somebody else actually filled that market very successfully.

I knew these as Powerizers and my friend and I used to play around on them. They were a lot of fun. Indeed, this is what's missing from this article. My guess is that Seymour was trying to do it with extensional springs, and Powerizers replaced those with fiberglass compressional springs and they were simply way better.

I've always wondered what the efficiency of movement is on these things, specifically WRT fatigue of the user/rider... in that I have often wondered by soldiers arent equipped with things like this.

Would walking around on patrol in a place like Afghanistan be more or less better if you were wearing these.

Can they be added to the bottom of the exoskeleton legs which allow relief from part of the weight of a pack - but then adding faster movement when wearing the exo-legs+pack?

I have a pair. You do move faster, jump higher, etc-- but that energy doesn't come out of nowhere. You're adding big weights to the ends of your legs and running, jumping, etc. It's definitely sports equipment, and it's a heck of a workout. It also works a lot of muscles that aren't especially large on the average human, particularly the anterior tibialis on the front of your shin, in order to control your movements.

Overall I can't really imagine it being good for the endurance-style activities for which humans are already quite well designed. In Afghanistan, at least for combat patrols, you might also have the problem of being taller (ie, a better target) and not being able to quickly take a knee, stumble, or go prone and get back up (ie, much much better target).

From this article: https://newatlas.com/powerbocking/12337/

it looks like jumping stilts allow you to deliver a lot more energy in a short period - for instance, running up to 25mph, or jumping over cars - but you pay for that with significantly increased calorie burn and the use of many more muscles.

So, probably really not what you want for endurance activities such as foot patrol.

In addition, the springs in them need to be calibrated for the weight they're supporting, and they top out around 240lb / 110kg. So you'd need extra heavy duty ones for soldiers with packs, and then you couldn't use those once the packs had been removed.

Maybe if you had a situation where you needed a couple of soldiers to dump their packs, don a pair of these that they'd been carrying, and run somewhere really fast ... ;)

In related news, the Russian Army investigated gasoline-powered 'rocket boots' for soldiers. Because of course they did. Sadly they didn't work out too well.


"One result of the Russian space agency testing was a calculation that the energy in calories used to move the two-pound boot at a run would exceed the energy input from the gasoline engine. That meant, it was more tiring to run with the motorized footwear than without it, undermining the original rationale. Only if the weight could be reduced to below 2 pounds per boot would the wearer have a net energy gain. So far they have failed at this."


" 'The worst situation is when the spark fires as the runner just lands, and the force of the blast is absorbed by his body,' Mr. Garipov explains flatly."

Maybe not the best idea. (Although I reckon if you outfitted them with modern electronic ignition and a sensor to ensure that they'd bottomed out and begun recoiling before ignition, you could do a lot better...)

I've seen robots use brushless motors as replacements for springs, but with an adjustable spring constant. I wonder whether motorized jumping stilts would be practical. The motors could also add some power to your jumps.

Does the motor add force, or absorb force to regenerative-braking-->energy?

A fly-wheel-compression system on a brushless alternator would be an interesting addition to a spring-ish based stilt-prosthetic. Let it pump an alternator in the unit to create power for all the gear over time/distance?

> it looks like jumping stilts allow you to deliver a lot more energy in a short period - for instance, running up to 25mph, or jumping over cars - but you pay for that with significantly increased calorie burn and the use of many more muscles.

I wonder if they could be used for more efficient exercise.

Yep, one of the jumping stilts manufacturers actually uses that as a selling point: you burn way more calories, and wind up with a massive silly grin on your face :)

So basically, conservation of energy...

Speaking of which, did you see that he’s trying to develop a powered version?

Walking around the rocky/hilly/mountainous terrain of Afghanistan you want to reduce carrying weight and keep a low, stable, very firm footing, rather than increase performance at a cost of considerable added instability.

The best thing the US military could do for soldiers in those circumstances over the next ~20 years, is reduce the enormous carrying weight they deal with now. Any sort of added foot instability (poor grip, too much boosted height, unnatural added spring force, wrong materials, too much cushion, etc) is very dangerous in a war zone.

I can't help but wonder if a technology that made it easier for them to carry the weight they do today, would just result in a heavier base load as additional items are suddenly identified as 'essential'.

This. Look at the historical average combat load of a soldier vs average height and weight of the same soldier. You’ll find the combat load is always just a little more than you think should be possible for extended periods of time.

Source: was in the infantry and spent some time reading up on it a decade ago

It's akin to the issue with traffic, and adding more/wider highways. It doesn't let the existing cars move more freely, it just attracts more.

Here on HN we call that "Increasing your bandwidth" :-)

The best thing the US military could do for soldiers in those circumstances over the next ~20 years, is reduce the enormous carrying weight they deal with now.

I thought that was the point of the "dog" robot from Boston Dynamics. Are those too expensive for deployment?

Apparently they were too loud, because they depended on a gasoline motor to be able to go long enough distances.

Sounds like he was too focused on inventing and forgot the production/sales aspect. He literally had the product and had thousands of people emailing him directly ready to buy! And he still complains that he couldn’t sell.

He should have realized his personal shortcomings and partnered with someone who had the qualities he lacked.

This is precisely my takeaway as well. I wonder if there's more to the story than described in the article – maybe he's just really hard to work with? Maybe his prototypes are two expensive to put into any large scale production, and he's not willing to compromise? I feel like this story barely scratches the surface.

Also, why didn't he start a Kickstarter campaign? I would imagine that crowd-funding would be the perfect approach to something unable to attract investors. He seems like a smart guy, I'm sure he must have considered it?

I agree too, the author really could have dug deeper and asked some questions instead of just focusing on his 30-years of failure (with some uplifting moments).

Exactly what I thought: Kickstarter

Agreed. The article also didn't really talk about what it was actually like after 30 years of pursuing his dream and failing. They just told a story without much detail. Seems like there would be a lot more interesting details.

Also while he did sacrifice a lot of savings, he still had a degree and a fallback career, even if it was a mediocre one.

Based on the limited info we have, I would guess that he's a perfectionist. I've known a couple of people who have ruined great ideas and initial traction due to their perfectionism.

I think it's even worse than perfectionism. It's a fear of success. Some engineers have this fear that they've only got a few good ideas in them and once they finish with this one, they'll never have a second one, so they've got to milk this one for all it's worth because once they're done they'll be all used up.

But in this case it's not like he's milked it at all.

Your description more aptly fits Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

This guy is trying to milk it, because he thinks if he gives it up he'll have no more good ideas for the rest of his life. Mark Z. on the other hand is doing just fine and could start trying to do space travel like Bezos, but he doesn't really lose anything doing what he's doing because it's working.

But there isn't any milk. Zuck is milking it. Zuck could do other things, instead he continues to do Facebook and similar acquisitions. He is milking it.

This other dude isn't getting any milk. He's pulling a teet with nothing in it.

Perhaps it's that he believes he is eventually going to succeed and he's convinced himself of this since he also consciously or subconsciously believes that if he doesn't he won't have any other ideas so he might as well try forever to get this idea to work.

Potentially, but there still needs to be milk to milk it. Sounds like this guy is too focused on an idea that he hasn't executed well.

That's like trying to milk a starving cow, because none of the other animals on your farm are alive.

An excellent example of "perfect is the enemy of good".

You can see an image of his later iterations later in the article [1]. It does look like there isn't much improvement between them, except what a perfectionist might find to tinker with.

[1] https://thehustle.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/protos.png

This happens sometimes to inventors who are not willing to cede control of the invention to investors. The investors aren't willing to put in $$$$ and not have control.

I think you're making an incorrect assumption. He had a series of prototypes, not deliverable products. Ramping up production for a complex product requires capital. As I read it He'd been seeking funding to get to the production phase and was using those thousands of emails as essentially M.O.U.s to show that a market existed and the product was desired.

> Ramping up production for a complex product requires capital

For a mass-market product, sure. But there’s no need to go from 0 to mass market. Had he priced his boots at $900 a piece and essentially sold prototypes, he may have been able to hit $100k in sales within a year. That’s the kind of traction investors look for.

Exactly. Going to market and being able to identify if his hypothetical quote “mid-30s” extreme sports enthusiast was his target market, and at the price they are willing to pay, was neglected in pursuit of the perfect product.

As Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of the good.”

I think the only way that this guy could have won would have been to license the invention for a tiny royalty amount just to get the thing made and establish his personal brand. Then, once he had handed the invention off to someone else, he could have gone on to his next product and gotten a bigger development budget that would let him get out ahead of the competition before they could catch up.

Instead, he tried to do everything himself thinking he was a real business genius when he only had the idea and was a decent engineer. This is a typical engineering mindset. Engineers think they are smarter than all these genius marketers and hustlers out there. They think that being good at math means you're good at marketing, but they are really different skills and good marketers and promoters should be respected for the unique and genuine value they bring.

I don't know. There's many people that do practically nothing in that regard and become mega hits overnight. Happens all the time in software. How many sales people were marketing facebook back in the day?

You can become rich with 0 work. The harder you work, the more preparation you do, the more you minimize the luck factor.

"The more I practice, the luckier I get" used to be a common .sig quote.


Facebook did things no one else did like allow you to import your hotmail contacts. They rolled out in small batches. At one point you needed a .edu email. The press was great. Facebook did so many things right marketing-wise in the beginning.. even now they always seem to be on the cusp of the next wave.

facebook type products are an outlier. It did not require traditional sales and marketing in the true sense as it did one thing right : creating a tool for college kids like me where I felt like part of the community. The idea was brilliant to keep it to college campuses only. I remember looking at fb for the first time (circa 2004 when it was only on college campuses) and going "wow, they have listed my dorm name" and immediately felt a personal connection. genius!! And of course, the UI was far more engaging than the incumbents. So fb was selling itself but most products don't.

Facebook practically implemented a worse version of MySpace. The only problem with MySpace was security issues which I think ultimately killed it in the end.

How many do you know? What percentage is that compared to how many projects are launched with 10 visits to the website after months of work..?

Almost every social media site wasn't marketed. MySpace didn't have marketing, neither did Facebook, neither did Twitter, Snapchat is still popular even though it struggles to make any money. Those are just the few that come to mind.

I don't have an exact percentage, and percentage wise its probably low when factoring in all the websites in existence.

So, you know of 5.

That's exactly my point.

Many people?

After reading the article, he seems to have a "build it and they will come" type of attitude. They did come but he failed to capitalise on it.

The big lesson learn here is to seek help in the area where you failing in, in his case - closing those sales!

“More egregiously, a Chinese firm nicked Seymour’s design, mass-produced the product, and sold it under the “Bionic Boot” name on Amazon.”

This is the most important line to me. I’ve heard so many horror stories along these lines.

Yet, does anyone here know why companies like Sarah Blakely’s Spanx didn’t suffer the same fate? Spanx is now a billion dollar company that launched with an easily clonable product.

She talks about how she filed a patent on her idea on her own with no lawyer and that was the only explanation. I don’t think she had a lot of money to fight cases.


> does anyone here know why companies like Sarah Blakely’s Spanx didn’t suffer the same fate?

Spanx succeeded because they built a brand around convincing a wide swath of the population that their life would be better if they wore a fancy girdle. Their success was because of sales excellence and a smart customer engagement campaign, not proprietary tech.

I think it also helps that when Spanx would go viral there was already a product available, so it would be less lucrative for a knockoff to enter a competitive market. When this guy's boots would go viral there was nothing to buy, so if a knockoff could get to market faster they'd get the sales.

Presumably you’re making the case that they grew quickly enough that by the time any competitors were aware of the potential of product they did have the money to fight infringement.

Even still, in the early days of their marketing campaign it would have been so easy for a foreign competitor to swoop in and make the same thing. I didn’t get the vibe that they grew that quickly, and I do get the vibe that there are foreign manufacturers on the hunt for ideas to copy.

I really don't think it's a question of proprietary IP, infringement risks, etc. It's not complicated technology. Spanx succeeded because they created a brand that massively expanded the market for slimming compression undergarments; they were especially effective in marketing to men.

Yes absolutely this imo. I worked at Saks Fifth Avenue around the time Spanx we’re taking off. It was absolutely about the “lifestyle” and the brand. There might have been competitor and there might have been knockoffs, but they were just that: not Spanx. And that was very important.

I remember one of the top sales girls joking with her clients constantly after Christmas one year about how she’d had too much to drink at the Christmas party and she’d fallen and rolled or something and “next thing I knew my Spanx were hanging out”. And they’d all laugh uproariously as they held several pairs to buy.

It’s this magical sweet spot where they were just expensive enough to be special and “the real deal”. Competition didn’t matter. Price didn’t matter. Spanx mattered. I found it insanely interesting.

I think the question is what prevented Amazon counterfeiters from selling their fake merchandise under the Spanx name on Amazon. But as said above, Spanx may have had the resources to fight this.

And a genius product name.

And a product to cheap to bother pirating

I think things like [1], where YouTube electronics reverse engineering wizard Big Clive disassembles a fake "magnetic" shaker flashlight, shows that no pretty much no product is too cheap to bother pirating.

That people spend time to put parts together, including a fake circuit board with pretend-mounted components, to create a non-functional light, is just insane to me.

1: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&c...

Not sure, but my guess is because Spanx sells a brand as much as a product, and trademark enforcement is likely easier than patent enforcement.

Yeah, that must've hurt :(

I wish there were "ethical patent enforcers" (not patent trolls) who for a small fee/equity, go after these legitimate patent infringing cases and help people like Seymour.

Patent trolls market themselves as exactly this.

Greasy palms.

>This is the most important line to me. I’ve heard so many horror stories along these lines.

Well, sounds like truly free trade.

No patents, no copyright, no BS.

If you can make it and sell it cheaper than someone else, you win (and people get it without artificial restrictions on its production).

And it causes a tragedy of the commons that disincentivizes invention and slows progress in the Useful Arts as the US Constitution calls it.

Truly free trade would mean I could just take one from a store since the owner isn't using all the duplicates in stock.

>And it causes a tragedy of the commons that disincentivizes invention

Only when it comes to profit. There are other motives for invention...

>Truly free trade would mean I could just take one from a store since the owner isn't using all the duplicates in stock.

Only that wouldn't be trade -- because you don't pay (trade money for the product). So, no.

Sounds like justification for exploitative labor practices.

Sounds like totally orthogonal to labor practices.

It's not free or fair trade, because the West does have copyright/patent enforcement. It's free-for-all on the Chinese side and self-defeating protectionism from the West. Now, if the West actively rolled back IP restrictions we'd get closer to a fair situation, and I'm confident that other mechanisms (prizes, research funding, targeted subsidies) would be expanded to restore the incentive towards innovation that IP used to provide.

This article tells about Seymour's many failed attempts to get investors onboard, but nothing - not one word - about the inventor selling prototypes himself.

Yes, producing 100K units will require serious capital. But producing a few units and test-marketing them on Amazon should be well within reach.

There are so many ways to do this. For example, how about starting with a signature edition, produced as a series of 10 units. The guy's had crazy media attention. There are people who know about him and who might be willing to buy a first-run as a collector play or simply to fund a man with relentless drive.

I suspect the investors and other companies he's pitching to see this and that's why they refuse to invest. They don't believe Seymour is the man to bring the idea to market.

And they may be right.

Seymour can solve this problem by:

1. switching focus to marketing;

2. bringing on an associate who is focused on marketing.

Why marketing? According to the article, he already had the orders coming in via email, that's enough publicity to start.

Some others here said it already, but he could have just accepted the orders, start manufacturing a small batch and sell them. Why was that impossible to do? The article is completely lacking that detail. Why the focus on getting an investor?

I was lucky enough to meet Keahi at a World's Fair Nano in SF a few years ago and chat with him a bit afterwards as well. He's a really smart guy, and his boots are awesome, but I have to echo a few other commenters here: he seemed too focused on the design and engineering and didn't seem to know how to execute past that. In particular, it seemed to me that the boots themselves weren't ready for production. They worked exceptionally well, but they were hand-made, and it was clear that they weren't designed to be made in a factory setting.

Hardware is a slow business by its nature, especially when coming into it from the inventor/designer side. But at some point the lean startup is right. "Fail Fast" has one concept at its core: win or lose, you have to execute. Keahi actually went out and built his design (which is more than many hardware inventors can say). But the next step in the execution of a consumer hardware business has to be building enough of your product to sell to customers, and that's a different skill set.

If you find yourself stuck in the design phase, try to find a way to push forward. If you're short on cash, maybe a group of early, dedicated customers (or a Kickstarter) can provide the funds you need to set up small-scale manufacturing. If you can't find some initial customers and can't successfully run a Kickstarter, at least you'll know it's time to move on. Hardware's a tough industry, and I firmly believe that there are plenty of great ideas out there that would survive if they could get past this particular bump.

Anyway, I hope he manages to push past the design phase and into production - it's a cool product, and one that I'd love to be able to buy someday.

I think his real issue is market fit. He only talks about his vision, what he wants to do. Not a word about his customers. The ability to run that fast is amazing, but the boots themselves are ungainly and the stride looks awkward as hell. I wonder what kind of speed boost he could get in a boot that looks more like a boot than a pair of stilts. I'd bet there's a bigger market for a "normal" boot that gives you, say, a 10% boost in speed, than these things.

Take it to Kickstarter, Keahi. Take it to Kickstarter.

Figure out how many pairs you'd have to manufacture so you can amortize the cost of making your molds and other setup to around $500 a boot. Maybe you've already got those, maybe they're only sized for your feet and you need to re-work them to be adjustable, I dunno.

Kickstart a run of a couple thousand, then go talking to bigger manufacturers.

Or maybe you've thought about this already and it turns out scaling up is gonna take something more in the range of tens of thousands of pairs of boots, maybe they're just stuck at $1k/pair, I dunno what the materials cost is on these things. I'd kinda worry about the legal liability too, if someone is running at 25mph with these and something breaks they could fuck themselves up pretty badly. Have you been willing to even make one pair by hand for any of the people coveting them? You're still in the Bay Area, there's gotta be at least one person who's coveted these in person who has Obscene Bay Area Money and can offer enough to own the next pair you build, maybe even pay a rush fee to cover your rent while you take a few weeks off work to build them faster.

> Take it to Kickstarter, Keahi. Take it to Kickstarter.

And maybe send Casey Neistat a pair. He has a huge following on youtube and loves this kind of stuff. I'm sure he'd feature them in a video with a clickbait title and everything, lol

> Casey Neistat

Ugh... I've been sick of that guy ever since he made that phony "i took mega-corp's ad dollars to go travel the world, lulz" video.

I'm not personally endorsing him, but you have to admit that's the kind of thing he'd put in a video which millions of people would see. Pretty small investment for a potentially huge return.

He only failed if the end goal was market success. It looks like he did what he set out to do.

His latest model doesn't look too different from the Olympic blade runners. Maybe it should have been marketed as a prosthesis.

There was another parallel development as well, somebody who attached a rubber band to a large spur off the back of the heel. Might have been related to Nike's thing. Bit of convergent development.

This is quite an amazing story, love the persistence and passion.

One note. Just because the patents are expiring, doesn't mean this can't still succeed. Inventors and scientists sometimes think that legal defensibility is what allows you to monetize an invention (it echoes some of the debates I've had with my father, a scientist).

Instead, well after a Chinese knockoff is in market, I could see a niche product succeed when seeding it with the right early adopter community, using just Instagram/YouTube, and having great branding.

A product category is not "done" when there's a manufacturer in the market.

I think specifically the success he was looking for which is finding an investing/manufacturing/sales partner and he just does the invention is dead without a patent.

I can't help but think of the bullet ball guy. Spent 26 years developing this silly game and devoted his whole life to it and it went nowhere.


Wrong spin. Marc persevered and now the game is thriving:


Honestly brings tears to my eyes to see him triumph over naysayers.

I was reminded of that too. Honestly, that video is a heartbreaking story of a man with mountains of ambition but very little self-awareness.

There are no hard and fast rules, but I've noticed that it always seems to take two personalities to create a new tech business: A hacker and a hustler. Sometimes these are two people: Jobs and Woz, Gates and Allen, Page and Brin, Moore and Noyce, Yang and Filo, Hewlett and Packard... Sometimes they are the same person (who are also generally a-holes): Ellison, Zuckerberg (but not always): Benioff. Sometimes a hustler hires the hackers: Ford, Bezos. Sometimes the hackers find the hustlers: Andreessen, Omidyar.

OK, these are probably generalizations, but it seems to fit a pattern, no?

Zuckerberg is an alien/lizard. But seems like yes.

Isn't this the exact concept of those running blades used by paraathletes?


These use carbon fibre and if I recall correctly are proved to be a more efficient tool for running competitions than natural legs. There is debate if it should be allowed on regular competitions or if it counts as "doping".

A similar design adapted to able-bodied people might be a better solution than his metal structure design.

I think this is the downside of working solo and focusing solely on registering patents and getting rich. You miss how other people contributions could improve your product.

There's also the whole "jumping stilts" category that appears to have peaked few years ago and now subsided to almost zero.


Those are great if you can wear stilts, which I can't (well, I did when I was a kid but I don't have great balance). What I'd like is just something small that makes my step bounce: kids get to have those little roller balls in their sneakers. Why can't I have a pair that just lets me jump a little bit with my step? It would make running and playing so much fun.

It'd be useful for me on mountain descents as well. I really love steep descents on snowshoes because the landing is so soft. Ice/rock descents hurt. Having a little spring at the bottom of your stride would go a long way to saving the knees.

Trekking shoes have a device to absorbs the shocks, which is usually a gaz or gel layer inside the sole. Unfortunately, this cannot absorb much, since a thick sole would reduce the stability of the foot. By the way, always walking with shock absorbers has bad physiological consequences on the feet and knees.

I think the best way to protect the knees, aside from soft snow and screes, is to lower the body when walking down, and absorb the shock using the thighs' muscles.

More commonly, walking down stairs is a known knee-killer. This kind of product could be extremely viable for people who do a lot of walking at work – e.g. nurses, anyone in the hospitality industry, beat cops, etc.

I remember "moon boots" advertised in Boys' Life when I was a kid, that promised something like this. So I googled a bit and found https://www.bounceshoestore.com/ , is that sort of like what you had in mind?

Frankly the entire set of products just terrifies me.

I can break, like, my entire face by falling wrong while walking at normal speeds, or twist my ankle or screw up my knee by stepping wrong while walking around the house.

I have to assume the failure cases associated with jumping stilts and magic running boots are just spectacularly awful, and I am way too middle-aged to deal with any of that.

The problem is that often middle-aged cannot deal with that anymore; an unlucky injury on/after that age can ruin the rest of your life and shorten it considerably. So many people who did things like ski/snowboard all their life but fell wrong and messed up their knee over 45 and now they cannot really do most sports they enjoyed anymore. People are not that into change usually when they get older so it's often quite physical but also mental issue for them.

>$15k-$18k a blade

Seems like even less of a viable approach for a mass-market product.

Actually, Seymour would probably have been better off selling his boots in this price range as toys for people with too much disposable income.

Sorry, why the duck doesn't this guy start a Kickstarter?

He had a lot of interest but for some reason didn’t pull the trigger on sending his product into the market.

I’m guessing it was some kind of safety measure that he must have believed that he needed/wanted to achieve.

Honestly, he achieved his dream - Ie building the boot.

He failed in building a multi million dollar business - but that’s something most all of us will fail to do.

There was another blog post on HN a few months ago titled “Fall in Love with the Problem, not the Solution.” This is a very clear case of the latter. What problem is he trying to solve??? That humans are too slow? The bicycle solved that ages ago.

You have to love the journey, otherwise it isn’t worth the pain. The joy of entrepreneurism isn’t the huge check; if you want that, just become a doctor or dentist or corporate lawyer.

Lots of those just barely stay ahead of their student loans for much of their lives... Labor is an eventually-efficient market.

Am I the only one who thinks being able to bring a vision you had at 12 to life is a remarkable success?

No, you're not.

A lack of commercial success != failure.

I would buy a pair of these things. Assuming they don't do something pathological to your bones or your joints, these sound like a mountain of fun. But he should take heart, the inventor(s) of inline skates suffered a similar fate with respect to the patent on them.


It does seem that he could sell probably 10-20 a month. I bet the Chinese knockoffs probably are poorly made, he could be on the high end of his product.

My thoughts exactly. I'm eyeing these bad boys right now: https://smile.amazon.com/Kangaroo-Jumping-Fitness-Exercise-B...

These remind me of Chell's boots in Portal (in reverse?). For that matter, there's a little bit of Cave Johnson in this story too.

But throughout the article, while I was delighted by the concept, fascinated by the execution and impressed by his dedication, I still couldn't think of where his market for these lies.

The same demographic that runs around Google imitating Sergey Brin in those toe sneakers perhaps?

I'm very surprised DARPA, ONR, or SOCOM didn't at least offer a startup grant for this. ONR has an entire office devoted to developing stuff exactly like this.

There is an art to writing DoD research grant proposals, just as there is (I presume) an art to pitching VC. So maybe a lack of understanding of how to go about securing these types of grants could explain him not getting one. But DARPA, in particular, goes way out of its way to take that out of the equation.

Which leads me to wonder whether there isn't more to this story.

It's possible that safety and/or energy consumption is the issue. As noted by others, there are similar products like jumping stilts out there. While they are effective, it is very easy to get hurt on them. Falling from that height is very risky. One Amazon reviewer broke a wrist for example.

It also sounds like it takes a tremendous amount of energy to use these. One guy was hoping to replace his bicycle with these but discovered that despite being in tremendous shape he couldn't handle more than 15 minutes.

Having been in combat situations, the safety factor and energy depletion factor would be a serious problem for military use, especially while wearing body armor and/or carrying a pack.

This reminds me of the Moller M400 Skycar. Although the inventor behind it was likely years ahead of his time, after 50 years he is still trying to get it off the ground. Sadly at this point the company is characterized as “no longer believable enough to gain investors”.

One interesting thing I see in common between the two is a great deal of effort spent quite early on retaining IP (patents, etc), vs successful companies who seem to rely more on execution velocity and first mover advantages until they’re much more mature.

I looked it up and interestingly the Moller skycar received $100 million in funding. I think it was just never a working product.

As the many drone-like flying vehicle prototypes have shown, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the idea of a vtol aircraft.

Knowing what we do today about modern rotorcraft theory, it’s likely that the disc loading of the Moller prototypes was too high for the design to be practically efficient. It’s also likely that the Wankels didn’t perform anywhere near expectations for this reason... I don’t believe either of these to have insurmountable problems.

Rather, it seems likely that a disproportionate amount of effort was sunk into the software for the flight controller before software development practices had advanced enough to make it practical; if I recall correctly there was something like 10’s or 100’s of millions of lines of assembly code involved...

Just an idea that was ahead of its time, plagued by corporate missteps.

The big fail here is lack of focus. The guy has not defined who he's creating the boots for. He just created them and hoped someone found a need for them. It's no wonder he's gotten nowhere.

Now that he has a working prototype, he needs to pick a market segment that can use his boots and tailor them towards that market. My first guess it that the army would find them useful for soldiers that need to carry heavy backpacks over long distances or abid outdoor sportsmen that carry lots of items over a long terrain.

This is a product without a defined need. If I'm an investor I need to know that I'm going to get my money back so I need to know someone will buy it. If I'm a buyer I need to know what problem it will solve.

A product that exists without a reason to exist is useless. It does not matter how cool it is.

It's right there in the article:

> ... his target customers: “Well-to-do adventure-seekers in their mid-30s who had tried every type of extreme sport and wanted something new.”

Well, it's obvious it did not fill their need. If you look at the inventor's website you'll see that there is nothing that speaks to that target segment. It's just a bunch of random shots of him using the product. It's obvious that he has no idea what his target audience wants. What's the point of saying you are marketing towards a particular segment and yet you don't work towards marketing to that segment. You don't just say you are doing something. You have to act too.

If that's his segment then I would at least have a website showing how to use the product. I would have some athletes using it too. The demand is not automatic you have to build people's desire for the product.

He should have consulted a marketing expert even before he had his first prototype ready.

Other already sold similar boots. That’s why he cannot do a kickstarter anymore https://www.amazon.com/CREATETECH-Bionic-Running-Jumping-Sho...

"With it, you have the power to keep running With it, you will no longer waste the annual fee of fitness card. With it, you can use your footsteps to measure the length of your life. With it, there is health With it, walking on the road, you are the most special one."

this sounds like one of the chinese knock-off companies that just ignored the patents.

Amazon will take down product pages that violate patents--not sure how quickly, but I've seen people complain about it in the FBA reddit forums.

This is why it's so important to divorce self worth from achievements. Everyone cannot possibly win everything.

Often , the biggest motivation for achievements is self-worth,or ego.

Once you remove that motivation , isn't it much harder to endure and to win against more motivated competitors ?

For me the motivation can be hard to describe. The best I can do is to say I try to follow a path where it feels like I am improving the universe, but that starts to sound like the back of a smoothie bottle.

Winning and achieving are separate things, unless you make it your specific goal to win.

I remember watching the episode "Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives" on NOVA about physicist Hugh Everett III.

I confess I initially watched it because I was interested in Hugh's son, Mark Everett of the band The Eels.

But it ended up being a poignant look at the also-rans in science. The ideas that failed.

Link: https://vimeo.com/eels/parallelworlds

Failed? There are very few top theoretical physicists (though still some) who still believe in collapse, and the rest believe something morally equivalent to an Everettian theory.

I agree, from the point of view of a layman, there seems to have been a reawakening in regard to his parallel worlds theory. The NOVA episode suggests there was nothing like that in his life time though. Sadly.

In his lifetime in our world :P

Very awesome video on physics and how some theorem are ignored for no reason but just being far ahead of their time, thanks for this link dude.

So he is a Wozniak that didn’t have a Jobs....

agreed - he's missing a business-savvy co-founder

He knows about the manufacturing process, set up a kickstarter get orders of 10 make those 10 sell them, stream line your manufacturing process within the United states think 3d printing. Put out the next order of 100 hit the hundred then take it from there. Get the first 10 to make viral videos for you. Put made in the US on the outside.

> Get the first 10 to make viral videos for you.

This is difficult on multiple levels. Most people won't make videos no matter what (and they paid for the product so they would feel even less pressure), and those homespun videos are almost certainly not going viral.

Something similar was done with glasses for color blind people:


Indeed, it's very hard to win with unknown products that can be readily cloned. And with so much commerce online, it's much harder to fight knockoffs. I mean, Amazon would probably just bin them all together.

But in fact, as passionate as this guy has been for decades, it's arguably not such a novel idea. William S. Burroughs featured spring shoes (and spring knives, flails, etc) in some of his novels, starting in the late 70s.

And if you've ever read Archeology or other elder-targeted media, you'll know that spring shoes are a trope.[0] Along with "exotic" knives, watches, cpoins, necklaces, and statues of the Archangel Michael.

0) https://www.hammacher.com/product/spring-loaded-walking-shoe...

This is almost too painful to read. I'm at the verge of abandoning a 20-year old venture and I can feel this guy's pain. Some say we should not give up hope, but others say fail fast, fail often. It's hard to know which way to go, especially when you're so emotionally invested.

Nike Vaporfly has a carbon fiber plate for energy return built into the shoe: https://www.outsideonline.com/2262486/researchers-confirm-ni... Some say it should be banned because of unfair advantage to wearer: https://sportsscientists.com/2017/03/ban-nike-vaporfly-carbo...

I'm not going to bother reading the article, but title reveals wrong mentality. It should be replaced with: "What it's like to pursue a dream for 30 years (among pursuing other dreams), then deciding it failed and then stopping the pursuing and not pursuing any more." 1) Failure is never absolute. 2) Every situation is relative. Apple opened their first shop when Compaq closed their last. 3) Absolute terms, like doing something for 30 years is misleading. It's generalising and it's not objective.

I think the take-away isn't that his idea is pretty radical, but that he was 15 steps ahead of himself and that seemed to set himself up for failure.

Not sure if it's that the article was poorly written, but he didn't seem to have any early small wins to get him to the next big step.

All great inventors (except maybe for Dyson), seemed to have all these small wins that would help leverage them to the next chunk. If he needs investment, he should have started with something early on that would win investors trust so that eventually he could call on his network to tackle his crazy ideas.

This highlights a fundamental truth about human psychology. People want to have fun without having to do much. If the boots were simply powered, as in, the person wearing them didn't have to walk in order to move from A to B, it might've attracted a large following. In fact, check out the [0] Segway Drift W1

[0] http://www.segway.com/products/consumer-lifestyle/segway-dri...

These boots look like they're great fun. They also look like you could get badly hurt easily with them (also with other similar jumping boots). That's what's preventing me from getting something along those lines.

I am by no means an expert in human physiology, but the way he is running does not seem particular good for the way our body is build.

When you see sprinters run, they are tilted forward and use the quads to propel - this is now used to put tension in the rubber springs to gain some height. While it increase your speed, it is essentially wasted energy because it's not forward motion. But that just an initial impression, I'd have to try them to comment more.

Whenever I fullfill a dream I feel empty. So I don't pursue dreams, I live life, and try to get the best of the present, as long as it exists, I know not for long.

Why didn't he start selling, even if it meant selling the prototypes one by one? If people can live by selling choppers, it can work with this as well.

Here's a very similar product. Are these the Chinese copies the article is talking about.


This guy has led what sounds like a charmed life -- flying to places such as Spain, France, England, Denmark -- while having enough disposable income to pursue his passion project (which project is not bullshit, nor does he sound like a bullshitter). Is this really what we moderns call "failure"?

Speaking about the product -- doesn't the weight of the boots make the body unbalanced? I mean, weight of hands is an important factor while running. So, my guess is that adding wrist weights might make running with these boots on less uncomfortable.

I did't see a video if them in action in the article, but there's more than on on youtube:


> Though he’d spent a small fortune securing international patents, Seymour didn’t have the means to fight infringements.

Wouldn't lawyers take the case on a commission basis? (I just learned it's called "contingency fee")

You need to have Apple-sized leverage to successfully take on knock-off manufacturers in China. He has no leverage.

How much leverage does he need to just get them off Amazon.com?

(a) There's a lot more retailers than just Amazon, and (b) Knock-offs just keep coming back under different brands anyway.

He's been at this for 30 years. If he had early patents, they've expired. If he didn't have patents, he had a product out before the patent and so there's prior art.

The article mentions "His patents are expiring in a few months"

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." --George Bernard Shaw

Wow. Props for the effort and passion.

If I were him, I'd be wearing a helmet when I ran. I can't image what a 25 mph crash would feel like, from a couple of feet above standing height. Yikes!

Now what I'd really like to know is if these boots can actually decrease the metabolic cost of running at these speeds.

Ah, but man's reach should exceed his grasp. Or what's a heaven for?

What I am missing on the website is a "buy" button.

It is much better than doing nothing notable for 30 years.

Why not fund/sell this through Kickstarter?

That didn't seem like failure to me.

This is a lesson in opportunity cost.

What is the max speed this thing can go? The article mentions 25miles/hour? It can’t outrun a human...

The average human running speed is 15mph. The record is 27.8mph, but that is the domain of a small set of outliers who train for a long time to get there. If you put these on Usian Bolt (the current record holder), he might end up closer to 40mph than 30. Or not, that record was ten years ago and he's retired now.

Perhaps, it can't outrun every human under all circumstances.

But, 25mph is still very impressive.

While in hell, keep walking

I checked three times I swear to make sure it wasn't April 1st

These shoes/equips remember me some Genetic Algorithm Simulations of "Kangaroos" , some of them had only 1 leg, some had 2, They were made to fuel prototypes of hardware robots that run like a chicken or jump like a Kangaroo.

These robots were scary Impressive! And run Scary fast. And Jump some mortal loops and flip-flops and stuff.

This was 25 years ago now. 25 years!

Therefore... those bionic Dogs from google or darpa , whoever, were supposed to be a normal thing 20 years ago, If someone back then let himself be taken by the Hype, and by 2020 everyone should be wearing Exo-Skeletons like the iron-man.

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