Go Rolloe are creating innovative clean air solutions that can be integrated and retrofitted onto moving vehicles. The solution produces a by-product which can be used for third-party products, such as roads or bricks.
The company was founded by Kristen Tapping, a Product Design Engineer experienced in the automotive interior sector. Kristen is currently developing a bicycle wheel that filters outdoor air pollution and aims to bring it to market by 2022.
For International Women's Month, we spoke to founder Kristen about her business and her experience as a woman in the clean tech sector.
I'm Product Design Engineer with experience in product design, manufacturing optimisation, material science, project management and media relations. I recently worked as a Design Engineer in the automotive interior sector, designing parts and concepts for Original Equipment Manufacturers, including Renault, Nio and Audi. Now I'm developing Go Rolloe.
Describe your innovation in a sentence?
A bicycle wheel that filters outdoor air pollution using only the rider’s energy.
How did you discover the issue that your innovation addresses?
By regularly cycling around London, I was exposed to how bad air pollution is by seeing and smelling smoke from exhaust pipes. I think we forget about how bad it is, because it is invisible. By conducting further research on the issue, I realised that it has a massive impact on people’s quality of life, causing a staggering number of premature deaths all over the world.
When did you start working with the SBI team, and what have you achieved so far?
I've just been accepted into the Sustainable Innovation Cohort and have been working with LSBU as well.
What has been a challenge or an obstacle in your product development?
I would say having confidence in the idea when it is just starting out. You see the issue, you come up with a solution, but you cannot fathom that other people will see it your solution as a commercially viable product.
Developing the concept and prototyping with zero funding is another big challenge. I have to rely on the in-kind support of LSBU, their faculty members, and friends who simply want to help me achieve something great. It is also hard handling all parts of a product development by yourself...prototyping, testing, media relations, sales and collaboration inquiries, IPR [Intellectual Property Rights], setting up a company, financial statements, and the list goes on.
What are the benefits of working with SBI/LSBU for you?
Receiving expert support from LSBU is paramount into designing a product suitable for commercial output. I would not have arrived this far without your support. In addition, being able to work from LSBU, using your workshops and prototyping machinery has permitted me to put out models to a professional standard.
What were you doing before you founded your company?
Before I founded GoRolloe, I was a Product Design student at LSBU in my final year of studies. I had taken the prior year off to work in automotive interiors developing concepts and validating materials. Product Design is my second degree. My first was in Public Relations (PR) & Advertising. I worked in PR, sales, and somehow personal training! After some time, I thought I would give design a shot, and the rest is history! While I do wish I had found this new career earlier in life, I can say that my prior experience and skills are helping me to become a successful entrepreneur.
How did this experience help you build your company/develop your product?
It has allowed me to produce quality prototypes and have a space to test them. It has also exposed me to incredible faculty members who have shared their expertise in engineering, business, and law.
What’s next for you and your business?
I am currently continuing the development, focusing on prototyping and testing to optimize the product for commercial output. I aim to have the wheels pilot launched in selected cities by October 2021. We have interest from local authorities and private companies to incorporate Go Rolloe into their bicycle fleets.
What is your top tip for women developing new products?
One would be gain as many skills as possible in the field of product design and business. It will allow you to do the initial prototyping and market validation without spending too much money. People do the mistake of investing lots of time and money from the start without doing these steps, and when they realise the product would not work or no one wants to buy it, they are too far involved to give it up. Another part of this is, you may have a great product, but how much will the market pay for it? If that number is not high enough to cover your manufacturing costs, overheads, taxes, and leave some profit aside, your idea is not commercially viable...
Second is to believe in yourself, and surround yourself with people who support you. When I was starting Go Rolloe, many people didn’t see me being able to do it and told me I should get a job instead. Once your idea gains traction and receives commercial interest, then those people support you, but until then you are just a little boat paddling in the ocean! I have no idea if my invention will take off, but I am giving it my all and surrounding myself with supporting people and organizations such as LSBU and SBI to give it a good shot!
Third is keep it simple. Many innovators want the world to understand all about how their product works, but 98% of viewers only want to give it 20 second of their attention. Communicate what it does and what problem it solves, that’s it! Those who want more information will ask for it.
Lastly, I have been fortunate to receive a lot of media attention for my product and I think the main reason is because I have nice looking renders and a cool video. Media organisations want content that makes their users click to find out more, so give them some eye-catching content! Your product may work and be great, but it also needs to have a visual impact on the everyday person who has no idea what it is. Adapt to this day and age of visual communication and it will get you far.
How would you describe your experience as a woman in business or a woman in STEM?
Well, being a woman I am definitely a minority in this field, but I personally find it a fun challenge to go out and prove myself. I take every opportunity to showcase my skills and talent and am not shy about it. I think men and women have different mindsets in how they approach problems, and collaboration between the two creates greatinnovative work. I have received a couple of comments like, “well you don’t look like an engineer”, and I honestly just laugh at them and move on!
While I have tough skin and can laugh at comments, I am worried about how those stereotypes can affect the younger generation who are so much more influenceable. When I was 17, I was good at math and actually loved 3D building/gaming problems, but was told by my family and career advisers to go into communications, I think because that’s what women tend to study! I find boys/men are pushed much more easily into STEM fields from a young age, not because people see them as being smarter, but because most of us have these preconceived notions of what each gender should do. I hope more girls give STEM a try not only to help develop great innovation, but also because they might love it as much as I do.
I think women in general are not encouraged to go off and take risks, and taking risks is in the definition of starting your own business. Most people starting off do not have a ton of money to cushion them in case it fails. You have no promise of job security, pay, or that your product will ever make it to market! I have found that taking risks is like a muscle, and the more you practice it, the better you get at it. My personal way to overcome my fear of taking risks is that when I feel it, I push myself to overcome it…it can be public speaking, presenting a concept, or even extreme sports like kite surfing. Don’t get me wrong I have made a fool of myself more than not, but I am left with this attitude of, well what is there to lose?
What do you think is the most important issue that tech entreprenuers should be addressing?
I would like to see more innovative ideas that solve actual problems. I think I have seen 20 water-proof shoes on kickstarter in the last month, all looking exactly the same and am just so fed up with people not investing time in research and brainstorming to come up with new ideas. Before you come up with a solution, come up with a need. 90% of the ideas I hear have either already been made, do not address a specific need, or are not commercially viable. Do some research, make some quick and dirty prototypes, and ask your market for their true opinion.
Also instead of creating a whole new product, think if you can create a retro-fitted adaption to an existing product. This will aid sustainability as you are not creating as much waste, but it also allows you to create a whole new market category and lower your competition. For example, if I had created an entire bike that filters air pollution, I would now have to compete with the bike market which is booming with innovation. No thanks! Instead I created a product that can be integrated into the bicycle market so instead of being competitors, these people are my clients!
How do you think universities and organisations like LSBU can help further gender equality in business or tech?
Getting girls involved in business and tech from a young age. Around 11 to 17 is the time to capture their imagination and let them know these are fields that they can go into and be successful at. Past that age, it is much harder as they are either established in their interests, or have to support their families preventing them from switching careers.
I would also say, support women starting their own businesses… I am tired of seeing only men founding and running companies ... no offence guys... There are bright women out there who just need the support to get going. Forget going up the ladder, make your own ladder!
How do you imagine innovation helping women?
Well as I said earlier, many times women find themselves climbing this infinite ladder in a corporate world, where all the top level execs are men. I worked for a large company where all the top people were men, apart for one woman, and she was a family member to the president. As a woman in that company, I could spend my whole life working and never get even near the top. I see innovation as a high-speed train to success. It moves fast and you might crash, but in the end, you may get to your version of success much faster than by working your way up in the old-school way.
Which woman, living or dead,would you invite to dinner and why?
Unrelated to design or tech but a force of nature – Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I admire her practical approach to situations and her focus to create impactful legislation.
If you'd like to hear more from Kristen and follow Go Rolloe's journey to market, be sure to connect:
and add Kristen on Linkedin!