Riut blog

All about that base: laptop backpacks that protect our tech #gobackwards

For many of us, we travel with our offices on our back. Tablet, phone, external hard drive and, still relied on by so many of us, the laptop.

When your laptop is in your backpack the last thing you want it hear is it grinding into the gravel beneath your feet. It's a sound Sarah Giblin, RiutBag designer, knows all too well from previous backpacks. Here, she shows us her old backpack, the weaknesses in the design and how she answered those weaknesses in her secure backwards laptop backpack RiutBag R10, R15 and R25. 

RiutBag laptop backpacks are built to keep your belongings safe when they're on your back and when you put them down in any weather.

Maximum laptop dimensions for RiutBag laptop models: 

RiutBag R10 (10 litre slim): 35cm x 24.5cm x 3cm (14 inches x 9.6 inch x 1.18 inch)

RiutBag R15 (15 litre daypack): 35cm x 24.5cm x 3cm (14 inches x 9.6 inch x 1.18 inch)

RiutBag R25 (25 litre max carry-on): 38cm x 25cm x 3.5cm (14.9 inches x 9.8 inch x 1.37 inch)

Five important things I learnt starting a small business

It's three years since I left my job, started my company and set out to reinvent the backpack for safe travel called RiutBag. Why did I do it? Because backpacks are the wrong way round. The person behind you can get into your backpack more easily than you can. That's not ideal if you commute in a busy city every day with important devices and valuables with you.

I am a one-person startup who had no experience in this industry. With the help of the crowd online, I prototyped the RiutBag, created and successfully funded two Kickstarter campaigns and I'm now working on my 8th production run with RiutBags bringing safe travel to people all over the world. Every Friday, I look at the questions I've received from other people starting up and I share the things I've learnt. There are so many people out there with good ideas, they just have to make them happen. 

I could pretend it's all easy, but what you really need to know before, or as, you start is what is challenging. So here are some of the most important things I've learnt so far:

1) Every detail is your decision

Sarah Giblin, RiutBag designer 2017

Sarah Giblin, RiutBag designer 2017

Going from being a consumer to a designer is a big jump. As a consumer, the choice is limited to a few things other people have made. As a designer, you are only limited by what is physically and financially possible. The range of design decisions you have to make to narrow down *everything possible* to your one design is overwhelming at first and then you begin to function on the correct level, understanding every decision made and how it impacts the whole. 

Every angle, every material - including the thread colour and material - needs to be considered and chosen on a RiutBag. My tip is this: have good reasons for every decision you take and don't say "oh, it doesn't matter". This way, if something goes wrong you can understand why it went wrong, you can update your thinking and make a better decision next time.

2) Be ready to learn every day

I knew my first startup years would involve a steep learning curve. In fact, I forgot there would ever be another time after that! However, coming into your second year, you might begin to think: I know what I'm doing! Perhaps you do. But that's the moment when it's time to start challenging yourself again.

Experience is great but feeling comfortable because things are getting easy isn't the right place to be, in my view. Think long term and think big, weird and wonderful for your customers and the future. Here's a snippet of a great interview with David Bowie talking about putting yourself in a position where you can make exciting things

    3) Your suppliers will make mistakes

    Having high expectations of your suppliers is good. Expecting perfection will lead to disappointment for you and your customers. You'll learn this yourself as problems arise for the first time. When you're working with suppliers, learn to talk about which problems are likely to arise and agree how you're going to handle them when they happen.

    In your first meeting with a new supplier, a simple sentence like this can help: "We know that it's possible that things will go wrong. It's important that we can handle those things well together. Let's discuss." If you can create a space to communicate problems early and well when things go wrong, it might help you to build an extra week into your freight shipping time for example. The definition of "perfection" with your suppliers might just be planning ahead and good communication. 

    4) If your idea is good, someone will copy it

    I knew when I started out that the RiutBag is a simple idea that makes a positive impact on travellers' lives. Many people warned me off starting because it was so likely that someone would copy it. Here's my view: nothing in the world would ever happen if people failed to make new things because they might be copied.

    If your idea is patentable (in the strict UK sense) and you have the money for it, go for it. Otherwise, you'll be able to register for the weaker design protection. This stops people copying the exact way in which you have designed your product but doesn't protect function.

    In reality, unless you've got a lot of cash and a good legal team, your real tools for fighting copying is to roll up your sleeves and design something even better. Keep moving, make small production runs and keep improving your designs. Listen to customer feedback, respond quickly and make changes. You could go the litigious route and spend the rest of your life in court whilst your product remains stationary. Or, you could choose to compete, forget the legal stuff and have fun building the best version of the thing you create every production run. After 10 years of each option -the legal route or the competition - which do you think will have been a more awesome use of your time? And which option do you think your customers would prefer?

    5) Starting up is different from building a company

    Looking back, I think I spent the first 2 years starting up. I had no income, no timeline, I was just hungry and willing to do anything to make it work the hard way. I did nothing but think about making RiutBags and how to reach breakeven. That was startup mode: short term, sprinting, out of breath, everything was the first time and I was learning how to answer every question.

    Suddenly, I was there. I'd reached breakeven and it was time to build a company that could stand on its own two feet and repeatedly keep making new things, keep creating better things and tell more people that the RiutBag exists. This requires a completely different set of rules. Building a company requires you to balance short and - the new rather exciting - medium term. Think about the structure of the year, look back at past data! Understand what you got wrong and what you do well, change the bad and enhance the good. It's a different ball game. You'll work out when it's time to switch from one to the other.

    My favourite analogy for starting up and then running a business

    There's no other analogy I've found that fits more closely than this. Starting your own business is like jumping off a cliff and building an functioning plane on the way down.

    flying riutbag

    The analogy works because: 1) You start with no knowledge and you're forced to pick it up very quickly. 2) Your life and future is in your hands, so you have to make it work. 3) Time is rushing by and every second counts before you've got your company/plane working. 4) At the last moment, just as you manage to swoop up and avoid crashing into the rocks below, you will have done something you thought almost impossible previously. 5) This is the most important one, you're now flying. That's good. But you've got to keep this thing flying. You need to refuel, change parts and avoid crashing into things, all whilst flying it yourself of course :)


    When Father's Day gifts go wrong: a true story that took 10 years to fix

    Thinking a father's day gift through can save all sorts of headaches in the future. Father's day is this Sunday in the UK. There are plenty of useful things you can get your dad - some bigger, some smaller - but panicking on the day is not the way to go! I know from experience. Here's my tale.

    2006 Reading, England

    My dad plays the guitar. For father's day in 2006 I panicked and, on the day, I got him.. an ice cube tray that made ice cubes in the shape of guitars. It seemed whimsical, something fun to add to a cocktail and quite fitting for the coming summer. What wasn't to like? I grabbed a card and headed his way.

    As soon as I walked through his door I knew where I'd gone wrong. For some unfathomable reason his fridge is just a fridge. There is no freezer. He was kind and said it would be great some day! It's the thought that counts. The man who had spent his adult life making my life possible gets just one day a year, just for him, and my gift did not do it justice. It would have been 100 times better if I'd only given him the card and written something thoughtful.  

    10 years later in 2016

    The guitar ice cube tray was still playing on my mind. I'd spotted it in a number of different drawers over the years, unopened - of course. I was a little more grown up now and I could only think of one thing to put it all right. For father's day 2016 I got my dad an entire new fridge with a freezer. I found the ice cube tray, made ice and the world was once again in equilibrium.

    Overall it turned out well. A freezer is a very practical thing to have for all sorts of reasons. But in this case the motivating force for putting the world to right was my lack of thought in 2006. 

    Don't do what I did, kids. Think about father's day gifts now and not on the day (18 June 2017). Otherwise your future self may well be fixing things you got wrong for years to come.

    Tips for father's day 2017

    If you're getting a gift, aim for useful - i.e. something your dad can actually use - or personal. If your dad travels, has holidays coming up or commutes, you can get him a RiutBag of course.

    If you're not going in for the gift, I recommend a nice card with your favourite memory.

    After last year's whopper of a useful father's day gift, I'm going for a RiutBag Crush and something personal. I collected a few leaves from Bothwell Castle near Uddgingston in Scotland: my first home as a child, a favourite place where my parents used to push me around in a pram and, notably, the home of Tunnocks caramel wafer :) I'll add the leaves to a card and we can reminisce about the times before I can remember.

    My dad and I at Bothwell Castle on the Clyde in Scotland

    My dad and I at Bothwell Castle on the Clyde in Scotland

    The Tunnocks factory in Uddingston, Scotland. My first home :)

    The Tunnocks factory in Uddingston, Scotland. My first home :)

    Wishing all fathers a great weekend! 

    RiutBag Crush - safe summer daypack - wins international travel design

    Award winning backpack design 2017 RiutBag Crush Sarah Giblin

    RiutBag Crush, a safe urban daypack, is super light, crushes into a small pocket. Most importantly, it only has zips at the back so that only you can get into it!

    The judges of A Design Award in Italy said:

    "I would like to cordially thank you for your good design which advances and benefits society.

    We believe that your intelligent and diligent contributions to ... design .. through creation of [this] superior product... makes the world a better place."

    Backpacks are mundane objects that we all know and use everyday. But design can help us to make simple objects better, so that we can adapt more to urban life today.

    Just by placing the zips of a backpack against your back, rather than on the outside, this had a major impact on the backpack wearer. We walk differently, we feel less stressed, we aren't suspicious of those around us, we are more likely to be open, interested and helpful if we ourselves feel secure.

    Can making a better backpack benefit society? It doesn't solve the world's problems, but it does allow us to be calmer and more confident as we travel. Therefore, we can get on with doing what we were there to do: to work, to collaborate with people, or just to relax and lose ourselves on holiday in a new place.

    Designer introduces RiutBag Crush: first edition secure daypack

    RiutBag designer Sarah Giblin says hello and shares with you the newest RiutBag Crush. See how it arrives, crushed in its D-pocket, and how much you can pack for perfect day trip! Shipping tomorrow, 30 May 2017.

    RiutBag started out as a Kickstarter project: a backwards backpack for secure urban travel built for laptop and tech. Laptop backpacks are still core to the RiutBag design - RiutBag R10, R15 and max carry-on R25 - but RiutBag Crush is the first secure, super light daypack by Riut.

    Share with friends you think could benefit from safe travel, with a super light backpack this summer! Available in inconspicuous urban tones - black and navy blue - all RiutBag Crushes are bright yellow inside so you can find your belongings easily inside. 

    Like all RiutBags the straps can be neatly rolled and secured so you don't have long dangling pieces of material on either side of you. You can use the D-pocket as a smartphone holder or for quick access to your wallet or keys. It's super light at just 230 grams, but I've made sure the material is strong - using a reinforced rip-stop nylon usually found in hot air ballons.

    Choose your RiutBag Crush and enjoy every adventure this summer: festivals, day trips, holiday travel, nipping out into town, going out in the evenings and wandering around markets.