We talked to Kun-Yang Chen of Bellwether Industries Limited on how Safety, silence, and stability can make a huge difference while expanding the system, and making people trust the system.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kun-Yang Chen: We are doing well. Thank you. We are in Taiwan, and our government took an early initiative to repel COVID-19; thus, there are not many confirmed cases. What’s more, still a great deal of business activities are ongoing around Taiwan, and that’s really great for startups like us.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Bellwether Industries Limited.
Kun-Yang Chen: It has always been my dream to create a three-dimensional urban scenario. Why can’t we have a real flying car after the first was invented for over a century? This idea was never new. And it’s not only about creating flying vehicles but also it’s about city landscapes and finally every corner of our lives. Cities have been developed upwards for all these times, but the way we live remains horizontal.
One of the co-founders and I started to research on “intracity flying vehicle” when we were in college since 2013. In order to realize our dream, we went to the UK to study for the master’s degree in Intelligent Mobility at the Royal College of Art to explore more possibilities.
When we studied at RCA, we met a lot of wonderful people and gained considerable novel concepts.
For instance, one of the most important lessons we’ve learned is how to connect technology with human needs. In order to promote our idea—to create a brand new future intracity flying vehicle, we decided to build up the Bellwether team in 2018. Apart from people we have already met at RCA, the initial team also includes students of Imperial College London and The London School of Economics and Political Science. Bellwether Industries Limited was then registered in 2019 in London to kick off the whole vision, and we started to run the business internationally.
How does Bellwether Industries Limited innovate?
Kun-Yang Chen: In the very beginning, we intended to figure out why people wanted to fly in the sky in a philosophical way, and by considering peoples’ desire, we always emphasize human orientation as one of the core values in our work. For instance, while designing our first flying vehicle prototype—Volar, we thought about whether people accepted it, and the reasons why they accepted it or not. Then we considered several factors such as making the design blend in with people’s future lives rather than be cold or distant to ordinary people. Our aim is to design a flying vehicle that can be driven by anyone and doesn’t require a professional pilot. In short, we always regard people’s ever-changing needs as the most important thing.
What’s more, we not only want to design the intracity flying vehicle but also to build up complete infrastructure and to create an ecosystem. In my opinion, it is more likely that the public would accept this concept if all these elements are combined together.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kun-Yang Chen: Our team members are from all over the world, but we’ve had great chemistry with each other. Besides, we knew how to telecommute efficiently before the pandemic broke out because we know it will become a trend in the future.
However, pandemic still causes inconvenience for us. For example, now we can only look for funds, technology, and business partners through the Internet instead of traveling to other countries to look for such a business partnership in person, which is less effective.
As everyone knows, it’s hard to convince people to believe in such a novel concept when we can’t talk to each other face to face. A physical connection is key to human trust. Nevertheless, we still put a great deal of efforts into looking for potential resources.
Meanwhile, we do a lot of things in our native country as well, such as keep exploring our advantages and looking for more collaborations. It is crucial for companies to look for ways to survive during harsh times. We never stop thinking about how to make us more compatible in a relentless dynamic world.
Do you think managing a team is difficult? If yes, why?
Kun-Yang Chen: Indeed! Especially at the early stage of initiating a team, it’s very difficult to manage a team which is composed of people from different countries while working remotely across the globe. Therefore, in order to ensure the quality of work and the progress, I need to clearly understand team members’ work habits, environments, and cultures of different countries. It’s essential for an international business leader.
Besides, our team members have to believe that the intracity flying vehicle will be devised in the future, and I think it’s the most difficult part because I have to constantly communicate my thoughts with them in order to make them have more faith in this company and the path they chose. So, we named the company’s concept video as “Lifetime Mission”. This is the dedication I want to deliver to the team and the world.
Generally speaking, technology companies would value research and development more; I understand the importance of research and development, but I also think design deserves more attention, and it may be as important as research and development because designers will expect people’s needs and consider them more. What we want to do is design an intracity flying vehicle that helps people solve the problem of traffic congestion. During the development process of the intracity flying vehicle, while technologies can advance the performance, the design is able to combine technologies into our products. Therefore, at Bellwether, engineers and designers frequently exchange their thoughts and brainstorm for innovative ideas.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Kun-Yang Chen: When I feel stressful, I will keep reminding myself why I started this journey, telling myself to follow my initial passion, and fighting my stress with it.
While stepping into creating a brand-new industry, we may break many current boundaries; what we’re trying to do is timeless. Hence, I always remind myself that I have to remember the reason to go on this journey, and my original vision so that I won’t feel stressed all the time. Moreover, it’s important for me to remain enthusiastic; thus, my team members will become more passionate and remember the reason why they joined us.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kun-Yang Chen: In fact, most of our competitors belong to aviation and automotive industries, and a majority of them are startups. However, in my opinion, it’s a non-zero-sum game in this industry. The reason is no companies have already earned profits; what every company is doing is to try hard to promote aviation-related regulations and to continuously promote this novel concept. Besides, if a company succeeds in manufacturing its products, it will influence the public’s attitude towards this new industry in a positive way. Therefore, it is possible that companies which belong to this industry but manufacture different products will all benefit.
We aim to promote the features of our product—Volar, which has features including low noise, eco-friendliness, compact profile, and so forth. Moreover, we want to define intracity transport that no one has ever defined before. This great vision makes us put a great deal of efforts into it. We are always innovating, and we are keeping thinking about how we can be better. For example, we are eagerly looking for the latest technologies that can be integrated into our design. We believe that staying flexible and being open-minded will make our stay in this game and attract more talents to join this journey with us.
Your final thoughts?
Kun-Yang Chen: One of the core values of Bellwether is “resilience.” The world has been changing at a faster speed; hence, we need to change and make decisions constantly in order to push ourselves forward. Moreover, staying flexible makes us be able to keep moving on during the pandemic because, instead of being limited, we are always looking for methods to cope with challenging situations.