Modernizing Urban Mobility: UNIT 1’s Innovative Approach to Safer and Smarter Transportation
In a world where urban transportation is constantly evolving, UNIT 1, a company from the inaugural cohort of leAD’s Berlin Accelerator program, stands at the forefront of revolutionizing how we move safely.
Juan Garcia Mansilla, Francisco Abelleira, and Javier Bertani — UNIT 1’s founding team — and their crew are on a mission to redefine urban mobility. The company’s journey began with a simple yet powerful idea: to create unique products that address the genuine pain points of city dwellers. In a landscape where speed, safety, efficiency, and design intersect, UNIT 1 is crafting solutions that go beyond the ordinary, making urban commutes safer, better, and smarter.
In this portfolio company spotlight, Juan shares insights into the company’s journey, shedding light on how UNIT 1’s dedication to design, technology, and user-centric solutions is reshaping urban mobility.
1. What inspired you to start UNIT 1, and how does your company’s mission of keeping the streets safer and smarter align with your personal experiences?
We founded UNIT 1 as a means to improve people’s lives through design & technology – essentially by launching products into the world that actually solve a problem. We initially chose snowsports as the arena and recently pivoted into urban mobility but the mission didn’t change: we are still solving problems through design & technology, just different problems. Today we are creating products that increase safety for cyclists and decrease the barrier of adoption for cycling as a whole. Ultimately, we want to bring more people into micro-mobility in the safest way possible.
2. As technology continues to evolve rapidly, what exciting developments or trends do you foresee in the field of sports and health technology? How is UNIT 1 Gear positioning itself to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to these changes?
In the world we live in today, connected devices are becoming the norm, which opens up exciting possibilities for products that haven’t really changed for ages – helmets being a great example. UNIT 1 is creating an ecosystem of products that takes advantage of this connection and in doing so is ushering in a new era of connected accessories for mobility. Even our definition of safety differs from the usual top-of-mind – ‘protecting your head against an impact’ – and goes way beyond that with crash prevention & crash detection technology. We are on the ground floor and the possibilities are exciting.
3. How do you approach the balance between innovation and user-friendly design in your smart products?
The best technology is the one you don’t know is there, that’s the beauty of a well-designed product with a solid interface. The fact that the tech inside our products is getting more capable and complex as we go, doesn’t mean our products need to feel complex or non-friendly to our users. One thing is the tech itself (sensors, algorithms, electronics, etc.) and another is the product users interact with. It’s our job to design products that no matter how complex, always feel approachable and people actually want to use.
4. How do you envision the role of smart helmets evolving in the future, not just in terms of safety, but also in enhancing the overall biking experience?
Smart helmets will eventually become the norm, much like smartphones replaced their predecessors. The upside technology can have on safety is too dramatic to ignore – and we are barely dipping our toes in the water here, this is all very new. Just last year we were the first to ever connect a helmet to a bike and that alone is enabling functionality that was unheard of 2 years ago. What we have here is an uncharted territory of untold possibilities.
5. What do you see as the most important factor that leads to innovation within the sports/health tech industry?
Observation. The process of analyzing an activity – any activity – and breaking it down to a point where the issues and the pain points come to light is the single most valuable skill one requires to innovate. Innovation, at its core, is problem-solving: a new way of understanding a situation that creates new solutions to old problems. It all starts by actually looking at how stuff works – be it a product, a service, a sport, or anything – and finding room for improvement.
To learn more about UNIT 1, head to their website and check out their recent feature in Tech.eu.