The Birth of !!!MANIC Salamander
This dream of making fantastic new things, and improving
existing machines, has been with me forever. When I was six, I
wanted to learn to ride a bike. My dad didn't have time to take off
the training wheels, so I asked where the crescent wrench was. I
looked carefully at the threads, following them around to see which
way the nuts turned. That was my first mechanical feat. The next
day, I could ride a bike.
By the time I was ten, I could rebuild coaster brakes. By the
time I was nineteen, I had welded my first car together out of used
plumbing pipe and junkyard bits from seven different vehicles,
including three different motorcycles. By the time I was twenty
one, I had repaired all the broken electronics at my college radio
I have been riding since I was twenty-two. I do all my own
repairs, including engine rebuilding and tire mount + balance. I
have around 200,000 miles on motorcycles, including 86,000 and
counting on a Yamaha XS400 I bought in 1991 for $300. I have been
in research and development since 1989. I have done custom and
prototype machine building, electronic, digital or mechanical,
since 1993. I have been in charge of research and development,
service, and production for a small microscope company since 1998.
So you see, I was totally put here to make gizmos for y'all.
!!!MANIC Salamander was a gleam in my eye in the
mid-90's. I always wanted to make my life inventing things. Not
just anything. Really good, smooth-running, high-quality things.
Functional things and silly things - either one had its
attractions. Anything people want. But the market that really
turned me on, the market that I felt I knew best, was
In the spring of 2002, I decided it was time to roll. I can do
this now. Ever since, I have been working day and night most of the
time, going through the intense process of planning and
constructing a business, a vehicle for me to someday make a life
inventing full-time. And of course, holding down my day job.
The first part of 2003 is dominated by the setup: Incorporation,
mailing address, accounting software, design finalization,
financing, ordering. It is toward the end of June that my first
work on marketing begins- the ad, the website text.
The first part of 2004 sees the fleshing out of our product
line, with models of the products to fit more bikes. Now, with a
more robust, widely applicable product line, we can push harder on
It's scary to lay down money for something like this. Every
product means thousands of dollars committed to inventory - you
can't go too small, or your price for parts skyrockets, and you
can't sell it for more than you paid. But what if nobody wants
I talked with Andy Goldfine of Riderwearhouse over lunch a year
ago, looking for advice. He mentioned a concept he called 'Planet
Andy.' On Planet Andy, everyone thinks like him, and of course,
they all want his stuff. But guess what - On Planet Earth, very few
people think like Andy. So sometimes his stuff just sits there -
representing money he can't spend on stuff people will buy.
That's pretty serious- every flop means thousands of dollars
that may never be recovered. Very scary. How many people will be
happy on Planet Paul?
But this is the life I want. I love to ride. I love to invent.
In motorcycling, business, or the rest of life there is a beauty to
vulnerability, an awe one feels watching a vulnerable thing
floating gracefully through danger, its skill and natural gifts
making it seem invulnerable - at least for now. Every living
creature must roll the dice every day. It is time for me to play my
hand. It's a decent hand. If I learn fast, I'll win my future.