Designer Khoi Vinh has a great post on how to build a better umbrella. Which got me thinking about umbrellas, too.
Up until about a year ago, I never really worried about an umbrella. My driveway is close to my front door. And at work, I parked reasonably close to the office. Unless it was a downpour, no umbrella was needed.
But all that changed when I started working at the University. My car is about four blocks from my office. I have meetings all over campus. So now, I need an umbrella. I had a nice umbrella, but my lovely wife has stolen it for her car. I have another umbrella that stays at the office. And a compact umbrella that stays in my Timbuk2 bag.
So Khoi's thoughts on umbrellas all resonated with me. But today, as I headed to meetings in a steady rain, I started to think about how expensive an umbrella like this would be – with electric trackers and custom handles. Would I pay a premium for an umbrella like this?
I would if I could completely customize it.
What if Timbuk2 made umbrellas? Awesome custom umbrellas to match their awesome custom bags. Pick the size, color and style of fabric, handle style and features. Options like electronic trackers and buckle straps. All with a warranty similar to what they offer on their bags. Eventually, you could offer a line of umbrellas from small compact models to large golf umbrellas.
I'd pay a premium for an umbrella that is exactly what I want. Just like I paid a premium for my Timbuk2 bag that I love so much.
Timbuk2 is probably too disciplined to enter the umbrella market. It would be a completely different market for them. But if someone could replicate the wonderful buying experience that Timbuk2 offers, I think there would be enough of a market for them to be successful.