IT’S been a long road, but Central Coast entrepreneur Craig de Leon is on the cusp of seeing the game-changing electric brake controller he invented transform the tourism and transport industries.
Mr de Leon is the brains behind the Australian-first product Elecbrakes, a wireless brake controller that mounts onto a trailer, caravan or horse float.
The device removes the need for the traditional hardwiring of electric brake controllers into tow vehicles – which costs up to $1000 in parts and labour – and allows drivers to control the brakes with their phone via the Elecbrakes app.
“The Elecbrakes system is designed to be installed on a trailer and does not require any modification to the tow vehicle,” says Mr de Leon. “This ensures any vehicle bigger enough to tow a trailer can sync wirelessly to the Elecbrakes device.”
Mr de Leon, 41, is a self-taught product developer who learnt his entrepreneurial craft from a young age in his father’s fitter and machinist business in Sydney: “That taught me all about the nuts and bolts of how things work and I had an interest in mechanical design,” he said.
He worked in the family business, heavily involved in the computer numerical control (CNC) programming, computed drafting and technical aspects of manufacturing. When a customer had innovative ideas he turned them into products and eventually left the family business to work in the pre-cast concrete industry.
He then founded his own business in Brake Commander, a hydraulic trailer brake controller designed largely for boat trailers.
The business was a precursor to Elecbrakes and Mr de Leon was already thinking about how to service the caravan market when Newcastle start-up Camplify asked Mr De Leon for help.
Camplify connects caravan owners to holidaymakers who wish to rent caravans, and the company wanted a wireless brake controller to fit to the vans. This removed the need for holidaymakers to pay up to $1000 to get electronic brakes fitted to their cars and made caravanning more accessible. By late 2015 he had the first protoype out and after start-up and manufacturing stages, Elecbrakes are finally on the market.
“They are generating interest with the right people and the take-up in the last month has been exciting,” says Mr de Leon. “Once people realise the product exists then we are finding the conversion rate is pretty simple.”
Caravan manufacturers are interested in the product and Camplify is the major supplier in the RV market.
Mr de Leon is tweaking other products and inspired: “I love seeing a product to completion and the satisfaction of positive comments and I don’t shy away from the negative, either.”