Bandit9 Motorcycles — How To Take On A War You Can’t Win

In this video presentation from our first DX Mornings event, Daryl Villanueva tells us why he left his career in advertising to pursue custom motorbike design in China and Vietnam.

Daryl was working as Creative Director for advertising firm BBDO in Beijing when he decided to free his creative juices from the constraints of unreasonable client requests and shift them towards the “insane” job of starting a motorcycle design brand.  His goal was to shake up what he saw as an industry dominated by similar designs.

During his presentation he stressed three things one needs to take the plunge:

  1. A big pair of brass balls to take on the big guys and think that you can actually win.
  2. The stupidity to actually follow through with it.
  3. and the courage (and personal savings) to take the red pill… to leave the security of job with a good and salary but which is ultimately a prison.

When speaking of their first bike he said “To be honest this is probably the most awful design I’ve ever seen. It’s just chaos. But the important thing is, you really need to start somewhere”.

The Batman Theorem

Daryl went on to talk about the approach to building the Bandit9 brand:

“Having pretty picture and beautiful products is not enough to win the war. You need an inspirational story, you need a great story.

What is the meaning behind what you make? Why do you do it? What’s the story behind your product and how is it made? Why should people follow you? These are the questions you need to answer if you want to make a cool brand.”

Daryl then pointed out that audiences empathize with super heroes not because of their strengths but because of their weaknesses. “Your weaknesses are what make you, you” he said. One of the greatest weaknesses Bandit9 needed to overcome was the “Made-in-China” stigma. Instead of avoiding the topic, they embraced it.  “We just tried to give china this epic feel like it already has.”


The strategy worked — with media outlets like Discovery, GQ, and Playboy saying that Bandit9 turned Made in China stereotype on its head.

While Bandit9 still produces bikes like the Nero MKII in China, Daryl has recently moved to Saigon. The first limited edition bike they produced here, the Eve, has already sold out. During the Q&A session Daryl mentioned the design was inspired by a door handle and that a new bike design is already in the works.


Daryl closed his presentation with the following advice:

  • Declare war on the bigger guys
  • It isn’t a fair fight, so don’t fight fair
  • Turn your weaknesses into your strengths
  • Inspire others with your story
  • You can’t win the war by yourself

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