Ryan Evans has always loved action sports, but he and his business partner have come up with a way to revolutionize the way that way people get around in urban environments. They’ve managed to turn a skateboard into a high-tech rideable complete with in-wheel motors and a brake system!
Alan: Welcome back I'm here today with Ryan Evans. He's the cofounder and CEO of Inboard Technologies. Ryan Welcome to today's show.
Ryan: Alan it's great to be here, thanks for having me.
Alan: So Ryan, for our listeners out there can you tell us some your background, educational experience and whether this is the first company that you've done?
Ryan: I grew up in Chicago in the Midwest and went to school there. I was always into team sports, baseball, soccer & football, but I always loved action sports (snowboarding, wake boarding, surfing). When I was in University, I just had this draw to travel abroad. I went to school in New Zealand, and I jokingly say that it really radicalized me into action sports. I love business, but I also love being outside and really pushing myself. So after graduating from university, I decided that I'd kind marry the two, and I went full time into the kite boarding industry. I started out kite board coaching, and then from there got into sales, and then from there got into management, got sponsored by a company, traveled the world for a while and weeded up working for the company as their president of their North American operations, really doing the hands on business development. It was the perfect marriage my love for pushing things in the outdoor world but also challenging myself in the business landscape. That's kind of what led me to where I am today with Inboard.
Alan: Is Inboard your first company then?
Ryan: It is.
Alan: What made you decide that you wanted to jump out of your job at kite board and move this forward?
Ryan: I love the action sports industry. It's really fun and engaging and there's amazing people there, but the general consensus is that you're giving up some salary to take place in that amazing life style. That's great for a period of time, but after awhile you decide that you want to make that extra money. I loved action sports but my favorite thing was applying technology to it and really enhancing that experience. My current business partner, Theo Cerboneschi, a brilliant mechanical engineer from France, he was flying drones back in 2008-2009 before they were popular, and we created a strong friendship by applying drones to action sports. We filmed ourselves surfing all all these other cool things that we could do. So whenever there was a new product or technology and we said, this is a new application for how we could use it, we really celebrated that. When Theo came up with the idea for the Manta drive technology, the in-wheel motor that pushes our electric skateboard, the first time I saw it and got to experience it, immediately I knew it was for us, it was kind of that perfect marriage of business technology and the sports that we love.
Alan: What year did you start with the idea and proof of concept.
Ryan: April 2014. Theo had been building electric skateboards for 3-4 years already using external belt motors. There were huge pros to it. You had a lot of power very easily, but there was also a lot of cons. It never really felt like skateboarding- the kind we really love where you're able to just push and go. You always felt a bit of drag from that drive train. We knew from our background that we liked the aesthetics of really beautiful surf boards, the refinement... technology is really best when it's the least and it's a reductive process in that development. We really wanted to go into this emerging market of rideable, these light weight electric vehicles with that same ideology. How can we make something that's really beautiful, really technologically advanced but at the same time simple?
Alan: So this is the Inboard, and the inboard actually has headlights and a tail light.
Ryan: So it's a longboard/skateboard deck shape. The big USP is that we actually put the motor inside this wheel here. It's the smallest pinwheel electric motor that is this powerful in the world, and we designed every component of it from scratch. you can control the board using this remote- we have a safety switch in the front of the controller. You push forward to accelerate forward, and pull back to break. This really changes the way that people can get around in an urban area. It only weighs 14lbs, so you can easily take it in an Uber, take it to a restaurant or a bar, and it still allows you to have the distance of a 10 mile range and the speed of 20 miles an hour to get around an urban area pretty quickly. We put this in the same category of an electric bike. It's way lighter, about 1/5th of the weight, weighing 15 lbs vs 55-60lbs, it gives you a 10 mile range, which is comparable to most electric bikes, and gives you a top speed of 20 miles an hour. We tried to think about, what's a product, that anybody could use- transportation is really a global issue. The one thing that we all wanted, how can I take this transportation with me. How can I have something that's always on demand and always convenient? That was the inception for it. The I'd walk around the university then I was in college thinking, 'if only I had a way to get from the bottom of this hill to the top and get to the bus stop' but I didn't want to carry a bike with me all the time, the busses during the peak hours of the day were way too congested to take a bike on, so I just walked every where. My business partner Theo had a similar problem when his bike at the university was stolen three times in a row. That's when he said, "I got these extra drone motors lying around" from the drones we were flying, and he applied them to the skateboard, and that's how things got started.
Alan: Ryan, I need to take a quick break. I'm visiting here today with Ryan Evans, he's the CEO and Co-Founder of Inboard, we'll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back, I'm visiting here today with Ryan Evans, he's the cofounder and CEO of Inboard, It's a motorized skateboard company and in the first segment we talked about how you got started in on this, but you're now starting production, how's it going?
Ryan: You go through these different phases of founding a company, as the business grows and develops. Prototyping and pre manufacturing is one, but once you go into manufacturing, you're really playing with the big leagues now. For us, it was designing every component with that in mind. how can we build a product that's not only beautiful, and really refined, but also modular so it's easy to fix and replace, and you have to think about how you're going to manufacture and assemble it. We've been working with a phenomenal contract manufacturing partner, and this allows us to focus on what we do best, which is design, engineering and marketing. The repetitive process of consistently building a quality product- we're going to trust to one of the best manufacturers in the world. That gives us a lot of flexibility to focus on what we do best, which is create awesome products.
Alan: As you're rolling this out, how are you handling the logistics of of demand?
Ryan: Yeah, the demand has been off the charts. You always have to hope for the best, but you also have to prepare for the best. Having a lot of demand is a lot of responsibility to your customers. We did a Kickstarter last year where we sold just under a half of million dollars of product, since then, we've continued to sell a few thousand boards directly on our website. we're actually at our capacity limit for this year, and now we're moving to a batch style ordering program where customers are ordering for a month batch in the future. Right now the batch is for January 2017, and once we fill that up, we'll move onto February. Beyond that, we're kind of unique, in that we focused on building a product for global distribution. In January, we begin fluff ling to our distributor partners internationally. by the end of January/February 2017, you'll be able to find the M1, which is our flagship board in almost every major action retail sports store in the world.
Alan: That's a huge cost, trying to launch a product internationally, how do you approach this as an entrepreneur, do you focus on certain markets first or just go for the while enchilada?
Ryan: We spent quite a bit of time pioneering these kind of systems. Our pinwheel motor technology that we call Manta Drive, we developed in and are the first to have it. So that takes you a bit longer to get to market. In some regards we're catching up, had we gone with less new technologies we might have been able to get out sooner, but the benefit is that we have a huge global demand and we really want to be able to satiate that. Looking at the market- transportation is a global problem, and we have a global solution. We really feel that one of the companies that is first to the market with a global presence is one of the ones that probably does the best. That's really what our focus is, how can we meet the demands of our European costumers our American customers, Southeast Asia and even South American- the demand's been really really high. That puts a lot of responsibility on us to do it right and to make sure that we're really thoughtful and methodical on the way that we do it. The great thing is that we have an amazing team. Our chief of operations has worked with some of these big contract manufacturers before and I have a really extensive background in sales and distribution. It's making sure that you have the right partners and doing everything together.
Alan: Who is your target customer base?
Ryan: The interesting thing is that it's a skate board. People automatically assume that it's for 18-mid thirty year olds. It's a high price point so maybe people who are business professionals. While that's part of our demographic, it actually skews a lot higher as well. Right now our main demographic is 35-55. They're early adopters and tech innovators, and they're buying this product because they see it as something that they can use both recreationally to get around on the weekend and have fun, but also something that's going to allow them to get around their daily lives whether they're in San Francisco or New York, or Berlin, and this is a nice light weight form of transportation to get around. As we continue to develop the product, we're going to see price deflation, such as a $999 product, and probably in a few years a $699 price points. That's when you open up to college and kind of to high school kids, but even more than that Alan, we really look at this as a base set of features. You got a motor, a battery and electronics. As you put those into different form factors, things with handles, things with seats, you could put it into a wheel chair, or you could put it into a child product. All of the sudden , your demographic becomes everyone in the world. That's where we really see this going. and we think about the market and the development of these products, it's really about how people get around, not how a certain category gets around.
Alan: I'm visiting here today with Ryan Evans, he's the cofounder and CEO of Inboard and we've been talking about his new product, the M1, it's an inline skateboard. Ryan I have to take a quick break, and we'll be right back after these messages.
Alan: Welcome back I'm here today with Ryan Evans and we've been talking about his new product, the M1, he's the CEO and cofounder of Inboard. Ryan, at the tail end of the last segment you were talking about rideable technologies, first of all what is a rideable technology.
Ryan: Thant's a great question. It's somewhat strange to be apart of such a new product category, because you're checking with other people, trying to find out 'is that what we're calling is and is that what other people are calling it?' a few years ago some journalists with an article about these new light weight electric skateboards, and how they just weren't skateboards but people were calling them light weight vehicles, electric vehicles. Once that started, they really started to understand that short of bikes- bikes weigh 35-55 lbs., especially electric bikes, there's a huge new benefit when you can take a product with you that's very light weight, so smaller than a bike. They started calling all these lightweight electric vehicles that were under 25 lbs., "rideable." Some of the rideables you see today are hover boards, these two-wheel self balancing scooters that don't really hover- that was a ridable that this past year around December and Christmas that really blew up- both figuratively and literally with their battery fires. that was a rideable, but it was relatively slow with a top speed of 4-5 miles an hour, it was on the heavier side as well, they weigh about 25 lbs. Then you got other rideable like electric scooters, that have a motor inside their wheel or a belt drive, they got a handle so for some people they're a little easier to use. Then you got electric skate boards and a hole a lot of new form factors as well. One wheels with a big center wheel where you lean forward and they accelerate, uni wheels that go between your feel, almost like a unicycle with no seat on them, you just stand and go. The bigger thing is that there's a huge demand, a growing demand and an awareness for vehicles that allow you to get for the train station to your place of business or to your home or to your apartment when you live in urban areas. And even for people who live in suburban areas, they like nice ways to get around so they don't have to walk across a big expansive parking lot. The reason that rideable are becoming such a new market today is some of the advancements in some of the motor technology thanks to drones, thanks to the rise of electric vehicles, and really the new battery packs, the new lithium ion battery cells that are actually very safe when you look at the volume of cells that are out there. But there has to be renewed and continued focus on those as well. So it's an exciting category because as it continues to expand, it's really going to meet every person's needs in the world. Whether you're a child and you you want to get in a rideable that you literally sit and ride on, almost like the power wheels, that we grew up with as kids, all the way up to mobility products for the disabled, or the elderly.
Alan: You talk about the battery pack, and Samsung with galaxy had some issues and also the hover board, how do you address what you're doing with the battery pack vs what these others did so you're not making the same mistake?
Ryan: What it comes down to is self policing. When you're a company you have a responsibility to your share holders and to your customers and safety is paramount to all of those. It's in everybody's best interest. If we'd spent a lot of time and money and energy to build the best battery pack that we can, and that's what we did, we're going to see good sales from that. But if one of our competitors doesn't do that, and he creates a lack of confidence in this industry, that hurts us. What we want to do is work with our competitors to work with other providers in their market to make sure that they're doing their best as well, and I think as long as we all look at each other, for best practices rather than the lowest common denominator, I think we'll be alright. But that's it, you really need to have a collective focus as an industry and those are some of the things that we're working towards right now. Rideable is a young new industry, but we're already working to create a trade organization so that we can communicate and share these best practices.
Alan: Regarding legal and safety challenges, which ones have you run into thus far?
Ryan: Some have been, "How do you classify this product?" It's not a skateboard, it's not really a sporting good product, it's really a vehicle, but at the same time it's not a car or moped. So this is a challenge for municipalities, for states, for any kind of regulator. For us it's all about how can we work with the regulator to create a very open and accessible environment, not only for the adoption of these products, but the growth of this industry. When you talk to assembly members, congressmen, local boards, they're very receptive to this new technology. /they realize that we're solving some of the biggest pain points of some of the biggest cities in the world such as parking, public transportation's over congregativeness, pollution. These are things that these products really solve. For one, in California this past year we just past a bill called 8604, that made rideable in the same classification as electric bikes. As long as you have a helmet on and lights at night and a top speed of 20 mph, you can go anywhere a bike can go and that's really where we see the adoption of this new category.
Alan: When you're on one of these, how stabile are they?
Ryan: That's the amazing thing, we're taking so much new technology, stuff that wasn't even possible five years ago and we're putting it into a relatively old for factor- the skateboard. So when most people think of a skateboard, they think of "tricks" and "something dangerous." But we've created that's something easy to use and very safe. You can create a lot of stability just by tuning some of the components of the board and have made it very easy to do. In fact, we actually have a mobile app that you you can download on your phone and you can set different modes. Beginner mode with a top speed of 8 miles an hour and very slow acceleration, all the way to that advanced mode where you can go 20 mph.
Alan: How long does the battery last?
Ryan: It depends on the rider weight and also how steep the hills are. The board has regenerative braking, which means as you slow down or go down hill, it actually charges the battery. But you're looking at a 7-10 mile range for your average kind of person in the average kind of city.
Alan: Over the break we were talking about a nice feature the board has going down hill.
Ryan: If you give it to an existing skateboarder, the thing that they love is the motor. but if you give it to somebody that's a novice, or maybe apprehensive towards a skateboard, the they try the product for the first time they light up because of the brake. Because for the longest time, skate boards were not something they were in control of, it gave them anxiety because once you're going too fast, how do you stop? But the ability not only to control, not only your acceleration but the braking , especially down hill, it gives you a lot more confidence, and when you're more confident you're comfortable, and when you're more comfortable, you progress. What we're seeing is about 60% of our customers are not skate boarders. It's the people that always liked the idea of it but never thought it was something for them.
Alan: So Ryan, if I wanted to get one of these skateboards, how would I go about that?
Ryan: Right now we're selling it at InboardTechnology.com, that's our website, and we're selling them globally. So anyone in the world can go on and preorder one today. If you order one today, we're going to be shipping them in January 2017, and starting in January 2017 we'll be able to ship them on demand, so when you place an order, it will ship the following day.
Alan: What are these running now?
Ryan: $1399. The was that we position it, is that it's an alternative to an electric bike, or that monthly car payment over the course of a year, you would have an M1. If you live in an urban area, free yourself of a parking spot payment every month and a car payment, this is a great alternative.
Alan: I've been visiting with Ryan Evans, he's the CEO and cofounder of Inboard Technologies. Ryan I'd like to thank you for being on Today's show, this looks like an exciting project and I wish you all the best.
Ryan: Thanks Alan, I really appreciate it.