An electric skateboard might sound like something out of a back to the future movie, but two USC alumni are quickly turning the fantasy into a reality.
Ben Forman and Geoff Larson, class of 2009, are the founders of Intuitive Motion, a San Francisco-based start up that specializes in weight sensing electric skateboards.
Their flagship item, dubbed the ZBoard, was first launched two years ago. The idea is simple enough: lean forward to go and lean backward to stop.
Fast forward to now. It’s safe to say the public is rolling with the idea. Their original Kickstarter campaign in 2012 garnered nearly $280,000, and this month they are crowdfunding for the newest model, the ZBoard 2. When this story went to print, they had raised more than $179,000 from their $50,000 goal.
The idea for their board came to them while students in the Viterbi School of Engineering. Both mechanical engineer majors, they were brainstorming for their senior design capstone project.
“We thought it was a crucial need for certain people, so that they could complete trips that are too far to walk and too short to drive,” Forman said. “Making it electric will be a lot easier to ride on.”
They entered their design into the Marshall School of Business’s new venture competition in 2009 and were awarded second place.
“The success of the ZBoard team in taking their dream from a class design project to a vibrant start-up company is a shining example of what engineers can do when they embrace innovation,” said Peter Beerel, faculty director of innovation and entrepreneurship in engineering at the Viterbi Student Innovation Institute, in an email to the Daily Trojan. “They inspire us to make Viterbi engineering a launching pad for more such exciting ventures.”
Currently, there are three types of ZBoards available, with the entry-level model costing $599. The upcoming successor — a faster, lighter version — will cost $999. Though they’ve worked extensively with crowdsourcing initiatives. Forman said they had help from a lot of advisers and mentors from 500 startups, a business incubator based in San Francisco.
“Crowdfunding is a great new option to raise money especially for hardware companies,” said Ashish Soni, executive director of digital innovation at the Viterbi Student Innovation Institute. “ZBoard is a great example for the next generation company for hardware structure with a cross-functional team of engineers doing great things.”
For those at USC looking to create the “next big thing,” Forman suggests getting heavily involved in opportunities on campus.
“I would highly advise students at USC to enter as many contests as possible,” Forman said. “It’s not all about winning; you could meet other people who are into the same things and have experiences that you can learn from.”