Friday, October 23, 2020

From a broken deal with Exway to becoming Boosted USA, Brian shares his story in open letter

The past few weeks have been quite the rollercoaster for the Boosted Boards community. With the news of Boosted going bankrupt and Lime acquiring their intellectual property. Things looked bad for Boosted owners, how are they going to maintenance their boards? A small light appeared at the tunnel when the news broke that Last Mile SF – a local electric skateboard shop in San Fransisco – bought all the remaining Boosted parts. Selling these parts directly to consumers as ‘Boosted USA’.

Last Mile SF is not a stranger to the electric skateboard industry, they were already an Exway distributor for the United States. But that came to an ugly end when Exway started to sell directly to consumers behind their back. The owner behind the company published a open letter explaining how this all came to fruition.

Letter by Brian from Last Mile SF:

I know there are a bunch of people here wondering about the Exway/Boosted relationship, so I’m happy to tell the story but it’s a long one so buckle up or quit reading now.

I started a kitesurfing shop called CaliKites in 2002 in Coronado, CA. In 2016 we were really busy selling and repairing electric skateboards to the point where we were doing more electric business than kite. Costumers were having a tough time understanding why a kitesurfing shop was selling electric skateboards and we weren’t doing ourselves any favors on Google search so we opened up Last Mile SF under the same roof.

In 2017 I knew that the electric ‘last mile’ vehicle market was going to be big and was surprised by how slowly other retailers were getting on board. At the time there were very few retailers selling electric scooters, as they are a more ‘accessible’ form of transit, basically more of a replacement for the car in urban settings for the majority of people who are intimidated by the idea of riding a skateboard: anyone can ride a scooter. So I called my old high school buddy up and he and I went to China to work out a deal to distribute a line of scooters (John from MiniMotorsUSA.com). While we were there I figured we would go check out some of the electric skateboards being produced in factories around there. I was aware of a recent glut of new Chinese eskate brands. I had seen some on group rides with my local BAESK8 group and had had a few come into my shop for repair and found them to have a pretty wide range of quality in terms of components and finish. None of them had the polished finish and natural feel/smoothness of Boosted’s boards, but some were pretty decent.  

At that point Boosted was the clear market leader. But looking through the factories in China I saw that there were some boards that, even if they didn’t match Boosted in terms of finish quality, looked pretty good and had specs that beat what Boosted had at the time. I felt that the main thing keeping these brands from ‘breaking into’ the North American market was someone to sell and service them. For the most part their English wasn’t great, they had little interest in aftermarket support and warranty, plus there was an enormous ocean that adds to delivery time, cost, and ability to perform after-sales service. Exway had a product that was a great combination of specs, finish, and price. I believed that we could help Exway make the move into the US market.

So: I made an agreement with Exway while I was over there… I would offer first-rate service, marketing, and sales in North America, and in return they would only sell to the US through me. Boosted had already built an incredible community based on the quality of their product and the sheer sales volume their head-start had gotten them, but as a retail shop owner I was convinced that selling through local shops was another way to create a community, even though I know that saying so makes me sound like an out-of-touch old man. Exway’s product was good, but it had a higher failure rate than Boosted and basically zero brand recognition (other than a few early adaptors that tried to buy one off an epic kickstart failure. So using local retailers and having a full-on repair facility in our warehouse seemed like the best way to help build a solid network. I spent 6 months driving a van around the country, attending a bunch of expos like Interbike and Surf Expo, as well as stopping into basically every skate and surf shop on either coast. Plus I put a lot of time and money into building a presence on social media.  I eventually built a retail network of some 60 dealers and taught them how to sell and service the skateboards.  Having been on the receiving end of some shitty distributors I made it my goal to support that network completely and I think I did that. I also think I did a great job building Exway a reputation as having great customer service.  My job is basically spreading stoke and happiness and I’ve always seen customer service/after sales support as a key component of doing that.

You probably know where this is going, but a year later we started getting service/warranty requests for lots of boards that we had not sold. I discovered that Exway was selling their boards into the US market direct. I can’t say I blame them, they obviously made much better margins by selling that way, but they were screwing us and our retailers in doing it. They were expecting us to continue to spend our time and money on parts/service that we were doling out for free. So we parted ways with Exway and I went back to focusing on my retail shop.  I honestly didn’t plan to get back into the distribution thing again, it was a great learning experience for me but I don’t think I got a full night’s sleep for 2 years. And looks like that’s happening here again. The Exway experience definitely left me with a bitter taste, having put so much time, money, and effort into building something only to have someone else reap the benefits.

Enter Boosted USA. Buying the remaining quantity wasn’t cheap or easy and took a month of work, negotiating, and lining up investors before we figured something out that would work for everyone. A lot of stuff that we acquired in the deal was DOA, but there are a TON of parts to keep everyone Boosting down the road for years. There are also plenty of new boards and scooters to keep us busy for a long time. I have a great team of guys and girls helping me out with sales, service, and after sales support, and we are doing everything we can to make sure everyone is happy. All of the kinks are definitely not worked out, but I have meetings with Lime and former Boosted engineers to figure out what we can to help customers. We are doing the best we can to get you sorted quickly!

If you do have any questions feel free to email us, [email protected].

-Brian

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Nelson
Nelson
Nelson is a writer for LooksDangerous and currently rides a Boosted Mini X, Exway X1 Pro and Segway ES2. Co-founder of dutch lobbygroup LegaalRijden, which focusses on legalizing ESK8 in the Netherlands.
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