Inboard refunds electric scooter customers as it pivots to shared fleets

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Electric skateboard startup Inboard Technology no longer plans to sell its upcoming Glider electric scooter directly to consumers. Instead, the company will focus on selling fleets of the scooter to businesses and transportation companies to be used on campuses, at resorts, or on city streets in both docked and dockless configurations. All customers who plunked down a $349 deposit for the $1,299 electric scooter will be refunded, the company says.

Those refunds will start going out today to the 1,500 people who put down deposits, according to Inboard, and they will all be processed by April 15th. The scooter, now called the G1 Glider, was originally supposed to launch in February.THE SCOOTER WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO LAUNCH IN FEBRUARY

The company’s new direction will start to take shape when Inboard announces its first partnership with a large transportation company later this year, CEO Ryan Evans tells The Verge. The startup will also work with “much smaller operators of fleets that include hotels, resorts, corporate campuses, and business parks,” he says. To handle the demand for this newly focused push on providing fleets of scooters, Evans says Inboard will partner with “one of the world’s leading contract manufacturers,” though he declined to name which one.

Inboard arrived on the scene in late 2015 / early 2016, and it was one of the first to seriously compete with fellow California-based startup Boosted’s popular electric skateboard. Inboard’s M1 matched Boosted’s board on specs, while also offering a few key advantages, including in-wheel motors (which let users ride more freely when the board isn’t under power) and a swappable battery that can be quickly popped out of the deck for a fresh one.

Inboard promised its electric scooter would offer those same advantages when it announced the product last September. It also said the scooter would have a wide deck with big wheels and a coiled suspension to make for smooth, easy riding and that it would be rugged enough to handle the demands of riding through rough city terrain — potentially solving one of the main pain points for early shared scooters, which tended to wear out quickly since they weren’t made for fleet use.“WE WANT TO BUILD THE MOST ICONIC AND BEAUTIFUL PRODUCTS IN THE CATEGORY.”

That’s all still true; the scooter itself is not changing. It will still have a top speed of 22 miles per hour, a 12-mile battery life, a kickstand, and a quick-folding mechanism. It will also be connected, thanks to Bluetooth, cellular, and GPS chips.

“Inboard’s goals remain the same,” Evans says. “We want to build the most iconic and beautiful products in the category, and we believe we can continue to do that with the core technology we have.”

What will change is how Inboard’s scooter becomes available to people. Instead of owning the scooter outright, riders will now find Inboard’s scooter as part of fleets operated by other companies. The company had teased this idea alongside the announcement of its scooter as a consumer product last September, but now it’s the full focus. (The M1 skateboard will remain a direct-to-consumer product, though.)

“We realized if we really want to have a big impact on the future of personal mobility, part of it is going to be in the fleet space, and that’s something we can do now with really big partners,” Evans says, adding that it’s “the best way to get so many people on [Inboard’s scooter] so quickly.”

He also believes it’s the best option for Inboard’s business, at least in the near term. The company has raised about $12 million to date, but even that might be enough to fully fund a shift into mass-producing scooters for individual sales, according to Evans.INBOARD SAYS IT HAS BIG PARTNERS LINED UP, BUT IT DIDN’T NAME NAMES

“The working capital [required] is crazy, to be able to scale to make thousands of scooters. It’s a much more challenging business than B2B,” he says. Selling scooters in a B2B will also make it possible for the company to more quickly turn a profit, Evans says.

Much like how Inboard followed companies like Boosted and Zboard into the electric skateboard space, it will be far from the first company to power fleets of electric scooters. In just a year and a half, startups like Bird and Lime have spread the idea of shared electric scooters so far and so fast that each company is now valued at over $2 billion.

Evans isn’t intimidated by those massive valuations, though. Instead, he says they’re a sign that there’s lots of room for other companies to play in this space.

“Bird and Lime were really kind of the signal flares that showed wow, this is a cornerstone of transportation,” he says. “It went from ‘electric skateboards are cute little toys,’ to ‘holy shit, electric scooters are going to be de facto for the industry.’”

Besides, Evans says, Inboard is taking a different approach that won’t directly compete with Bird and Lime.

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