The Art of the Start Up – Forcite Update
Australian smart helmet revolutionaries Forcite are continuing to transform rider experience and motorcycle safety. The company has just announced that the first delivery of helmets is available for riders in the United States to share in this life saving and life enhancing innovation.
Be inspired by some of the most innovative and inspirational entrepreneurs in Australia in this content series presented by Stoic Venture Capital.
Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder Alfred Boyadgis shares his insights into Forcite’s success and what still lays ahead.
- What have been the key milestones for Forcite in the last few years?
The biggest thing since we took the plunge and launched our own product in 2018 has been scaling for distribution to the USA.
Accessing that market through such a leader is incredible, we will be able to reach riders across the country. That has also allowed us to mature our production. We are now manufacturing our helmets on a genuinely ‘industrial’ scale in Taiwan.
That will have knock on impacts for our reach in Australia too. We will become genuinely accessible to all riders through a dealer network here.
- As you continue to expand, what inspires you to keep innovating and pushing yourself?
The motorcycle accident I had in 2013 led to teaming up with Co-Founder Jay Chow. We wanted to make technology that could predict road events ahead of time and protect the rider. That is now a reality.
In fact, it is so much of a reality that I can sit in our space in the Australian Motorsport Innovation Precinct at Sydney Motorsports Park and look into the future! Every person on that track outside my window is wearing a helmet – of course. But what I also see is that literally every second person is wearing a Forcite helmet. We are using technology to keep riders safe and they recognise that and want to join us on that journey – that’s so exciting.
The other thing I recognise is that Forcite is flying the flag for Australian innovation. Moving into the US market puts us in a space that is not just as part of the riding community, but as part of the business and innovation community more generally.
Crossing that threshold is important to Forcite’s future as we scale up. It means we can access different funding, distribution and manufacturing markets. But is also important in a broader sense as an Australian company. As part of that, we have received support from the Australian Government for our innovation in rider safety for which we are very grateful.
- Is it still about the rider for you?
To develop our technology we asked the riding community to help. 1000s joined up to become Forcite test pilots and were part of our R&D teams. Riders are part of our DNA and our connection with the motorcycle community will be key to our success.
But that is not just about our helmets. We are the market leader for safety, and one of the things that is leading is the development of smart helmet standards in this area. That will have an impact on riders across the board – whatever smart helmet they wear.
Safety is upper most, but our helmet is also about user experience. Click on devices are still 20 per cent of the premium market in terms of ‘add ons’ riders want – cameras, comms, music, displays. How we integrate all of those makes the experience seamless, as well as safer, every time you get on your bike.
- Has reaching scale meant other changes for Forcite?
The thing I would say to others looking to cross the sort of scale and operations thresholds we have done in the last year or so is that you have to recognise you are like a band about to go from playing the pubs (albeit regularly and making more than your night’s beers) to contracting to make five albums for SONY!
It’s a mindset shift that is not just about the number of units you are making. There is a magnitude of investment needed there and a whole different dynamic of cashflow. We closed $6.6mn in funding in December to support the US distribution. We are now taking steps towards our Series B capital raise that will fund future helmet designs as well as the necessary research and development for other advancements.
In that world though support and advice from people who know that world is key. We have been incredibly fortunate at the support, advice and belief that has been given to us from our venture capital community, particularly Guy Hedley and Geoff Waring at Stoic, and at a time when that market is really hard.
- What do you hate and what scares you the most?
I hate having to let opportunities pass by – I’m not good at that! Reality bites sometimes, I have to accept that we just can’t afford to do ‘everything, everywhere, all at once’. We want to be leaders and innovators, but we have to have a sustainable company with a future.
We have been on the market for eight years. We are market leaders, and that is down to the team. They are fundamental – as a CEO I am very focused on keeping the team of talent together for the future of our riders, not just our business.
Alongside that, it scares me that something outside our control could shut us down. The pandemic was an incredibly tough time, we survived it. But like many, even more mature businesses, I’m not sure we could survive another situation akin to that.
- Where to from here?
I still love innovation and coming up with new ideas with the team. As the CEO it would be easy to lose that joy and get caught up in the financials and operations. But for me, keeping that fun side is what makes me want to get out of bed in the mornings. And it is fundamental to our culture as a company – to mis-quote a phrase ‘happy team, happy life’!
That work means that the next helmet is already off the drawing board. Those in the industry that have been supporting us in the development of the next-generation helmet see this step as the ‘game changer of the century’.
Ultimately, I think ‘why stop at integrated helmets’, I want to integrate the rider, the bike and the helmet. We are taking the first steps in that direction too.
First though, we want to do for motorbike helmets what Dyson did for vacuums.