Konrad Bergström is president and founder of X Shore, a Swedish startup building 100% electric-powered boats. A longtime entrepreneur and extreme sports professional, Bergström broke into the tech scene with his previous company Zound Industries, which creates high-quality headphones and speakers.
X Shore has existed as a concept since 1996. But in recent years it has gathered pace. In 2016 Bergström and co. built their first working prototype. In 2018 they launched the eElectric Smögen 8000 Edition. This March the Stockholm-based firm won a $5.6 million funding round to continue its campaign to make boating green.
RH: How did you first get the idea for X Shore?
KB: I first had the idea for X Shore in the nineties but I soon realized neither the technology nor demand was around at the time. I trademarked the brand in 1996, but I knew I would have to wait for the right timing to fully realize my vision.
In the meantime, I went ahead with other projects and as someone who has always loved nature and being out at sea, one of the first things I wanted to buy with the money I had made was a boat. It baffled me that boats were so expensive and it also didn’t make sense that someone passionate about the sea would pay that money for a clunkily-designed, conventional motorboat, which is essentially like a lethal weapon towards our oceans and animal life.
I knew that by combining traditional craftsmanship with innovative technology, and riding on the early stages of the EV wave, I could create a boat that would be more cost-efficient to run, all the while combating climate change and protecting the future of our oceans. So I got back to work on my boat idea in 2012 and we launched the first working prototype for our fully electric silent boats in 2016.
What are the biggest factors to consider, in a market that has such a high barrier to entry?
We’ve learned a lot from observing the electric revolution within other industries, with the rise of Tesla showing how economies of scale can effectively bring manufacturing costs down to allow for market price reductions over time.
The initial investment has been relatively high, but it’s been key for us to take first-mover advantage in this space. We still haven’t found any good examples of other companies delivering the same combination of efficiency and sustainability as we do.
Becoming the market leader is what will help us bring down the prices to achieve our goal of becoming the people’s boat and to make maritime sustainability available for anyone taking to the water.
What lessons were you able to transfer from Zound to
Creating and running Zound I learned how with the right brand and design you can build a truly international company out of a relatively small country like Sweden, attract global demand and conquer multiple markets at once. With Zound we were selling products in the tens of millions and this is something we can achieve with X Shore too as long as we continue to put the right efforts in.
Has the pandemic affected X Shore? What next big steps are you planning?
The next big thing we’re working towards right now is a new 2021 edition of our boats. This is something we’ve worked hard on for the past year and we’re really excited to get to show it to the world. We are lucky in that the pandemic has not had a big impact on our sales.
Most international travel plans for the summer have been cancelled and boats are now in high demand to help people create a holiday experience ‘at home’. Finally, with most of our manufacturing and innovation processes in Sweden we’ve seen little disruption to our supply chain.
What advice would you give others looking to turn their passion into a business?
I think that the only way to do business successfully is by spending your time on something that you are passionate about. If you are going to be putting in hours and hours, night and day, then you will need more than just entrepreneurial flair or ambition.
Throughout my career I’ve fought really hard to ensure that I am working with things that I love, and because of this, I feel like I’ve never really had a proper job in its traditional sense. I appreciate that this sounds hard to achieve but if you really set your mind to it I can assure you that it is possible.
Turning a hobby into a business requires a lot of homework and you’ll have to be ready to put in the work. You will need a well-thought-out-plan and several backup plans on top of that. Think about whether you will have good enough margins and can reach high enough volumes to make money, consider the complexity of developing and manufacturing your product or service and ask yourself how you would go about distributing it.
If you have a strong enough business case then there is nothing to stop you from succeeding. There is plenty of cash out there to help get a smart innovation off the ground and now, perhaps more than ever, I think there is scope for entrepreneurs to create some truly worldchanging businesses that create a real positive impact.