Sydney-based motorcycle technology The Forcite company raised nearly $6 million in its latest funding round, money that will be used to fuel global expansion.
Founded in 2013, the company has delivered nearly 1,400 smart headphones across Australia and maintains a waiting list of over 13,000. About half of this demand is domestic, the rest abroad, with about 21% coming from the United States. The Forcite Mark One helmet was released in mass-producible form in 2020.
In their latest funding round, led by early commercialization fund Uniseed, Forcite raised $4.6 million in exchange for preferred stock. Following this, the company opened its shares to retail investors using the equity crowdfunding website equitise. Closing on February 15, the round has already raised over $965,000 from over 350 customers, 6% of which will be donated to Equitise.
Forcite managing director Alfred Boyadgis says the idea behind the company came after he suffered a motorcycle accident, in which the integrity of his helmet was breached by a bolted camera mount.
As such, the Mark One helmet features an integrated camera and speakers, as well as an exclusive LED notification system that alerts the rider to oncoming road hazards. This connects to a backend system via your phone’s 4G network which calculates appropriate situations for the driver to be alerted. The product also comes with a control panel that can be mounted on the motorcycle.
Boyadgis said much of the capital raised will go towards expanding the company’s production capacity.
“There is a new helmet model coming out, the MK1S. So that capital will primarily go into inventory to help us meet the demand here in Australia and New Zealand. After that, we will launch online in Europe and the United States, but it will be more towards the end of the year,” Mr Boyadgis said.
“At the end of 2023, we will launch the Mark Two. The Mark Two product isn’t just a helmet, it has on-bike functionality that I can’t really talk about, but will include some really cool features around the camera that could include computer vision elements.
“Right now we are [a team of] about 20 people, towards the end of the year it will be around 80 to 100 people. We have around 100-200 square meters in Sydney, but at the end of the year we will be moving to a much larger facility of around 700 square metres.
The company’s excess demand has been driven in part by its history of working closely with the motorcycling community to tailor its technology to suit them.
Although consultation during the development of Forcite products began with their local biker community, it soon went live. At its peak, the Forcite Test-Pilots Facebook group grew to 14,000 members.
“Getting out and into the community, meeting people, going biking and just listening to what people want, that was really 80% of the work that led to the actual product. The design of the product itself was self-explanatory after talking to all these people about exactly what they wanted,” Boyadgis said.
In 2018, Boyadgis and co-founder Julian Chow were among the first cohort to participate in the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Founders 10X Accelerator Program.
Following this, they were able to present at Uniseed, which helps produce commercial spin-offs from research at UNSW and CSIRO as well as the University of Sydney, Queensland and Melbourne.
In total, Forcite has raised over $8 million through government grants, venture capital, and other stakeholder funding. It has received advanced manufacturing grants, support from the New South Wales government and export market development grants for its e-commerce business.
According to Boyadgis, the global motorcycle helmet industry is worth an estimated $2.7 billion and growing.
Natasha Rawlings, investment manager at Uniseed, said Forcite was well positioned to capitalize on this growing market.
“Forcite has positioned itself as a market leader in the motorcycle technology industry with a loyal and rapidly growing customer base. We strongly believe in Forcite’s strategy of providing category-defining products and a business-centric approach. on the community,” Ms Rawlings said.
“They think way beyond the motorcycle helmet category and have the support of the automotive industry to go there.”
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