Zero Motorcycles gets $5.6M to grow

Santa Cruz Sentinel

SCOTTS VALLEY — Zero Motorcycles, an electric motorcycle startup, raised $5.56 million in funding in December thanks to Invus, an international investment firm that focuses on manager-owned companies.

In 2008, Invus, a 25-year-old firm that manages $4 billion, provided $5.02 million to Zero Motorcycles.

The investment, the second from Invus, will help grow the small company at a time when it is gearing up for the annual spring burst of motorcycle buyers.

“Our investors really believe in the company,” said Gene Banman, chief executive officer. “They’re funding us for success. We’re on good financial footing.”

Despite the difficult economy, the privately held company has grown “pretty substantially in year-over-year revenues,” Banman said. “We’ve been very capital efficient,” especially in comparison to companies in the electric car market, he said.

The Scotts Valley-based company, which is incorporated in Delaware, employs just over 40 people, has some openings and plans to add more jobs in the coming year.

Neal Saiki, chief technology officer, co-founded the company in 2006 with his wife Lisa. He has roots in mountain bike design and has designed both off-road and street-legal high-performance motorcycles. With a degree in aeronautical engineering, he has helped develop high-altitude research vehicles for NASA and, while in college, created the first successful human-powered helicopter, which set a world aviation record.

The company, formerly known as Electricross, has been lauded in the media including by Late Night’s Jay Leno, BBC, Fast Company and Wired magazine. In October, the Environmental Protection Agency certified the Zero bikes, which means buyers are eligible for 10 percent tax credits.

“There are pros and cons to starting up in a down economy,” Banman said. “We’ve been finding fantastic employees, space is easy to find and vendors are very cooperative.”

There are about 800 Zero Motorcycles in use today, about half of which are driven in the U.S. and the rest are in Europe. The bikes cost roughly $40 a year in electricity to charge — the cost equivalent of nearly 400 mpg for gas-powered motorcycles, according to the company.

In October, the motorcycle manufacturer voluntarily recalled some off-road dirt bikes after receiving three reports of a defect that in one case resulted in a minor injury. The problem was fixed and Banman, who described it as typical part of the process for a growing startup, said it did not significantly affect the company’s growth.

Zero Motorcycles Inc.
WHAT: The first American company to mass produce electric high performance motorcycles
HEADQUARTERS: 1 Victor Square, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
BACKGROUND: A privately held company founded in 2006 as Electricross by bike designer Neal Saiki and Lisa Saiki
LEADERSHIP: Gene Banman, chief executive officer
INFORMATION: 888-786-9376;
FINANCIALS: The company has raised more than $10 million from Invus, a private investment firm.

This article appeared here.


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