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Episode 03

Kyle Doerksen is the inventor and chief engineer of Onewheel. With a background in mechanical and electrical engineering from Stanford University, he spent 8 years designing consumer and technical products at IDEO, a global design and innovation firm. In 2008, Kyle set out to build a new type of recreational vehicle for himself and Onewheel was born. On this episode of the PFF Podcast, he discusses the multilayered kind of identity question around the modalities that we use to move around towns and cities, the personal expression in the types of transportation we use and the evolution of Onewheel and how that fit into the life of a more active person that's seeking "adventure and awesomeness, and arriving stoked, as we like to say."

Transcript

Welcome to the Piaggio Fast Forward podcast. Join the conversation by subscribing to the PFF podcast at https://www.piaggiofastforward.com/podcast.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Welcome to Mobility+, the PFF podcast. I'm your host Jeffrey Schnapp, Chief Visionary Officer at Piaggio Fast Forward. Today's guest is Kyle Doerksen, Founder and CEO of Future Motion and the inventor of Onewheel, a self-balancing single wheel personal transporter, sometimes described as a variation on the electric skateboard.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Future Motion is headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, with manufacturing of the Onewheel taking place in nearby San Jose, California. A neuro and mechanical engineer by training, Kyle grew up in the Canadian Rockies as an avid snowboarder. In devising an entirely new type of recreational vehicle, a kind of rideable robot, he sought to leverage the power of recent breakthroughs and sensing an electric propulsion to translate the feeling of snowboarding to the pavement. Kyle Doerksen, it's a true pleasure to welcome you to Mobility Plus.

Kyle Doerksen

Awesome, great to be with you today.

Jeffrey Schnapp

I'm excited to have you here on the program to tell people who may not be familiar with what a Onewheel is, what a Onewheel can do, why it's a unique and particularly pleasurable vehicle, and a little bit about the history of Onewheel as an enterprise.

Yeah, the story of Onewheel really goes back to around 2008 when I started tinkering on this concept in my garage. And I grew up in Western Canada, snowboarding a lot, and so for me the feeling of snowboarding on powder is sort of gold standard for experience. And then I moved to California for higher education.

And there's great snowboarding in California too, but the fun thing about California is you go to the snow, right, so you go to the snow for your day in the powder and then when you come back to the Bay Area, where I was living at the time, there's no snow at site, and I was like, "Man, but I still want to have that powder of snowboarding experience." And I used to work at IDEO, a product development firm, and one of our offices was on a pier in San Francisco.

So I'd take the train up to San Francisco, and when I got off the train I'd always be thinking like, "What kind of small vehicle could I have brought with me on the train that I could just pop out and jump on and zoom over to work?" And so I started tinkering. My background is in mechanical and electrical engineering, and I'd actually worked on some of the first motion controlled kids' toys, and this is before really the iPhone had motion sensing capability and brought gyro and accelerometer sensors to a truly mass market.

So I saw this intersection, small vehicles, feels like snowboarding, these new technologies that can actually achieve it, and I thought, "Hey, could I build a small balancing vehicle that you ride like a board and it takes you places?" And so that was in 2008, I built the first crude prototype in my garage, just for me, just for fun.

I just wanted to try this thing, and it was a bit of a contraption. It had a chain drive from a bicycle and a big motor, at that point, lead acid batteries that I got from a security light or something like that. It was not a product yet and I kind of put it back on the shelf and kept consulting that idea for a while. I worked on a bunch of interesting stuff, including an electric bike that we ended up spinning out.

And then one of my friends just kept bugging me, "Hey, when are you going to build me one of those boards that I can ride around on?" And so eventually I said, "Well, you don't actually want just a copy of the one that I built, it'd be really expensive and it's not really a product, but I think what you want is a productized version of this." And so he kept that idea kind of in the back of my mind. And then starting in late 2013 actually, I left IDEO and started developing a productized version, and launched it on Kickstarter at the beginning of 2014, and the rest is history.

Jeffrey Schnapp

And so in terms of the basic specifications of the original model with which you launched when you first went into production, could you describe that for our audience?

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, so there's one big wheel in the middle, it's actually from a racing go-kart. We had a Italian tire supplier that makes our tires for us, it's one of the only off the shelf components. And then in the hub of the wheel there's a motor, and then under one foot is a battery pack and under the other foot is a motor controller.

And the motor controller also incorporates gyro and accelerometer sensors that balance for you. So you stand on either side of the wheel, you come up to level and the balancing system engages, and then all you do is you lean towards your front foot to go faster and you lean to your back foot to slow down. The first product weighed about 25 pounds and went about six or seven miles on a charge. And interestingly, with Onewheel, the performance is really dictated by the software.

It's a little bit difficult to understand because usually we're used to like, "Oh, it's just all about how powerful is the motor," but Onewheel being a dynamically stabilized vehicle, it's really about like how well can you control the power to create a great riding experience, it's confident and quick and all those things.

So the first Onewheels that we shipped for our Kickstarter backers, I think they went about 12 miles an hour top speed, and then we did a firmware upgrade and we got them up to about 15, and then we did another firmware upgrade and we got them up to about 18 miles an hour. And that was our first gen product, now we've evolved it.

So our XR goes about 19 or 20 miles an hour and up to about 20 miles on a charge, and is a little over 20 pounds. And I always thought that 20, 20, 20 was really an important combination of performance factors, being able to go 20 miles an hour, 20 miles on a charge and be 20 pounds so that you can take it with you. And that's basically where we are today. And then we also have a smaller, lighter product called Pint, it's even more nimble and maneuverable and easier to take with you. It goes about eight or nine miles on a charge.

Jeffrey Schnapp

I'm curious given your background in snowboarding, how the turning occurs, whether you're riding a Pint or an XR? Having ridden on an XR model, I remember one of the things that was really surprising was the fact that you could lean it a little bit like when you're shredding out on the slopes.

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, exactly. So that was one of the cores of the experience I wanted to create. And really, it is a sort of rideable robot, but it doesn't feel robotic, it feels really extremely natural because the heel toe balance and control is just based on the profile of the tire itself. So it's actively stabilized in the front and back direction, but it's up to you in the side to side direction, and that's why we give you this nice wide tire to kind of keep it easy enough to balance.

But then it really combines the digital aspect with this just natural carving experience that you get. With the same way that a motorcycle corners, it really corners by leaning, and when you lean you kind of get up on the corner of the tire and it's actually remarkably nimble.

So you see that big tire, and a lot of people think, "Oh, it must not be maneuverable," but it's actually much more maneuverable than a skateboard. If you've ever seen an electric skateboard or something like that, they have a big turning radius, whereas a Onewheel you can basically drive it around a single point in space and spin around on it.

Jeffrey Schnapp

I mean, that kind of maneuverability seems particularly important for a recreational device, but I'm intrigued by the fact that the invention was spurred by a practical necessity that was a feature of your commute. Have you found a strong interest in the part of people who are looking for creative or novel commuting solutions in your customer base?

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, definitely a lot of people buy the product for both purposes, and it's really a spectrum. People ask me, "Is a Onewheel, is it for fun or is it for going places?" and I say, "Well, is your iPhone for work or for play?" You can't really pick one, right, it is for both.

And I think we find a lot of people get into our brand from the more recreational side, and then once they've got the hang of it, they're like, "Oh, I could ride to the coffee shop," or, "I could even ride to work," or, "I could ride pretty much anywhere." I mean, with 20 miles of range on XR, that's like a full day of getting around most cities. So yeah, definitely. And you see it all over.

I think one of the interesting things is because it also has an element of off-road capabilities, so there's a lot of people in more rural places that ride mainly on trails and stuff like that. And then you go to the mega cities and you see people zooming up and down the avenues on Onewheels, and it's been really cool to take this thing that it really has a sort of science fiction type gesture to it and make it into an everyday citing around the world, and that's what we've been working on over the last six years now.

Jeffrey Schnapp

And from the beginning your focus was on building these innovative vehicles for consumers, have you ever thought about renting them out or leasing them, or other kinds of models of how people might come to have their first experience on a Onewheel?

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, I think one thing that's pretty interesting is that Onewheels are a very personal vehicle. If you look at people's Onewheels, they have their stickers on them, they want to modify them. We sell all kinds of different fenders and bumpers in different colors, in various footpad options, and it's really this thing that you want to make your own.

I looked at the history, and obviously Segway was an early entrant into building new forms of what now would be called micromobility, and of course they were super early. They had a different value proposition based on the technology they had available to them and where the market was, which is certainly very different from where it is today. And that product didn't quite work as a consumer product, and so they pivoted it into trying to do obviously tours and B2B applications and stuff like that, where it did achieve some modicum of success, but for me I knew like I really wanted to position this thing as a craveable, carvable consumer product that people would want for themselves and they'd watch our videos and say, "Man, I want one of those."

And so that's really the way that we've positioned the product and I think the way people want to use it. Certainly there are some places where we've done rentals, and we've actually got Onewheel experience centers in a few places, the most notable which is at the Four Seasons in Kona in Hawaii. So you can go there and you can go on a sunset Onewheel cruise along the golf course, and then when you ...It's very beautiful, it's like on the beach, it's right in front of the beach, and then with professional instruction, and then you get back to the clubhouse, they give you champagne and strawberries, and it's all a very Four Seasons type of experience. So that's out there, but we haven't done sort of what some other companies are doing in terms of mobility as a service or sharing, it's not really that product, and I think it's pretty interesting like the fine delineations.

Like, at first people think like, "Oh, okay, it sort of fits into this category with other small vehicles like scooters or e-bikes or something like that," but then you look a little deeper and you realize like part of the reason why it's such a personal vehicle is that it's so small, right?

It's actually much smaller than say an e-bike or even a scooter, right, because it's just basically the minimum packaging around a motor and a battery and a controller. And so you can easily pick it up and take it with you, you're not worried about locking it to a bike rack and then, "Oh, it's kind of expensive. Is someone going to steal it?" It's just nobody does that, everybody just picks it up and takes it in with them wherever they're going. That just lets it fit into the world in different ways, which is really exciting to me because I think we're carving out some new territory there.

And because of that too it's like you can jump in ... Let's say you're on the other side of town and then you go for a drink after work, back when there's both drink and going to work, and you decide, "Oh, I'm going to take an Uber home," you can throw it in the truck of the Uber. In a way that if you have your e-bike there, what are you going to do? Most Ubers are not going to let you put a bike, they don't have that capability. So it just lets you kind of switch modalities with very low friction, which is pretty cool.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Yeah. In your answer you touched on one of the questions that I was going to ask you about, which is, how you see Onewheel positioned within the larger kind of personal mobility ecology, particularly with the explosion of micromobility forms? And clearly the pandemic has really accelerated a lot of changes that were rather slowly or gradually emerging in people's ways of moving around towns, cities, moving recreationally or for work, how has that had an impact on Onewheel and its customer base?

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, well, we'll talk about positioning and then the pandemic. One of the things I've been reflecting on recently is that it wasn't that long ago that for products to be successful they had to succeed in the mass market because that's what the infrastructure was. The infrastructure was you would go to stores, and stores had distributors that serve them, and if you had good distribution a product would do well, and if you didn't have good distribution it would not.

But now we live in this sort of long tail age of e-commerce, right, where you can have various successful products that don't need to appeal to 100% market share. And that kind of was starting to emerge when I first started working on this, and I specifically said, "Look, I'm not going to try to make this a universal product. I don't need to convince my grandma that she should definitely write a Onewheel. I'm going to try to make a product that for some slice of the population, they're like, 'That is what I need. That gives me the experience I want. It has great capability, and it expresses who I am.'"

I think in my observations on transportation, so much of it is a matter of personal expression, not just connecting some miles, right? Do you choose to drive a fancy car or an economy car, do you choose to ride a bicycle versus a moped versus a motorcycle versus ... Those all say something different about who you are and represent just different aspects of your personality. Do you choose to take public transportation?

There's just this like multilayered kind of identity question around the modalities that we use, and I wanted to create one that fit into this kind of more active person that's seeking adventure and awesomeness, and arriving stoked as we like to say, and so we positioned the product in that way.

And we're not relying on having a Onewheel for every person in America in some period of time, but rather to make sure that for the people that do resonate with it, they know about it and they get on board with us. I think in the pandemic a lot of things have changed of course. In many ways we don't always compete head-to-head against other forms of transportation, we in many cases compete against going on a vacation, right, or going on a ski trip.

This year, it was March, it was still ski season, I was just going to get up to Tahoe and do some powder riding, and they closed all the ski resorts, right, so okay, can't do that. People aren't really flying, right, so they're not really going to Hawaii for that long weekend.

And so we've seen some lift in terms of actually more people getting into Onewheels during the pandemic. They're looking for microadventures close to home, right? And that's what we've always had to offer, and now people need that even more, and they need stuff to do with their kids, and they need ways to kind of clear their head after eight straight hours of Zoom calls, and that's exactly what we have.

And then of course there's the intersection with public transportation is way down, ride sharing is way down, but people still need to go places. Right? And of course there's also been a lot of streets closed to cars in terms of pedestrian and cycle ways and stuff like that, and that's just really cool.

As a designer, like the opportunity to sort of prototype what your city would be like with less cars, we've had a chance to do that essentially around the world over the last few months. And of course people are realizing like it was actually way better with fewer cars and more space to walk and use other forms of transportation, and so we fit right into that too.

Jeffrey Schnapp

And in terms of that urge or even that need for these kind of microadventures, have you seen the development of sort of user subgroups who want to use your vehicles for purposes of competition or for inventing, I don't know, new forms of play or group activity along the lines of the kinds of things people do when they go out snowboarding or engaging in other kinds of sports?

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, some people are all about riding by themselves, and just for them it's like more of a solo experience, but for a lot of people part of the fun is riding with a group. And we have an app for iPhone and Android that you can actually find other riders in your area and set up group rides and go ride with other people, and those feel a lot like snowboarding, going snowboarding with your friends, right, because you're like, "Oh, let's go right over there," and off you go.As a designer, like the opportunity to sort of prototype what your city would be like with less cars, we've had a chance to do that essentially around the world over the last few months. And of course people are realizing like it was actually way better with fewer cars and more space to walk and use other forms of transportation, and so we fit right into that too.

And usually, people have little bit different riding levels, some people are really fast, other people are a little slower and just learning or whatever, and that kind of community, and then you get a few pointers. It's been a really big part of the growth of Onewheel so far.

And then we've also really tried to promote the sport aspect of it, because not everybody is going to be a competitive rider, but of course there's always this role of competition in whether it's auto racing or snowboarding becoming part of the Olympics, that moment was really kind of the pinnacle of snowboarding.

This is like the most worldwide popularity was when snowboarding became part of the Olympics. And so we actually organize a race every year, and this year it's coming up the next weekend. And so it's actually going to be riders at a ski resort, they're zooming up and down these trails racing each other. Different event format this year, right, because COVID. No spectators, but it is going to be live streamed. Different event formats to make sure that people are safe in the COVID environment, but yeah, really excited about that.

And every year there's just so much progression. Progression is really this aspect of board sports, especially where people just go and they play with it and they are like, "What can I do?" and like, "Can I try this?" and they'll go, they'll try it. Some people will try it a thousand times to see if they can learn a new trick or be able to ride a line that they've been passing by everyday on their commute. One time they're just like, "Huh, I'm going to go try to take that little off road line and see if I can do it."

And I said from early on, nobody talks about like the best segue rider or like the best hoverboard rider, like it's not really a thing, but there's definitely like the best Onewheel riders. They can just do things that nobody else can do. They can do tricks, they can ride terrain that I would definitely never get on. And that's the same, right, in snowboarding or in surfing or mountain biking or these kinds of things, right? So that's always been part of the DNA of the Onewheel brand, and I think it gives it like a certain vitality that's pretty exciting.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Are there aspects of the vehicle performance that are personalizable or customizable via the app or other ways of adapting its core functionalities?

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, so that's one of the really interesting things. Onewheel is a very technical product, and it is to me in the quadrant of technologies that I think are the most interesting and exciting, which is they're not mediated by something like a screen, right, so we all have plenty of screen time.

But Onewheel is just controlled very naturally through your body, and your body is leaning and making micro adjustments, and then that's interacting with the algorithms that are controlling the board. And so we have something called digital shaping. Shaping is something that comes from surfboard shaping, where these guys are in their shaping bays like literally grinding down a piece of foam that's going to get covered in fiberglass and become a surfboard.

And by shaping a little bit here and there, they can make a board that rides differently, turns differently on the wave, has more buoyancy so you catch the wave with a different point, et cetera, but we can make some of those changes algorithmically. So with digital shaping on your phone, both XR and Pint have digital shaping, and then XR also has custom shaping, which is pretty cool.

So you can actually adjust the neutral ride angle, you can adjust how it corners, you can adjust essentially top speed of the board, you can adjust how actively it responds to like bumps and stuff like that so you may want to have like a more relaxed ride where it kind of just floats over things, or you may want to have a really stiff ride where you hit a little bump and it responds very quickly and aggressively.

It's really a rider preference thing. And kind of what's cool is, what do you call it, a one board quiver, because you can really achieve all those feelings just by changing it in the app, which is kind of a new to the world concept. I mean, obviously cars have had elements of that, right, where they might have a sport mode or something like that. And especially in the more high-end cars, like that might actually mean the vehicle changes quite a bit in terms of how the throttle response works, the cornering, if it's stability control and all kind of stuff. We're able to do something similar at a much smaller scale.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Yeah, that's I think really cool. And I'm sure given the kind of enthusiasm level in your customer base, I bet people have a lot of fun trying out the full range of shaping modalities and as well as inventing a lot of moves and ways of using the vehicle that you probably haven't anticipated. I'm curious, given your background in mechanical engineering, but also in a couple of other fields, if you could tell us a little bit about the design process.

You mentioned where you started, which was kind of filling a gap in your own sort of commuting patterns and wanting to have a fun, portable vehicle to get you from one place to another, but was the engineering the driving force, was it the experience design, was it the two at the same time? Did you zigzag between those two kinds of poles as the vehicle became a product and underwent refinement? Just to hear a little bit about the sort of process of invention, not just the result of it.

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, that's a great question. One thing that's interesting is that I spent the first chunk of my career at IDEO doing product development, and there, the methodology relies a lot on user research and understanding gaps, interstitial spaces like you say within the market, and focusing on a lot of especially qualitative research to suss that out.

With what became Onewheel, I mean, I really ... It was an internal process for me. I was not going out and doing focus groups, and trying to understand how big the market for Onewheel is before giving into the creative impulse and building a prototype. I really knew that nobody would understand this product or even have any idea where to put it in their mental framework until we built it, and started marketing it and started positioning it in a certain way.

And so, yeah, to me, it was small vehicles. I mean, I've been working now on light electric vehicles for like 15 years basically. And it is really this experience-design challenge, right? I mean, the technology is a necessary enabler, but ultimately you're trying to create a great experience, whether you're riding an e-bike, does it feel right? Does the electric assist work in a seamless way that feels like it's just amplifying your human capabilities in the case of the e-bike?

On a Onewheel, does it feel like the technology is seamless? It's not surgey, there's not latency, it's quick, it's responsive, it just becomes an extension of you. And that involves solving some deep technical problems, right, around motor control, control system engineering, et cetera.

I mean, in many ways, like I've been in the right place at the right time, having the kind of mechanical engineering and the electrical engineering background that I have, and then being exposed to the design process and understanding like what makes a great product. So there's experience of the tech which you touched on, but I think also the positioning, like, what is this thing?

We could have used essentially the same tech to make something that was a cheap toy, and is for kids, and it's like whatever, it's kind of throw away, but we said, "No, that's not the part that we're interested in, we're really much more interested in building a product that is for adults, that is capable as a vehicle and that you can use to go place, that has the makings of a new sport, maybe the first digital board sport," and really like baking those things in to our brand and DNA from the start.

And so it's really that triangle of experience, tech and then brand that I think has been key to our success and I think is really ... Anybody that's building something that's new to the world, they really have to think about how those aspects interact with each other to create a really great products.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Yeah, indeed. And I'm curious with respect to the current composition of your team at Onewheel. Obviously you're the founder and the CEO of the company, what does your leadership team look like precisely along the lines of the kind of process you were just describing with respect to the product?

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, so it's pretty interesting. Our company has grown a lot and we have about 50 people at our headquarters in Santa Cruz. But I'm a product-focused CEO and so my direct reports are our COO, who manages a large swath of the business, but ultimately rolls up the engineering and manufacturing functions as well as a lot of other general administrative and leadership functions.

And then our director of marketing, who's building the brand, and then the heads of product development between mechanical and the more firmware side of things that are directly reporting into me. And so I spend my time thinking about how do we build amazing new products, and how do we position them and market them to the world, and then stay out of some of the other details that are involved in running a fast growing company.

Jeffrey Schnapp

And with respect to future products, do you imagine continuing to grow the sort of family of different Onewheel models or are there other directions that you're also entertaining?

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah. All of the above. I think we're in a zone where we've kind of got a tiger by the tail in terms of the Onewheel family products, and we're definitely really interested in extending that line in the various directions that it can be extended.

I think when we started out we really had to build this sort of model T type product where it's like any color you want as long as it's black, and like it's just one skew, and if you want to use it as your farm truck, or you want to use it as you're running around town car, like it's going to have to do it for you. But then as we evolve, we get to build out a more expansive product line that includes different products for different use cases, and the first real taste of that is having both Pint and XR.

So Pint is smaller and lighter, and it's easier to learn on because it has something called Simplestop. It's elegant, it's refined. XR is like more powerful and has longer range, and is a little bit bigger, which is good for bigger riders and longer rides. And so like I said, not being too prescriptive that like, "Okay, here is one magic form that's exactly right for everyone that wants to engage with this."

And especially as people get more sophisticated in their understanding of the product and like what they want in the product, right, that's why you see the bifurcation, or beyond bifurcation, just the huge range of ... You look at automotive, right? You've got a little sports car, you've got a big truck, you've got a van, you've got a sedan, you've got a station wagon, because different users see how those different products would fit into their life optimally, so that's definitely a direction we're going.

And then in the long-term, we definitely have the interest in building out beyond the core Onewheel line, but that's pretty far out in the future. We're really dedicated to building the best Onewheel experience that we can and getting more and more people riding. Because even though you do see Onewheels around, if you walk into a room of people and you ask them, "Hey, have any of you ridden a Onewheel," like maybe one of them has. We're pretty far away from market penetration, so we're definitely still integrating and working to get more and more people on board.

Jeffrey Schnapp

And your focus has largely been on the US market thus far?

Kyle Doerksen

It's been mainly on the US market, yeah. We are looking to expand more internationally, but it's been ... We've always been sort of playing catch-up with demand, and this year with the ... We were planning to devote sort of more of our inventory to international expansion, but just with the acceleration we've seen during COVID, we've needed basically every unit that we can build to go to our domestic customers.

And we do send a few around the world, but the US remains our core market. And another thing that's interesting about us is that we do build the product here in California, so that's ... Definitely when I started the company, that was a pretty unorthodox approach, to build a product like this in the US.

And over time, obviously, the landscape has changed, and between tariffs and a resurgent emphasis on US manufacturing, and the success of Tesla a few miles away doing advanced vehicle manufacturing also in the Bay Area, you can kind of pattern match and say, "Hey, it actually makes a lot of sense to be building this stuff," in our case close to our headquarters so our engineers can go to the factory and basically learn as quickly as possible so we can roll those learnings into the next product.

Jeffrey Schnapp

At Piaggio Fast Forward we followed exactly the same pattern, and our manufacturing facility is literally no more than a couple hundred yards from our headquarters. And for all the reasons you just mentioned, that's turned out to be a really smart decision aside from the usual supply chain challenges that we’ve faced, it's the nimbleness, the agility of being able, particularly when you're dealing with a brand new product and a new market niche, to be able to have that kind of closeness between your R&D operations and your manufacturing, and to kind of shuttle back and forth between the two. And with regard to supply chain, are most of your components sourced from the United States, from Asia?

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, they come from all over the world. I think that's just one of the realities of supply chains. We have components that come from the US, that come from Europe, that come from China, that come from other places in Asia, and bringing all those things together is really our job, I think. Especially once you get into electronics, I mean, no one can really claim that they build electronics in any single location.

Like, you may assemble them in one location. And we built our circuit boards in the US and in other locations, but if you actually look at the country of origin on all of those components, you're going to see all kinds of names on there, right?

It's a bit antiquated to ask like where is everything made, because all these suppliers, as I mentioned, our tires come from Italy, our footpads come from the US, we get plastic components from China, we get electronic components from Malaysia and Singapore and Taiwan, and you name it. And so it really does wrap around the world and then comes to get integrated here in California and then shipped out.

Jeffrey Schnapp

And as we move towards wrapping up this conversation, just a couple of questions about the sort of broader horizons of the work that you're doing. What's the single area that most excites you, but you haven't been able to sort of conquer or achieve or tackle over the course of this, I guess it's now seven years of operation as the CEO and Founder of Onewheel? Is there one particular domain that still sort of captures your attention that is part of the sort of aspirational path forward for Onewheel?

Kyle Doerksen

That's a great question. I mean, we have really been able to do a lot in just a few years. And as anyone who's running a start-up can tell you, it is sort of like dog years. I mean the amount of change and just the milestones that you check off, it's very fast compared to much bigger like organizations. So we have been able to do a lot.

Pint was a big one for us. Wanting to get a product into the market under $1,000 price point, and we were able to do that. I think we were starting to do some activities to get the product more into the world with sort of brick and mortar stuff, and we were doing pop-up shops and things like that towards the end of last year that we were really excited to get into doing more and really build like an omnichannel experience, and then of course COVID hit and we had to shelf all those plans and really focus on our digital game.

And fortunately, being a sort of digitally native company, we were able to regroup on that and work the online side of things. But yeah, I mean, we've definitely ... We're going about it as fast as we can in terms of developing and scaling, and we're definitely excited for what we have in the pipeline, getting that out into the world when the time is right.

And then just going from, what do they call it, swinging from vine to vine, right. So just taking the opportunities as they come up, definitely a lot of opportunities for us. But ultimately, like we get fan mail all the time from kids and adults that are just captivated by what we put out in the world. And I think it's really cool, it's fun to me too looking at like … There are kids alive today that have never known a world without Onewheel. I think a lot of adults are like, "Oh, that seems like some pretty newfangled stuff. I don't know, it seems kind of futuristic," but there's now kids that probably know how to ride Onewheel already that this has just been in their world for the whole time.

And that's what I'm excited about as an inventor, it's just launching new things from the imagination into hardware, and then not just into a one-off, but into some kind of serious production that a lot of people can get to share that experience. So yeah, it's been a gratifying two years for sure.

Jeffrey Schnapp

That must be incredibly satisfying to sort of see a world where now these vehicles which were not part of the world only seven, eight years ago now totally naturalized and part of a whole new realm of mobility, play, recreation, you name it. And in the context of these interactions with your customer base, maybe we could close with any anecdotes or stories you have of uses of your vehicles that you would really never have fathomed in the course of this history, I mean the accidents and surprises that inevitably accompany innovation and invention.

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of amazing stories. I think some of the ones that are surprising and heartwarming, we've definitely got to know some people who are veterans that have lost limbs in combat, and maybe they came from skateboarding or from snowboarding before their injury, and now they're able to get back on a board. They weren't able to skate or they weren't able to snowboard anymore, but they've been able to use Onewheel adaptively essentially to get that feeling back, and it's really amazing.

There's people riding around inside of factories and big venues. A lot of behind the scenes, people in Hollywood, production sets use Onewheels to get around the lot, which kind of makes sense when you think about it, right? They're always carrying stuff, and so with Onewheel you don't have any hand control or handlebars or whatever, so you've got both hands free to carry a tray of sandwiches or some fancy camera gear across the set. That's always fun to see.

And sometimes we hear stories of famous actors getting a Onewheel as a wrap gift at the end of a shoot, because they've watched the techs zooming around on them. There's just all these different corners of the world. There's a vlogger in Pakistan that is riding around on his Onewheel, and it works there too, riding on dirt roads and just different environments. I think we tried to build something that would work really in the real world.

I think a lot of the knock on some of the micromobility stuff is it is really like toy grade, and then it's sort of tried to muscle up to somehow survive in the world, but it wasn't really designed from the beginning to the level of robustness that a vehicle needs to be, and that we've tried to build a vehicle level product from the beginning so that it can get to far flung places and that people can sort of rely on it.

And people are going on longer rides and coming up with crazy multimodal adventures. This guy who like paraglides down and then hops on his Onewheel, and packs up his paragliding wing and zooms to the next mountain peak, and then paraglides some more. There's a lot of really creative stories that are happening out there now. And yeah, I mean, it's just fitting into people's lives in really cool ways.

Jeffrey Schnapp

Yeah, thanks so much for sharing some of those stories with us, and also underscoring the importance of robustness in the domain of innovative solutions to contemporary mobility. So thanks again, Kyle Doerksen, for joining us today. I really enjoyed the conversation and look forward to seeing the future success of Onewheel.

Kyle Doerksen

Yeah, great speaking with you today.

Thank you for listening to the Piaggio Fast Forward podcast and come back soon for further lively conversations about walking, light mobility, robots and the design of neighborhoods, cities, and towns. The PFF podcast is hosted by Jeffrey Schnapp, sound engineering by Robert Allen, narration by Ryan Harms, produced by Elizabeth Murphy, web designed by Jerry Ding. Intro music is Funkorama by Kevin MacLeod. End music is Your Call by Kevin MacLeod. Special thanks to Tory Leeming. To learn more about PFF and gita, please visit piaggiofastforward.com.