The electric skateboard community is in the grips of a sort of Groundhog Day effect. Carvon, Inboard, Enertion and now Boosted have all seen (or in the case of Boosted are seeing) their last days.
I recorded a podcast episode barely a month ago where I made my predictions about the future of Boosted following the release of the now infamous Verge article. I'm sorry to say that it appears as if a lot of my predictions are now coming true.
Boosted themselves released a statement about 36-hours ago detailing a massive lay-off of staff in what felt like a heart-felt goodbye letter.
Whilst the company hasn't gone into liquidation just yet, the signs aren't looking good. The most ambiguous line in their statement reads:
"The Boosted brand will continue to pursue strategic options under new ownership."
This doesn't quite make it clear whether the company has actually already acquired new ownership, or if it is just actively and publicly seeking a savior?
Either way, Boosted will never be the same again. If it 'be' at all.
Now, I own a Boosted Stealth. I bought it on release from the first batch delivered to Australia. I bought it for a bunch of reasons. My commute to work is about 10km one way and pretty treacherous. I needed a high quality and durable board that could stand up to the conditions of my commute, day, after day, after day. It also needed to be light enough to not be a pain in the ass to pick up and carry when needed, as this was also a part of my commute; so being able to kick-it-up by the snub tail was a huge plus over something like the Evolve boards, which I had also ridden a lot in the past.
All I really needed was just enough range to get me one way to work at a reasonable speed. I didn't need to go 50kph and I don't need 60km of range either. I'd rather save on weight. A light board that gets me to work, that I can then charge at work, and have it hold up to the punishment I was going to throw at it was what I needed.
I've had plenty of other boards, but on the lower end of the spectrum I was cautious about the longer-term durability of a lot of the budget boards I had tested. On the upper end of the spectrum the boards were often too bulky and heavy for my needs. The Boosted Stealth suited my needs perfectly at the time.
Boosted were still riding off the coat tails of having a good reputation in durability and quality coming off the back of their iconic Gen2 boards (the rear axle saga notwithstanding), so it seemingly ticked the durability and quality box I needed ticked. It ticked all the boxes really, except having to mourn the loss the Loaded Vanguard deck and Orangatang wheels, but that was a trade-off I was willing to make in order to get the stronger trucks offered by the Gen3's over the Gen2's.
The move away from Loaded/Orangatang from Gen2 to Gen3 is a chapter worth mentioning. This move obviously co-insided with Boosted's move to have their production and assembly done almost entirely (if not entirely) in China. This was also after they did away with Caliber trucks from Gen1 to Gen2. A move (as I mentioned earlier) that didn't work out too well for them.
Boosted cannibalised it's own brand from the inside-out more and more with each passing generation. This isn't hindsight speaking. We could all see it happening live, in living colour and in real-time.
I've been extremely lucky. My Boosted Stealth has performed faultlessly since day one. My experience with this board, however, has been a rare one. Gen3 Boosted's have been the brand's most troublesome range of products to-date.
Then came the Rev... We'll come back to that. But what Boosted failed to do was capitalise on the market share they already had in the electric skateboard scene. They failed to look after their own backyard.
I said it at the time of the Gen3's launch and I've said it ever since: Out of the four boards Boosted released as a part of Gen3, one of them, just one, should have been truly long range. This one change could have made the world of difference. That, and/or making a truly tool-less, hot-swappable battery system. With those opportunities missed, there wasn't a lot on offer with the Gen3's that was in any way an improvement over the Gen2's (save for the stronger trucks).
The Boosted Plus was basically just a worse version of the Boosted Gen2 Dual+ XR. Worse because of the cheap wheels, less favorable deck (by most riders standards) and essentially no other improvements whatsoever. Same board, but somehow worse at basically the same cost. The Plus seemed to exist only for up-sell purposes to get people onto a Stealth. But beyond Hyper mode and a different colourway (and okay, stronger pulleys), the Stealth was just more of the same also. The Mini's were also too little too late. One gets the feeling the entire Gen3 range was Boosted's 'S' line-up, designed to tide us over whilst they got their Rev project off of the ground. What they ended up with was a range of over-priced electric skateboards that had been over-taken by virtually everyone else in the market and an over-priced electric scooter that no one asked for and thus no one really wanted.
Look, we can by-pass Boosted's early battery venting issue (waddup, Rick?) or how long it took them to develop and ship their (so-called) XR batteries (also, I'm not bagging the XR batteries, as I still think the range is about right for most commutes/commuters looking for a light board, but where did Boosted get off calling them "extended range," huh? I mean, seriously), they actually handled these dilemmas quite well. It's Boosted's customer service, after all, that elevated their reputation to such high standards in the community in the first place. But honestly, why did it take so long to develop a 13s2p pack of LG MH1 18650's? It's a real head-scratcher for me, that one.
In the end, cheaper products that were getting better and better over-took Boosted whilst they were standing still, sitting there continuing to charge more dollars for less esk8. We're not just talking about Boosted in comparison to their competitors here, but even when compared to what they used to offer themselves.
I guess one of my predictions I made during my podcast won't come true; there probably won't be a Boosted Gen4. If they go into liquidation then obviously not, but in the slim chance an angel investor comes along, then I guess we might see a Gen4, but it won't be the Gen4 that was slated for original release. It'll be more like Boosted 2.0 Gen1.
But what can they do? Would any investor be insane enough to rescue this company at this point? I mean, their current business model is to sell a China board for three times as much as other China board's, even though it performs worse than all the other China boards... Yes, Boosted always had that quality, durability and after-sales service going for them, but all of that seems to be a thing of the past also. I have no idea how my Stealth has lasted this long without a fault compared to what I see on the Boosted subreddit daily! My point is they couldn't turn a profit with this model, so what could a new strategy possibly be that could make it profitable? Charge less for the same? No, that wont work. Charge the same for a better board? No, that would eat into margins also? Throw more brand name parts back on the boards? Look, it doesn't matter. No matter which way you cut it, Boosted in its current shape and form are over.
The only two things that are worth any money over there is the brand itself (maybe) and the golden goose of Boosted boards, the Boosted ESC. If those things could be rescued, then perhaps a Boosted 2.0 could rise from the ashes.
The lower, lower-middle and quite a bit of the upper-middle parts of the market are now solidly in the hands of the best China has to offer. Their boards are value and feature packed, have great specs and are ever increasing in quality. Also in the upper-middle are Evolve, who although are at the pricer end of the upper-middle, now have a quality product worthy of the price tag with the GTR series. Plus their global accessibility, versatility (wheel size, wheel type (thane, AT, off-road), different gear ratios, battery sizes, deck types, lighting options, colourways, and the list goes on) understand their market far better than Boosted ever did. Evolve also chose to improve and go forward when Boosted chose to stand still (and build a freaking scooter) - there's a significant difference in strategy there worth noting. My point is that there is a section of the market where Boosted could still find refuge if they're smart about it. Boosted need to take that 13s, buttery smooth ESC of theirs into the premium, boutique-builder arena.
Boosted could, if any new investors had and sense, bring their business back to US shores, start hand building high performance, versatile and innovative boards with a handful of people, and play in the same arena as Kaly, LaCroix and Bioboards. With a small team, a build-on-demand policy with minimal overheads that rose from the ashes to once again dominate at the newest, highest level. Then they could eventually scale up again from there, properly this time, learning the lessons from the past. That won't happen though. Although one can dream.
What will most likely happen is that by the time the next 30-days are up, Boosted's remaining assets will go into liquidation in order to pay of their suppliers and other debts. Then, that'll be it. It's a bitterly disappointing time, as the Boosted brand has been a major driving force behind the popularity of electric skateboards today. It's legitimately the end of an era.
One question I have in all of this is what does it mean for the future of R&D? I mean, there's only a part-truth in blaming things like Boosted not moving with the market, the failed Rev project or even Trump's tariff war with China. Another significant part of the story is that Boosted invested A LOT into the R&D of their products. That money needs to recouped somehow and, to be fair, a lot of that is from the ticket price. China copies, and copies well. But would there even be a Chinese electric skateboard industry without Boosted? There probably would have been, eventually. But would it have risen to the heights that it has so quickly if Boosted hadn't been there as that standard to begin with?
Who are the electric skateboard companies that have fallen over in the last 12-months again? What have most of them had in common? The buckets amount of cash they've spent on R&D that they haven't been able to recoup. Many of them of course double-down on further dumb decisions on top of that like stupid scooter projects, costly ambassador programs, gross mismanagement and ill-conceived international distribution strategies, but you also can't say they weren't pioneers and innovators (most of them). They were. But once China copies and over time starts doing it the same or better than you for cheaper, then your days are numbered. This is why I think the slim chance at hope Boosted still has is to go fully hand-built, by-the-order boutique. It's the only other viable business model in esk8 if it's done with minimal overheads. Anyway, my point with all of this is, what message does this send to budding pioneers? I think the message "don't bother" is unfortunately becoming pretty loud and clear, and that's the most unfortunate thing about all of this. Who's next? Mellow? Is a similar reason here the real reason why we haven't seen any Jed Boards?
If Jed Boards is non-starter and Boosted's days are all but done, then I guess I was right. For the popular form-factor represented by these boards, between them and the Exway Flex, I predicted in my podcast that the Exway Flex would be the sole survivor. As we move into the three-and-a-half year mark with still no Jed Boards, it's almost time to call this one.
If the message is, "Don't innovate, just copy." Well then, who are the copiers going to copy in the future? A sobering thought to ponder.
In the meantime I have a perfectly functioning Boosted Stealth I'm trying to sell. Any takers? Happy to trade it for some magic beans at this point.
Seriously though, Boosted. Although you weren't the first electric skateboard, you were certainly the first "game changer." Mass production and accessibility of your products brought wide-spread awareness to this way of getting around, this niche, this hobby, this life and brought together people from all over the world to build communities that will be ever-lasting. The esk8 community is what it is in large part due to your existence.
If we don't see you again, thank you for everything.
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