Meet The RYNO

A Tiny Oregon Company Thinks People Will Buy Its $5,000 One-Wheeled Motorcycle

alex davies on a RYNO 2

When five people emailed Chris Hoffman to offer him $25,000 each  for their own versions of his one-wheeled electric  motorcycle,  the RYNO, he knew he had a viable business on his hands.

But rather than heading for his garage and building them himself, he took the  advice of his business partner.

“We have to build a business plan that shows how this will scale,” Tony  Humpage, now the COO of RYNO Motors, told him. So that’s what they did.

Two and a half years later, everything is going according to plan, with  Hoffman in New York showing off the RYNO, which is just about ready to go into  production.

A Tough Sell

It’s easy to doubt the company. The RYNO is unlike any product on the market.  It uses self-balancing technology to stay upright (though it can fall forward or  backward). The rider controls it by leaning and pushing on pegs with his feet,  and there’s a hand brake. The New York Times rightly compared it to  “skiing with no legs.”

It’s presented as a hip personal mobility vehicle (“it just looks like the  future,” Hoffman said), but it’s not far from being a goofy electric unicycle.  At $5,300, it’s expensive.

It’s easier to ride than a motorcycle or scooter, but harder than a Segway,  the chief competitor. Hoffman admits it looks difficult to ride, which could  scare people away. And it’s limited to a speed of 10 mph and a 10-mile  range.

But RYNO also has an answer to each of these criticisms. Yes, it’s expensive,  but the price will “incrementally come down, year after year.” It’s cheaper than  a Segway, according to the Times. And you can sit  down instead of stand all day.

The RYNO isn’t all that difficult to ride; a 10-15 minute lesson should  suffice. It’s meant for moving around a warehouse or mingling with pedestrians,  so 10 mph is “plenty fast,” Hoffman said.

The low range is limited by current lithium ion battery technology, and  Hoffman says RYNO can get it up to 25 or 30 miles in a few years. In any case,  the battery  packs are easily removable, so customers can buy an extra set and swap a drained pair  for one that’s fully charged. (RYNO has not finalized pricing for battery packs  and other parts.)

The RYNO offers upsides that the most obvious competitor, the Segway, does  not. Riders are sitting, not standing. They’re lower to the ground, which  Hoffman says makes interactions with people easier. A policeman riding a RYNO  can be eye-level with a pedestrian, rather than looming above him. And it’s easy  to dismount for a quick transition to walking or running.

And, as I learned in a brief ride in Central Park on a freezing  afternoon, it’s unlike any other way of moving around. It’s fun and it’s  eye-catching. Even in the frigid weather, a ton of passers-by stopped to gawk,  ask questions, and take photos.

RYNO

Measured Confidence

Even if those questions are answered, this is hardly a sure thing. This RYNO  a high-tech, unusual luxury product. Yes, there will be a small set of “early  adopters” — about 1,500, Hoffman estimates — who think it’s awesome and will pay  anything to get one.

But in the long-term, it takes more customers to stay in business.

Hoffman knows this. He’s no wide-eyed inventor who believes it’s just a  matter of cranking out as many units as possible to get rich. He’s confident the  company will succeed — ignoring investors who offer less than $1 million — but  doesn’t make huge promises.

“A lot of companies, the biggest mistake they make is they think it’s gonna  be huge, and they tool up” for mass production, Hoffman said. Then, they “either  don’t get the volume,” or they blow through their capital.

RYNO’s business plan is to move forward slowly and scale carefully. Though it  has received interest from security companies and industrial customers (whose  employees move around large areas), it isn’t quite sure who its customers will  be, or what they will use it for.

The RYNO is made mostly from off-the-shelf parts, which makes production  easier. Hoffman spent 15 years as an industrial engineer in the auto industry  and 5 years in consumer products, so he’s not new to large-scale production and  sales.

Breaking Even

RYNO has raised about $2 million so far, and is looking for more investors.  It wants to break into the electric  bike market, which is especially huge in Asia.

“At minimum, you can build a nice little brick and mortar business that  breaks even in about four years, with sales numbers that are comparable to  Segway, which is not a breakout product,” Hoffman argued. And that’s his “super  conservative” prediction.

There’s no future in which everyone rides a RYNO and gives up their car or  public transportation pass. But a future in which some companies see the RYNO as  a good way for their employees to move around a warehouse, and a good number of  individuals just think it’s a cool way to ride around downtown San Francisco, is  easier to imagine.

The bottom line, Hoffman says, is “We’ve been really efficient with cash, and  gotten an awful lot done.”

So far, so good

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