Smart helmet startup with global ambition raises $6m

Brandon How

Sydney-based motorcycle technology company Forcite has raised almost $6 million in its latest funding round, money that will be used to fuel global expansion.

Founded in 2013, the firm has delivered almost 1,400 smart helmets across Australia and maintains a waiting list of more than 13,000 people. About half of this demand is domestic, with the rest offshore, including about 21 per cent coming from the United States. The Forcite Mark One helmet was brought to market in a mass producible form in 2020.

During their most recent funding round, led by early-stage commercialisation fund Uniseed, Forcite raised $4.6 million in exchange for preference shares. Following this, the firm opened their shares to retail investors using equity crowdfunding website equitise. Closing on February 15, the round has already raised over $965,000 from more than 350 customers, of which 6 per cent will be paid to Equitise.

Forcite helmet’s raises money for an offshore expansion

Forcite chief executive officer Alfred Boyadgis said the idea behind the company came after he experienced a motorcycle crash, in which the integrity of his helmet was breached by a bolted-on camera mount.

As such, the Mark One helmet includes an in-built camera and speakers, as well as a proprietary LED notification system which alerts the rider to oncoming road hazards. This connects to a backend system through your phone’s 4G network which calculates the appropriate situations for the rider to be alerted to. The product also comes with a control panel that can be mounted to the motorcycle.

Mr Boyadgis said that much of the capital raised will go into expanding the company’s productive capacity.

“There’s a new model of the helmet coming out, the MK1S. So this capital will go predominantly into inventory to help us supply the demand here in Australia and New Zealand. After that, we’ll be launching into Europe and the United States online, but that’d be more towards the end of the year,” Mr Boyadgis said.

“At the end of 2023 we’ll be launching the Mark Two. The Mark Two product is not only a helmet it has an on-bike feature that I can’t really talk about but that will include some really cool features around the camera that could include computer vision elements.

“Right now, we’re [a team of] about 20 people, towards the end of the year that will be around the 80-to-100-person mark. We have about 100 to 200 square metres in Sydney, but at the end of the year we’ll be moving to a much larger facility that’s about 700 square meters.”

The firm’s excess demand has been driven in part by its habit for working closely with the motorcycle community to tailor its technology to suit them.

Although consultation during development of Forcite’s products began with their local motorcycle community, it was soon taken online. At its peak, the Forcite Test-Pilots Facebook group swelled to 14,000 members.

“Getting out and inside the community, meeting people, going to ride days, and just listening to what people want was really 80 per cent of the work leading up to the actual product. The product design itself was self-explanatory after talking to all those people about what exactly they wanted,” Mr Boyadgis said.

In 2018, Mr Boyadgis and co-founder Julian Chow were part of the first cohort to participate in the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Founders 10X accelerator program.

Following this they were able to pitch to Uniseed, which helps produce commercial spin-offs of research at UNSW and CSIRO as well as at The University of Sydney, of Queensland, and of 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 activity.

According to Mr Boyadgis, the global motorcycle helmet industry has an estimated value of around $2.7 billion and growing.

Uniseed investment manager Natasha Rawlings said Forcite was well positioned to capitalise on this expanding market.

“Forcite has positioned itself as a market leader in the motorcycle technology industry with a rapidly growing and loyal customer base. We strongly believe in Forcite’s strategy of providing category defining products and a community centred approach to business,” Ms Rawlings said.

“They are thinking well beyond the motorcycle helmet category and have the support of the motoring industry to go there.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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