BomBoard Charts New Course After the Startup Founder’s Death

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

BomBoard, a startup that has developed a smaller, cheaper, and modular version of the traditional jet ski, is seeking help to commercialize its flagship product following the death of founder John West.

West died in early August “due to an aggressive cancer,” says Anders Stubkjaer, chief financial officer of Whitewater, WI-based BomBoard, and now also its interim CEO. West, who worked as an executive and entrepreneur at the engineering technology companies Numeridex and Cimlinc before founding BomBoard in 2008, was 72 at the time of his passing.

Stubkjaer describes West as a “true innovator who can take multiple things, put them together, and create a better product. He had that intuitive market feel for what would work.”

Now Stubkjaer says he’s looking for an individual or team that can come in and bring the BomBoard to market, an effort that has been years in the making.

“At this stage, we’re really now looking for someone to buy the company and take it over,” Stubkjaer says. “Ideally, I think it would be somebody who already has some manufacturing experience, like the power sports companies,” or businesses that sell larger boats, he says.

Over the years, leading jet ski makers like Sea-Doo, Kawasaki, and Yamaha have made their watercraft bigger, heavier, and more expensive, West told my colleague Jeff Engel in 2014. Where these companies zigged, BomBoard sought to zag, designing a machine that’s cheaper, smaller, and lighter (though slightly less powerful) than the competition, West said.

Stubkjaer says that BomBoard has brought in more than $2 million in outside financing during the nine years it has been operating, and has been issued three patents. The funding total includes the more than $85,000 BomBoard raised in a 2015 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

BomBoard has mostly been dormant since mid-2016, Stubkjaer says. If someone came along who was considering acquiring the company or making a sizeable investment, some of the people who previously worked in sales and marketing at BomBoard could return and “help out on a part-time basis,” says Stubkjaer. But the immediate next step is to get the BomBoard into production, he says.

Stubkjaer says he also currently serves as chief financial officer and chief operating officer at Chicago Finance Center. It’s unlikely that he’ll lead BomBoard’s day-to-day operations going forward, he says.

The startup’s website encourages visitors to sign up for updates on the BomBoard becoming available for purchase (sticker price is $3,995). However, Stubkjaer says there are some pieces that need to be put into place before the company makes its first sale.

“John was the guy who really understood all of the intricacies of the production and what it was going to take to get the development done,” Stubkjaer says. “A buyer would have to get somebody in who can be that kind of person, who can manage the engineering process to get it through” to commercialization, he adds.

West said previously that he designed the BomBoard with members of the millennial generation and other young consumers in mind. The machine is a little over seven feet long and weighs about 165 pounds, making it significantly lighter than many of the jet ski models sold today. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of BomBoard is that it can be dismantled into four modules and transported to the water from wherever the owner stores it without the need for a trailer.

The ability of BomBoard to be disassembled and put back together—which can be done in less than 60 seconds, the company says—also means it takes up less space in one’s home. West believed this would make the product popular with young professionals today, who are said to prefer living in large urban centers more than members of past generations.

“John said, ‘If I can make it something that they can store in their downtown condo and make it affordable, yeah, there’s a huge market for that,’” Stubkjaer says.

Sea-Doo also appears to believe that a smaller, less expensive jet ski could be a hit with water sports enthusiasts. Its Spark model has a base price of $5,399, and the company says it’s light enough for many compact sedans to tow. (The Sea-Doo Spark does not come apart like the BomBoard does, so an owner would still need a trailer to transport it.) For comparison, three of the four other models listed on Sea-Doo’s website cost $12,000 and up.

West had sought to sell BomBoard’s machines under a direct-to-consumer business model, Stubkjaer says. In theory, eschewing dealership networks would be a way to cut out the middle man and keep the price of the BomBoard as low as possible. Stubkjaer says that if he’s successful in finding a buyer, it would be up to that party whether to continue with the direct sales approach, or to change course.

“We still think that’s the right strategy, but not everybody in the industry thinks so,” Stubkjaer says. “If somebody takes over [the company], they could choose to say, ‘Okay, we’re going to sell through dealers instead of direct,’ for example. That would be up to them.”

Stubkjaer says he’d be happy to help get an acquirer up to speed on what it will take to commercialize BomBoard’s compact jet ski.

“I certainly would help with the transition, if I needed to be involved part-time,” he says. “I’d love to do that. But that would be up to the buyer to decide on what they’d like to do.”