Bay of Plenty-based electric off-road bike maker Ubco has begun assembling, testing and shipping its first production models to meet pre-order and dealer demand in New Zealand and Australia.
The award-winning startup, which was co-founded by Whakatane-based Antony Clyde and his partner Daryl Neal in Wellington, is also seeking $1.5 million to $2.5 million in second stage funding from the Bay's early stage funding group Enterprise Angels.
The bikes were designed and developed by the founders in partnership with Tauranga industrial design and development company Locus Research, with core components built in China and assembled in Tauranga.
"The final production model is much higher performance, the finish is much better and we've got about 50 per cent more torque," said Locus managing director Timothy Allan.
Ubco has taken delivery of 150 bikes initially and has recruited former BMW mechanic Gareth Hill to supervise production. The company has subcontracted ZTR Mowers in Tauranga for the initial assembly of the bikes, which come in three basic parts - frame, wheels and battery pack.
"We have about 15 dealers appointed provisionally in New Zealand," said Mr Allan. "As soon as people have their pre-orders and the bikes are out there and available to try, that will really move things along."
Mr Clyde, who returned on Sunday from a visit with Darryl Neal to Chinese supply chain partners, said the production bikes were being rigorously tested before going out to customers.
"We loaded the bikes up and really thrashed them at TECT Park," he said. "They're rated at 200kg. They weren't rated to drive across a motocross park fully loaded - but they did. Customers are really loving them."
Enterprise Angels executive director Bill Murphy said the initial response to Ubco's pitch at last month's meeting had been positive, with 25 members expressing interest. The group was currently doing due diligence on Ubco, he said. Funds were likely to come from a mix of members, matching funding from Seed Capital Investment Fund and the angel group's sidecar fund, as well as other wealthy private investors and regional funds.
"It's a very accessible deal," said Mr Murphy. "They bring the bike to meetings and potential investors can see it and touch it. The product development side is really strong. They've done a great job of that."
The company initially focused on the farm bike sector as the best way to secure early sales. However, Mr Allan said there were a number of other interesting applications opening up, including potential tour guiding opportunities, which could leverage the bike's silent running. And there was huge potential in developing an on-road version, which was planned for later in the year.
* Ubco was admitted in December 2015 to Focus 700, a targeted group of New Zealand companies that receive export development support from NZTE.