A chance meeting in California connected a Holdrege, Nebraska, entrepreneur with an innovator from China. The result is a battery-powered, portable adult electric scooter that is catching on among urban commuters worldwide.
Two of the partners in Probity Cell, LLC, are Robert McCormick of Holdrege, Nebraska, and Jeff Kong, who now lives in Chicago but grew up in Shanghai. The two first met while waiting for a meeting in Santa Monica, California. They were both working on solar energy projects and immediately hit it off.
“He speaks perfect English, and I assumed he was just a California kid of Asian descent,” McCormick said. “Then his cell phone rang, and he was speaking fluent Chinese.”
McCormick is a member of the Nebraska Diplomats, an economic development organization made up of business leaders across the state.
“When I got back from California, there was a flyer from the Diplomats waiting on my desk about a reverse trade mission,” McCormick said. “The concept was to invite business representatives from foreign countries to visit and consider doing business in Nebraska.”
A China-Nebraska brainstorming session
At McCormick’s invitation, Kong attended the reverse trade mission in September 2011. The two spent 3 or 4 days touring Nebraska and discussing ideas. About a year later, McCormick spent two weeks in China touring lithium ion battery production facilities with Kong and discussing possible applications in transportation.
“Very quickly, we landed on the idea of portable transportation,” McCormick said. “We’re not Elon Musk, we can’t create a car. But maybe we can use battery power to create a portable transportation device that can transport you, and you can easily transport it.”
They decided to use a kid’s scooter as a model for the best platform.
“Like anything, we thought we could crank it out in a couple of months,” McCormick said. “But hardware is hard!”
Breaking the project into phases, they decided to start with a solid adult electric scooter and leave the “portable” aspect until later. Their successful Kickstarter campaign sold scooters around the world and allowed them to begin work on a portable model.
An electric scooter you can tote
According to a press release, the Glion Dolly Electric Scooter combines the power of an adult electric scooter, the simple look of a kids kick scooter, and the portability of a small roller bag suitcase.
“Our patent-pending innovation greatly improves portability while keeping the same driving experience of a practical adult electric scooter,” Kong said.
One appealing aspect of the scooter for McCormick is the small carbon footprint.
“The Glion Dolly is a personal electric vehicle that can travel cleanly and quietly 500 miles for about $1 worth of electricity,” he said.
It can reach a speed of 15 miles per hour with a range of about 15 miles per charge.
Their second Kickstarter campaign continues through September 1 and offers a $150 discount from the expected retail price of $699 for pre-orders placed during the campaign.
“Our goal was $40,000, and we’re already at $45,000,” McCormick said.
“Kickstarter campaigns are a curious thing,” McCormick said. “A very significant percentage of the backers in our second campaign are people that participated in the first campaign. They like what they got and they want more.”
So why is McCormick in Holdrege, a community of about 5,500 in south-central Nebraska?
“It’s for the reasons you would expect,” McCormick said. “We have twin daughters, my mother moved back here from Minnesota, and I have lunch with my 98-year-old grandmother every Tuesday.”
“The disadvantage here is the lack of local customers,” McCormick said. “But electronic marketing creates some interesting opportunities to broaden the reach. We sold scooters all over the world during our first campaign.”
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.