Pure Watercraft raises $23.4M to power increased interest in boating with its electric outboard motor – GeekWire

Pure Watercraft raises $23.4M to power increased interest in boating with its electric outboard motor – GeekWire

Pure Watercraft raises $23.4M to power increased interest in boating with its electric outboard motor – GeekWire

Pure Watercraft founder and CEO Andy Rebele during a boat ride in Seattle powered by one of his electric outboard motors. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Just after pulling away from the waterfront headquarters for Pure Watercraft in Seattle, CEO Andy Rebele was greeted by a wave and a shout from a man who had just emerged from a Lake Union houseboat.

“Is that boat electric?” the man asked from the dock as we quietly motored past, with Pure’s signature electric outboard doing the work. Rebele nodded his head.

“Sweet!” the man shouted back.

Pure Watercraft is making considerably more noise today, at least as far as the recreational boating scene is concerned, as the 9-year-old startup announced a Series A funding round of $23.4 million. The cash infusion was led by L37 Ventures, a San Francisco venture capital firm, and will help Pure scale its operations and move from beta testing to general availability of its electric outboard system.

When asked whether this is the motor to power boating of “the future,” Rebele, the tech veteran and Pure founder, called that term a pet peeve.

“I’d rather tomorrow become today,” Rebele said. “Can we do this today. I’m not getting any younger!”

A Pure Watercraft engine as seen on the back of a rigid inflatable. (Pure Watercraft Photo)

Seizing on today will get Pure’s technology in front of an increased wave of new boating enthusiasts. The company says approximately 142 million people use boats in the United States, up 35% in the last decade, and one in eight U.S. households owns a powerboat. The coronavirus pandemic has only spurred demand as people look for an alternative to travel and embrace close-to-home recreation.

“America has all collectively discovered this thing,” Rebele said. “We have boating in its biggest boom time that it has seen in generations. The average age of a boat buyer is declining now for the first time in decades. And the proportion of first time buyers is higher than it’s been in decades. So this is a really big change in the boat market.”

Pure Watercraft thinks that market is ripe for a disrupting element, a battery-powered engine that is quieter and more environmentally friendly than traditional gas-powered outboard motors.

(Pure Watercraft Photo)

The company will sell one size of motor — “the Model T approach,” Rebele calls it. The system is designed to replace an outboard of 40 horsepower equivalent. That system includes a 105-pound motor ($6,000), 115-pound lithium ion battery ($8,500) and charger ($2,000). All components were purposely designed to fit within the weight limits of what can be shipped by UPS.

The company is also selling complete electric boat packages, priced from $24,000 to $32,000, partnering with such boat makers as Highfield Boats, makers of rigid inflatables. The selection includes pontoon boats and coaching launches, used by rowing and sailing teams.

Amazon Worldwide Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke is an investor, and Rebele called his perspective particularly insightful in relation to environmental concerns and the way people shop. And he called Wilke a “total materials person.”

“I expected when he came out in the boat to hear lots of questions about shipping and ‘can we warehouse them at Amazon?’” Rebele said. “And instead he asked me about the materials properties of metals that have been 3D printed and whether they would still be appropriate for structural parts.”

During a quick trip on Lake Union last week, GeekWire experienced the motor’s functionality on a Tracker Pro Team fishing boat. The quiet seems ideal for fishing and was reminiscent of the early days of the Toyota Prius, when you’d be surprised to learn one of the nearby electric cars was actually running.

Rebele joked that a nightmare from his childhood was fishing with his dad, who was always struggling with the pull cord to start the gas-powered motor.

“Oh my god! Dad’s mad about the outboard!” he remembered.

The hum of the Pure picked up a bit during our test ride when Rebele opened things up and we quickly zipped across the lake at 24 mph.

“I’m smiling under this mask!” Rebele said during the ride.

Rebele said the first production units, which have been available for pre-order for years, will be out in the first part of 2021, in time for boating season. The plan is to further build out Pure Watercraft’s Seattle manufacturing facility, growing the direct-to-customer field installation and support team, and hiring for key engineering, sales and marketing, and manufacturing roles. Pure Watercraft currently employs 30.

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