How Chris Zahner Turned a White Lie into an E-Bike Company

Fort Worth-dependent Zooz Bikes is the 1st enterprise to give the e-bicycle industry a little something it had by no means seen—a bike-style seat on a BMX bike frame. Previous yr, Zooz fulfilled 1,200 preorders for the very first iteration of its $2,600 e-bike. Now, with a patent for its layout in hand, Zahner expects to offer an additional 3,000 to 5,000 in 2022. 

And it all begun with a disdain for website traffic and a little white lie. 

Just one of a Type Just after a long process, Zooz Bikes earned a patent on its proprietary design and style in 2021.

Increasing up in New York, Chris Zahner’s birthday and holiday want lists ended up crammed with hammers, hacksaws, and Home Depot visits. He beloved motors, cherished wheels, and beloved heading speedy. But he needed to do it on his phrases, not someone else’s. If it had two wheels, Zahner would create his personal iteration. 

Quick ahead to the close of 2016, contemporary off a occupation in motor movie creation, Zahner moved into an apartment in Chicago and rented a workshop garage 2.1 miles from his abode. He speedily realized that it was also much away. “It’s a a great deal diverse site visitors than what we have in Texas,” he claims. “It would get me up to 45 minutes to go that 2.1 miles.”

Zahner could not zip by the congested streets, irrespective of whether by vehicle or motorcycle. “I necessary some thing that did not adhere to the site visitors laws,” he claims. 

By the summer time of 2017, he was completely fed up. He preferred anything faster than a traditional bike but not as clunky as a motorcycle. And it wanted to be a head-turner. “I needed some thing evocative,” he says. “Some see vehicles as a useful purchase other folks see it as a vogue assertion. It’s the exact detail when deciding upon a bike. All the other selections I discovered have been fairly lame … and I realized there could be something so significantly cooler.”

Highway Warriors Co-founders, from remaining: Pete Kelly, Chris Zahner, Michael Baker, and James Milam.

Getting a bike junkie, Zahner didn’t have bicycle elements lying close to in his garage. “With 98 per cent of bikes in the earth created in China, I went on [e-commerce wholesaler] Alibaba to resource the initially components,” he says. “I essentially lied and stated, ‘We’re a new bicycle business coming to marketplace. Could you mail us some sample areas?’” Plenty of sections for several iterations before long arrived on his doorstep. 

Even though Zahner, a Florence Layout Academy grad, was just seeking to uncover an simpler way to transfer all around the city, he quickly realized he could put some real truth guiding his white lie. Immediately after finalizing a prototype—featuring a motorbike-fashion seat on a BMX bicycle frame—Zahner took the e-bike out for a spin in an alleyway. “Within the initially 50 toes of riding it, I realized this detail was interesting,” Zahner recounts. “Any topographical terrain in Chicago became an possibility for fun.” 

A handful of Instagram posts later, Zahner caught the eye of fellow gearhead Pete Kelly, who, at the time, was top style and design at headphones corporation Skullcandy. The two linked at the 2018 Moto GP Environment Championship of Bike Racing in Austin—where they had loosely crossed paths a yr prior—and Kelly expressed his passion for Zahner’s development.

There, the first funding for Zooz Bikes arrived in the type of a $2,500 verify from Kelly. “At the time, I had by no means deemed using an e-bicycle,” Kelly explained to D CEO. “But I could not consider how it just took me. Mechanical design and geometry came to Chris normally, but I observed an cheap project that we could take a look at by constructing a few for pals. From that working day to now, we haven’t stopped.”

By July 2018, a spit handshake solidified the partnership, and prior to long, Kelly and Zahner recruited two far more co-founders: Michael Baker, the operator of a Royal Enfield franchise in Fort Well worth, and James Milam, the founder of Know Headphones, who arrived aboard as COO. Baker available up his shop as a area-holding HQ, and Zahner remaining the Windy City and moved to Cowtown.

A crowdfund effort and hard work adopted, but the workforce never ever met its original funding purpose. “The way it came across was as an incomplete idea that probably won’t go everywhere,” Kelly admits. “We ran out of funds several times, but we just saved pushing. We got a lot of fascination on social media and experienced loads of individuals exhibiting support, so we caught with it.” 

A quarter of a million raised in 2019 and 2020 was adequate to get Zooz off the floor. But just after scheduling a presale for January 2020, COVID-19 spiked in China—where the companions had off-shored output. “After debating if we ought to postpone, we made the decision to say, ‘F*ck that,’ and we went for it,” Zahner suggests.

Less than two yrs right after the preorder went stay, Zooz fulfilled all 1,200 sales of the e-bicycle. And alternatively than becoming a drag on business, the pandemic sparked demand from customers.

Go through Much more: The Electric Reshuffle 

The e-bicycle sector is just one of the couple industries that seasoned advancement in spite of COVID and ongoing provide chain concerns. “It has been a terrible detail the globe has had to endure, but on a macro-level, the e-bike market financially benefited from the pandemic,” Zahner says. “And on a micro-degree, this created a big slipstream for us that we could hardly ever have anticipated.”

In accordance to the World Financial Discussion board, profits of electrical bikes in the United States grew by 145 percent in 2020 in contrast to 2019. And by 2028, the vertical is expected to balloon from an $18.6 billion sector to a $52.3 billion marketplace. “We’re prepared to keep on the roller coaster trip,” Zahner claims.

This calendar year, Zooz is setting up far more products and will get the job done to safe seed funding. It also designed a board of advisers and designs to expand leadership, starting off with a chief promoting officer. Zahner believes earnings will additional than double in 2022 and that the company’s valuation will be between $4 and $10 million by year’s conclude.

“This is just the suggestion of the iceberg,” he suggests. “We count on to be an evergreen solution.”  


Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger is the assistant editor for D CEO, the enterprise title for D Magazine. Ben manages the Dallas 500

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