Leave it to the Swedes to attempt to deconstruct the way the business of boating is done. In a culture marked by efficiency and modernity, a boat company that builds modular, electric boats from cork and recycled plastic, sells those boats online to tech entrepreneurs, and can control all of their systems remotely from its Stockholm headquarters was inevitable. That builder is X Shore, and its products could mark a sea change at the elemental core of the boating industry.
Currently, X Shore’s main offering is the Eelex 8000, a 26-footer that, at the time of this writing, is on a European road show, with an American version planned for later this year. The boat stands out for a few reasons. The 8000 has a 225-kW Brusa electric motor and twin lithium-ion Kriesel batteries that can charge in either a five- to eight-hour span, or in less than two hours with a supercharger. And it’s fast, with a top end of 35 knots and real-deal acceleration thanks to loads of torque. Modular furniture throughout keeps the layouts fresh, and X Shore opted for cork over teak, for sustainability, grip and for its versatility. “Teak gets hot in the Florida sun and cold in Scandinavia,” says Jenny Keisu, X Shore’s CEO, “Plus, it won’t stain if you spill red wine on it,” she adds with a chuckle.
It’s clear that the builder has an interesting product to offer (base price: $329,000), but it’s the manner in which it’s being offered that is the real story. X Shore is taking its cues from the auto industry, which is increasingly shifting to an online sales model — an approach that was no doubt catalyzed by stay-at-home orders during the pandemic.
“We look strongly at what the customer needs, and take a lot of inspiration from other industries,” says Oscar Dieden, X Shore’s chief digital officer. “Consumers are moving online even in more traditional industries. Usually the car industry leads the way and the boat industry follows — we look to Volkswagen and Tesla in particular; both have strong business models.”
The X Shore website has an uncluttered and straightforward interface. A prospective owner simply flips through pages on the site, customizing the exterior colors and interior layouts, and adding technological bells and whistles. Buying a boat there seems more akin to going to the J.Crew website to buy a suit for a summer wedding than it does to making the slog to a boat show and elbowing through a crowd to see a yacht you may or may not become smitten with.
However, the buying process isn’t made too easy. There’s no “add-to-cart” button or credit-card information solicited, so no one is going to wake up one morning after too many glasses of Sancerre with a new boat sitting unexpectedly in their driveway. Instead, an X Shore sales representative reaches out after a tentative order is placed to walk the customer through the buying process much the way a traditional dealer would.
“Everybody should have the opportunity to buy the boats they want,” Dieden says. “The online model helps us reach more consumers and reach them on their terms.”
But who are these customers that are bold enough to purchase such a big-ticket item online? Some, to be sure, are clients looking for a dayboat or tender. But X Shore has identified another key demographic that it’s actively pursuing: the tech-forward, affluent professional. “We target these high-tech, ecologically minded clients,” Keisu says. “That’s our reason to be.”
But the customer Keisu describes is not the typical boater in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s someone who may be attracted to the Eelex 8000 for its role as an arrow in the quiver, so to speak. If you live inside your smartphone, drive a Tesla, own NFTs, and are long on cryptocurrency, the X Shore may be your next collectible. Consider it an on-water virtue signal.
To that end, X Shore has outfitted its boat with tech-forward gadgetry that makes it suitable for that market. Key to using the 8000 is its 24-inch Garmin display, which keeps clear (and large) tabs on range, battery charging status, music sound and volume, lights and more. Everything a new boater would need to know about his boat is on the MFD.
“The screen helps us bring in a lot of people who may be new to boating,” Dieden says. “It’s such a clean interface. There are no buttons, literally, anywhere on the boat. And instead of adding a bunch of features, we tried to simplify it and scale things back a bit. The design you see on board the Eelex is a typically Swedish one.”
Marcus Jungell, X Shore’s head of sales, expounds further. “Our product and sales pitch is well-suited to the high-tech audience,” he says. “We have our own proprietary software where we have this seamless experience where the boat is always connected to us.” What he means is that X Shore vessels can literally be turned on and off from Stockholm, and are virtually impossible to steal thanks to geofencing. For better or for worse, someone’s always watching your boat.
Tech upgrades to the X Shore also operate much like a smartphone. “The boat’s constantly connected,” Keisu says, “so if there is an update, we can just push it out automatically.” One update that makes the X Shore even more accessible to new boaters is the ability to auto-dock, which the company says will be available by the end of the year. The builder views its self-docking feature as an enormously effective way to tamp down the barrier of entry, thus creating more potential clients.
An optional Garmin smartwatch further aids ease-of-use by functioning as a key. The watch also has a built-in automatic kill switch in case of a man-overboard situation. Prospective owners will just have to make room for it on their wrists right next to their Apple watches.
X Shore says it has multiple clients in the tech world awaiting delivery of boats. One potential buyer I spoke to did lend insight into the mind of a tech-forward young professional in the market for a first boat.
Peter Chen, 35, is a fintech investor with degrees from Dartmouth College and the University of Chicago. He runs his investment vehicle, the Building Block Group, out of his hometown of Greenwich, Conn., a wealthy, waterside enclave dubbed “Upper Hedgistan” by New York magazine, as it is home to about 100 hedge funds and other savvy financial shops. Chen likes the X Shore because it reminds him of his Tesla.
“I’ve wanted a boat for a while, and after this latest crypto bull cycle, it’s something I can afford now. And I really like the idea of an electric boat because it’s so cool and cutting edge. I think it’s something a lot of tech bros would be interested in, especially because everybody wants to look like they care about the environment these days.”
When told that the X Shore road show would soon be swinging from Florida up to his neck of the woods, a thoughtful look spread across Chen’s face: “I wonder if they take crypto?”
This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue.