Charlotte, NC

Charlotte EV Startup To Pitch at DIG SOUTH Conference in South Carolina

Shannon Cuthrell

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Shandoka's MN8 Ninja electric motorcycle build.Shandoka Electric Motorcycles

Charlotte-based Shandoka Electric Motorcycles is set to present its electric motorcycle converter concept to an audience of entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders at this Friday's DIG SOUTH Wild Pitch competition in Charleston, South Carolina.

Shandoka CEO and Founder Ernest Eich will take the stage to present his company's value proposition in the electric motorcycle market. His modular conversion system transforms traditional ICE (internal combustion engine) motorcycles into electric-powered vehicles—an appeal for motorcycle owners looking to retrofit their vehicles with more modern technologies. The company's patent-pending electric cycle conversion system allows customers to keep their motorcycles updated with the latest EV technologies, from solid-state batteries to liquid-cooled systems to solar power generation.

Shandoka is one of 21 startups selected for the pitch contest, held on the last day of this week's three-day DIG SOUTH Tech Summit at the College of Charleston. The finalists span 11 cities and four states, including five other companies from North Carolina: Durham-based PeoplelogicAI, Raleigh's BlueRecruit and Incolo, and Wilmington's Electronic Lab Logs and Phinfarma.

On Friday morning, the finalists will present short pitches to a panel of judges, including Oracle for Startups Vice President Jason Williamson, Revolution Ventures Associate Osman Nur and South Carolina Research Authority Executive Director Bob Quinn. The winner will receive $10,000 in cloud credits from Oracle for Startups, while the runner-up will get a $5,000 sponsorship package to next year's summit.

DIG SOUTH Founder and CEO Stanfield Gray says slightly more than 400 attendees are registered for Wild Pitch. The program is a smaller component of the full tech summit, which was intentionally scaled down from its usual turnout of over 2,000 attendees and participation from hundreds of companies.

Gray says he received about 50 startup applications for this year's Wild Pitch. A private committee of advisors and investors reviewed applications and selected winners based on factors such as scalability, market traction and revenue growth, as well as regional diversity across the Southeast states.

"Shandoka stood out as a highly innovative company holding several unique patents, in addition to the grit and resilience of founder Ernest Eich," Gray said. "He is highly focused and determined."

Eich officially started the company in 2018, but the initial idea for his electric motorcycle invention dates back to 2010. He says his greatest challenge so far has been "to keep [the] concept secret long enough to protect the intellectual property with patent filings, while still telling enough of the story to grow a team and build interest among potential investors and buyers."

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Shandoka's electric motorcycle adapter assembled on the skeleton of a Yamaha XS400.Shandoka Electric Motorcycles

Eich has self-funded the startup since it launched, but he hopes to draw early investors through a new crowdfunding campaign on Wunderfund. Placing Shandoka at a post-money valuation of $10 million, the offering targets $25,000 to $250,000 in new capital to support the company's commercialization goals. It follows the Simple Agreement for Future Equity model, in which investors are granted future equity shares in the company.

In a fundraising timeline, Eich outlined plans to complete retrofit motorcycles for demo rides this September, after which he'll begin offering private moped sales and small fleets in certain states. By the end of this year, he plans to begin factory retrofit work on the first 12 private sales. In mid-2022, the company will begin building the adapter systems through artificial intelligence-powered welding, with a minimum production capacity of one system per day. Shandoka will then begin fabricating new mopeds and compact motorcycles in the third quarter of 2022, and by 2024, it will start planning international production locations to serve regional demand.

The crowdfunding campaign has only raised $100 as of late July, but Eich still says the company is gaining attention from potential supporters.

"We have received a lot of interest since our soft launch of the campaign last month," he says. "This event at DIG SOUTH was intended to be a larger launch for the campaign and the beginning of our direct efforts to bring attention to the investment opportunity."

Shandoka has nine employees spread virtually nationwide and in Canada and Germany, along with several contractors assisting on engineering until Eich builds an in-house team. He expects to hire at least 10 more employees next year.

"Our projections are to begin fabricating my patent-pending adapter systems in Charlotte and will hire people from skilled fabricators to marketing and sales development teams, [along with] the management required to make it happen," Eich says.

Eich is currently a part of Packard Place's startup fellowship program, running out of its downtown Charlotte coworking space. He also participated in the spring 2018 cohort of UNC Charlotte's Ventureprise Launch NC IDEA program, where he learned how to identify potential customers and create a product that meets their needs.

Friday won't be Eich's first time presenting his company at a DIG SOUTH event. He previously pitched in DIG SOUTH's virtual Wild Pitch Wednesday series last October, when he was still a solopreneur without a team. He now feels that Shandoka is "in an even stronger position than ever."

"I will be pitching and doing my best to convey the strengths of my team and our entire business proposition in only four minutes," Eich added.

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Shannon Cuthrell is a Charlotte-based freelance journalist with a background covering business, technology and economic development. She has written for Business North Carolina magazine, WRAL TechWire and EE Power, among other publications.

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