How did you come up with the idea for the business?
The founding team members of LEVEL (Assaf Friedman and I) are both bluewater cruising sailors. We clocked tens of thousands of miles between the two of us, all on slow pace cruising sailing yachts. During our voyages, we were very familiar with the idea of a self-sustained live-off-the-ocean lifestyle, with a large emphasis on reducing our footprint to the bare minimum.
In 2015, whilst cruising the Caribbean, I recognized hydrofoil surfboards were popping up all over the place. The notion that foiling technology will enable modality for sustainable mobility on the water with uncompromised performance struck me quite quickly.
Why does the industry need the solution you're providing?
We spent a great deal of effort thinking about the right avenue through which we could introduce foiling technology to the maritime industry, whilst also making a significant impact and promptly. The decarbonization of goods and passenger-carrying vessels would have had the most profound effect. However, large electric foiling commercial vessels are expensive and complex, and it will take decades before they become ubiquitous or even economically viable.
Accordingly, we chose the leisure industry with a unique twist. We are the first company in the world to introduce a self-stabilizing efoil, which is arguably the least complex type of personal motorized watercraft. We aim for our products to serve as a porthole for millions of people to experience ultra-efficient, accessible glide. This in turn leaves the user with a deep-seated emotional belief that marine mobility can be sustainable without compromising the experience.
What have you enjoyed most about starting your own company?
Without a doubt, the most enjoyable aspect has been seeing the vision materialize. In the beginning, when we started tackling all the various challenges that an innovation-oriented start-up can throw at you, there were very few industry references we could use to demonstrate what our idea was all about.
The vast majority of professionals we talked to, from academics to investors, either could not understand the concepts presented or, worst - came up with (compelling) reasons why it could not work. It made us think very critically about our business journey and our pre-assumptions. When things started to work out (first autonomous flight, first keen customer), the sensation of achievement against the odds and experts' proclamations, could not have been sweeter.
What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?
Building the first successful MVP was a big one. Within our current product line - a self-stabilizing e-foil surfboard - our product essentially boils down to a feeling, a sensation. Hovering effortlessly over the water can be hard to describe in a worldly manner through a Pitch Deck.
In order for an e-foil to self-balance itself, regardless of the passenger on board or their personal abilities, many technological components must work in perfect orchestration. One wrong note and the thing comes crashing down to the water. In the early days, finding the right team and funding, all the while not having a functional prototype at hand, was definitely challenging.
Any bits of advice for entrepreneurs getting started in this space?
The entrepreneurial journey is ever-evolving. It is like riding a roller coaster blindfolded - you can never know when and where the next twist will come from. Keep an open mind because new ideas and opportunities WILL present themselves. Also, collaborate! with your own team, with your local community, and with the industry you are in.
What's the plan for the future of the business? Where do you see the company in 3-5 years?
We are about to enter the market with our first product offering - a Personal Foiling Watercraft, made for everyone. In the next three years, we aim to expand to a global scale and offer the experience of hovering over the water to anyone at any LEVEL. After we establish ourselves in the PWC segment, we hope to be able to manifest the foiling technology to other marine segments. Exciting times are ahead!