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Boosted lays off ‘significant portion’ of its employees

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The electric skateboard startup has struggled, especially since Trump’s trade war

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Boosted, the company that basically created the market for electric skateboards, has laid off a “significant portion” of its roughly 130-person team amid a serious cash crunch. Boosted’s CEO Jeff Russakow and CTO John Ulmen said in a blog post on the company’s website that the “Boosted brand will continue to pursue strategic options under new ownership.”

It’s unclear exactly how many were laid off, but two people with knowledge of the layoffs tell The Verge that an overwhelming majority of Boosted’s employees were let go with one week of severance. A few customer service and operations team members are being kept on to help wind down the business, these people say.

“We understand this news will come as a surprise to many of you, but unfortunately, developing, manufacturing, and maintaining electric vehicles is highly capital-intensive, and over the last year-and-a-half our business has faced an additional unplanned challenge with the high expense of the US-China tariff war,” Russakow and Ulmen wrote.

Boosted has struggled financially since attempting to add a rugged electric scooter called the Rev to its lineup last year, as The Verge first reported in February. Russakow said at the time that Boosted was in the “fund-raising process” and was “far along in advanced talks with a new investor and current investors to finalize our next round,” and that the company “has not had any layoffs, and no layoffs are planned or pending.” What happened to those talks are unclear.

What is clear is that complaints about the company’s customer service have been piling up in recent weeks, as people have been asking the company on places like Twitter and Reddit about delayed shipments, unanswered requests, and problems with skateboards (including problems with getting repaired skateboards returned).

Boosted was founded in 2012 out of a Stanford startup incubator, and quickly launched a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. The company started shipping boards in 2014, and has released multiple new versions in the years since.

Boosted raised close to $80 million at the end of 2018. But the expense of developing and launching the Rev, as well as the company’s growth into other countries, apparently drained some of those financial resources.

The company’s financial position also took a big hit after Trump started a trade war with China. Boosted has had its boards manufactured in China since 2016, and so they got slammed by the 25 percent tariffs imposed by the president. Boosted actually applied for and was granted exclusions from the tariffs in late 2019, but the company has not yet been reimbursed, as The Verge reported last month, meaning the company is likely still out millions of dollars.

As the company sought new funding, it also lost a number of top employees, including three vice presidents and the company’s chief marketing officer within the span of two months. The company was also falling behind on payments to suppliers and vendors.

Boosted’s not the only one in the broader “micromobility” space to have struggled to survive. Fellow electric skateboard startup Inboard laid off all of its employees late last year. Los Angeles-based e-bike startup Wheels laid off a bunch of employees just last week despite taking in $100 million in funding.