The Curious Capitalist – Konrad Bergström (X Shore)

On this episode of The Curious Capitalist, Glen McDermott the Executive Director of Conscious Capitalism Connecticut and CEO of Red Rock Branding speaks to Swedish businessman Konrad Bergström.

Join us as we learn more about Konrad’s impressive work history and his current project X Shore electric boats. Come and learn more about The Power of Silence.

Konrad Bergström LinkedIn

Konrad Bergström Website


Welcome to the latest installment of The Curious Capitalist, brought to you by the Board of Conscious Capitalism in Connecticut. The Curious Capitalist is a series of podcasts where we take the opportunity to not only speak, To board members from the Conscious Capitalism Connecticut chapter, but also to business owners, startups, and entrepreneurs.

The Curious Capitalist is available on all of the world's biggest podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Spotify. Never miss an episode again and subscribe today wherever you get your podcast. On this episode of The Curious Capitalist, I am joined by Red Rock Branding, c e o and Conscious Capitalism Kinetica, executive Director Glenn McDermott.

And we are both super excited to have Conrad Bergstrom as our special guest on the show today. Conrad is the founder of Etho and both Glen and I are really genuinely excited to find out more about this Swedish company's range of electric boat. And more so what the future of maritime technology is gonna look like.

So Glenn and Conrad, welcome to the Curious Capitalist.

Thanks for the setup. Claire. I'm thrilled to be here with Conrad, who's well known leader globally, the founder of Beorn, and I'm really excited to hear a little bit more about you, Conrad, and how you came to be in this position in leadership in this very unique, sustainable boating industry.

Thank you. I'm so glad to

be. So tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to be in this position, Conrad, apart from the, the Viking credentials that you're well known

for. My grandma is from a fisherman's family and my grandpa is from a Sea's family, so I always felt very close to the ocean and I've been lucky to live close to it all my life.

So when I grew up, I started, you know, fish a lot and, and then continue to have a lot of fun. In the water. So it was a lot of water sports, you know, windsurfing, kite surfing, wakeboarding and wave surfing. And back when I was like in my thirties and actually doing these headphones and speakers, when I turned Marshall into like a commercial brand, which I'm also the founder of, I could see the sea change.

You know, it wasn't easy to get fish. I saw dead animals when I was surfing and it was kind of scary. So, I made some cash with a Marshall set up or Sound Industries. They have a Marshall, Adidas and Urban Ears and we did like bottle mine and, and Mark Jacobs and whatnot. But we sold 20 million products in hundred countries in the first 10 years when I was there.

So it was a huge success. So with that money that I got off with, I wanted to do something. And my old dream making boats came through. So it was an old idea. You know, I trademarked the brand already in 1996 and, um, the technology wasn't there. But I could see the energy efficiency. I could visualize the being on the water, which is the coolest place on the earth for me, without noise and fumes would just be an in incredible experience.

And it was. So 2016, I managed to get the first p. Into the water. And I remember I actually have it on film when I'm like driving it and people are looking at it and now that doesn't sound anything. And I'm like, yeah, it's like a Tesla. You know? The boat didn't go more than like 400 meters, but the experience was just incredible.

Being on the water without noise and fumes, and it was like sailing without wind. I'm like, I have to go fall in on.

How does that work, Conrad? So you have this idea you wanna make an electric boat, what do you do? You're obviously very successful in what you do. Whose door do you knock on? So, excuse me. I'd like to, I'd like to build an electric boat.

How did that happen? How is it conceived? I

guess I, I'm not sure it was a door. It was more like knocking on the head like, hello? Let's do this. I think in the beginning of the products, you shouldn't knock on too many doors. You need to work it out and then you can move quicker. So, uh, you know, there is always like different timings for different, when you need investment or you, you need a team or, and stuff.

But like I said, you know, I had this, ID very far back, but I was too busy with, you know, selling all these speakers and headphones around the globe. I could have a lot of time to actually think through that idea. So once we launched it, I would say, you know, the first prototype that looks like the design concept on so on was in 2018 when we did the Power of Silence tour.

And sane can, we went to Lago de Garda and Ishk all these places that you want to go to. Right? It's a hard life

comrade. It's a hard life.

It's, it was a really hard life and we wanted to see like, Does people think this is as cool as we do? And they actually did. They like, they sucked it in and, and it was a love for the brand and they loved the design and the colors that we choose.

So it was like very, very successful from a brand point of view. But then, I mean, we were very far from having the technology together that with the boats, we are actually selling commercial today.

So at Cons Capitalism, we often define purpose as being the main motivator within an organization. Tell me a little bit about the purpose of Exor and how you've been able to define that.

I love your tagline, by the way. The power of silence is, for me, speaks volumes about the values in your company. And the serenity Factor involved with boating and how that can be the best possible experience. But tell me how you develop that a little bit and how you articulate that within the brand and how much it motivates and unifies your whole organization.

Actually, the power of silence is actually a trademark that we own as well. And like I said, for me personally, You know, I had enough cash. I'm very far from even the richest person, but what can you do with money? You know, I had food on the plate every day, and I had paid a big prize to be very successful.

You know, I was traveling 200, 250 days a year for. 20 years, a lot of drinking, a lot of, you know, nice dinners and so on, and, and living on a plane is not really sustainable. Not for yourself, not for the environment. And I wanted that to change. You know, you can do this for a while, but if I'm gonna do one more journey, I'm gonna do it differently.

I'm not willing to. Put my own health into the bucket of building a a new com. So the higher purpose has been there all the time. And you know, it's about doing good. You know, it's fantastic to have a product that can be both inspirational as a company. Show that you can build big businesses and show that you can make money in a good way that has.

Very, very important for us, and I think the, the, the people that we recruit is all talented, that they could work with something else, but they are coming, that they see that our ambition is global. They love business as well as sustainability. So it's a great combination.

So the other, the theme that we follow within unconscious capitalism is around stakeholders, not just shareholders.

Originally it was the shareholders got everything first and everything was done for them. Tell us a little bit about your stakeholder community, your vendors, your, obviously your fishing and boating community as a big part of that as customers, but you have very ambitious goals in terms of sustainability.

So how are you indoctrinating your supply chain to think along these lines?

Well here we have a fantastic team. That is, you know, it's a lot of calculating, there is a lot of surprises. Things that we might think is sustainable, might not be. So our team, Has done an incredible job by sourcing a lot of like local components and stuff that is not coming from too far away.

Some components is hard to get. I mean, we are still running a business, so it's important that we are making profitable in the end, otherwise it won't be sustainable from a business point of view. So we have that, you know, we have three pillars. It's a design, technology and sustain. And the sustainability part is of course, everything from airs, but also our own community as well as the outside community that we want to build friends that is fans and helping us to grow the business.

And all along

those shared goals around enjoying peace and quiet out in the water. I mean, I'm, I grew up in Australia. Most people on a big island learn to swim and sail and dive at some point, so that's been. Twenties was enjoying those kind of water sports. But recently I bought a powerboat and it was a very negative experience overall just because it annoys the maintenance, the exhaust fumes.

And you know, sometimes you need to do those things to push you in a very clear trajectory. And I've driven electric cars and motorcycles and, and bicycles and enjoyed. The sheer thrill and silence of the power there, but I haven't been in one of your boats. If you could just tell us how that feels a little bit more in, in terms of all of the sensors working


You know, when I was younger, I loved going out sailing, and I did that a lot with my dad. My dad started to sell boats, so I was familiar with the business, even if I didn't work in it. Of course, I helped him with some marketing and, and that kind of stuff. You know, being at this beautiful place that lakes or, you know, being in the water that lakes or the sea is, is just a place that you don't want to destroy.

The best moment is when you turn that engine off, you know, when you're sailing and you're getting the sails up. That that is like, wow. Okay. I'm home. And that is the funny thing with our product that you know, you never get to that point. Of course there is noise because we are making high speed boats and that is doing up to 30 knots and traveling is around 20, or the best, I think is between six and seven knots, and then you can go for over 20, 20 hours.

But I think that moment when I experienced this the first time, Was just, wow. I was really blown away. And I can see that where I do a lot of test drives with different customers to understand what they need and their questions for new development, and it's a fantastic moment. I've

got a question if I make Conrad, I am a bit of a geek and I've been on your website, which is fabulous, by the way,, these are good looking boats.

Yes, they're beautiful looking crafts. Let's get geeky for a moment. Tell me a little bit about the different models, their range and the all important speed. Tell me a little bit about the

range. If we talk about the sign, you know, I wanted to develop the design that could build the brand. What I mean with that, with the sun boats, you wanted like, what boat is that?

And you have to come up to it and see the sticker on the side to understand what brand it is. And I took it to the next level where I wanted like a silhouette that you could see from a kilometer and azula, oh, that's an next shore. So we worked really. Took me like four years together with my designers to find the right structure of Xor with a flat nose.

So you can go up to higher docks and just put in your gear and then load. We, we wanted the big flat deck because usually if you have a lot of things in the way, and it's starting to. To move due to currents or wind, it can actually be harder than more helpful with the things that is coming up. I wanted the stairs to be symmetrical.

So you walk in, you actually walk down and you don't fall into the boat because the steps are different sizes. And I thought that from a design point of view, a symmetrical is, is looking better than asymmetrical in that sense. And I wanted to see where. So basically what we did is that we had like a fisherman's boat in the front, and then I love the new sailing boats that is all open in the back.

You can get really close to the water. So we took like a lot of inspiration from new modern sailing boats in the halt. And then I didn't like how all both designers were thinking, so I wanted a modeler system and I thought if we do a modeler system, we can sell to more people. But also on the second hand market.

You know that boat that was for wakeboarding from the beginning might be a fisherman's boat in them. That's

fantastic. And what sort of range do these boats have at the moment? What have we got to in terms of

range? I mean, the range depends on the speed. So you can go with our larger boat Elix, it's up to a hundred nautical miles with the six seven knots.

And if you go. Around 20 knots. It's around one, but it all depends on currents, water, temperature, waves. How much weight did you put in? So it's much harder to say compared to the car. So

many variables. Yeah. So many variables.

Yes. You know the, the water has a density of 784 times. The air, it really depends on each trip.

Yes. But I, uh, been enjoying the boat for the past three years and I haven't had any problems where I'm running out of the battery. Sometimes you have to go slower home. Yes. But you get home. The Curious

Capitalist Podcast On behalf of the Conscious Capitalism Connecticut chapter is created and produced by Red Rock Branding.

If you are enjoying this episode, please subscribe to and share this podcast Today.

The US market's quite different in terms of its sort of sensitivity around fuel and running expenses. I mean, I'm not sure if you're going to the Miami Boat Show this weekend. There you will see the opposite extreme of sort of frugal Scandinavian ways.

You know, ma, many of these boats have multiple engines on the back as a result in part of cheap fuel. What are your ambitions in the US market given those big differences?

Hopefully, you know, we can educate because there is, it's not only that they, you know, put on so much horsepower that it's, I mean, I would say it's stupid, but.

It's also the sound and the pollution that these boats does. So for me, you know, I had some big boats in my younger days, but for me at least, this is was my conclusion that I never. Felt too good on the boat. It was always too hot or too cold. The toilet sucks. It's stinky and always too small, even on bigger boats.

So I'm like, let's have a day trip boat and stay in a hotel. Or if you want a bigger adventure, you bring a tent and you can even put a tent on our boat. So you can always, you know, sleep and make it a bit more adventurous, but you don't use more energy to get out there. , even if it's a, you know, 30 meter boat or a luxury short of 200 meters, it's still the same sea.

Mm-hmm. . And we should be conscious on how we use the energy

fisher. Sure. Comrad, what does the future look like for electric boats? Are they gonna get bigger, better, faster, more? What's holding back the technology at the moment?

Now this is when I bring up my sunglasses, but cause the future is too bright.

Come on. No, but I believe at least two aspects that everything will be, not everything, but a lot of boats will be. And first one, we talked about sustainability, but even more serious, the experience. Because when you're going out there with these like eight times, I don't know if it's 800 horsepower or even thousand horsepower now in Miami.

You can't talk. You are sitting there and you are waiting to get to the point where you're gonna eat lunch or dive or whatever you do in our boat. It's a soci boat. You go from one place to another and you can talk.

It's funny the culture here to, we live near the shore in Connecticut and there are many times when we've been at the beach and on a calm day you'll just see all of these boats out there and they, they could be a long way off, but you can still hear them and you can still.

So as you know, those audio signals and, and smells carry a long way across the water, so it in fact erodes the beauty of boating for everybody. If that's the case, even people on the beach like us. Who were completely, you know, bystanders in this situation. So I'm Share your enthusiasm around the serenity experience of being able to enjoy the conversation and the, the social aspects of it as well as of it, how that applies to everyone else as well.

So there are many concentric circles.

Yeah. I think we need to respect each other a little bit more because when these boats are coming, it's not that. You know mm-hmm. , you're sitting there and, and then, and also people who may be invested in, in houses to live by the seafront and stuff. And don't forget all the animals that is actually living down there.

Again, you know, the water has a much higher density, so the, the sound travels much longer, so you're stressing there is a lot of education to be. And a lot of researchers made lately that is showing that even the fishes are getting stressed and scared and cannot make sex or what you say to survive as an animal.

And recreational boating is growing around 10% per year. So it's fantastic that more and more people is getting out there and want to enjoy the sea, but we need to respect our environment and, and the others that is around there. Otherwise, it, it would not be a beautiful place.

I've just been through the a journey on your website and I'm recovering from a little bit of a sticker shock, and I mean, I know these very elegant designs.

It's got that classic scan, avian, elegant spill into it and the technology. Right on the leading edge in terms of all of the applications, but in terms of it being a product that's more accessible, have you got any thoughts on, on

that? The E in the US was $329,000. The new boat is less than half the extra one.

So, you know, when technology is new, we didn't have the new big factory that we have now. It was quite inefficient to build the first boats and now we invested a lot in having a very, super efficient production as well as making it very, very sustainable. So it's hard to do everything at once. You need to do it step by step.

But the team that we have is working very, very quickly and have done an amazing.

Cutting edge technology is expensive, so is it something in the future that you know, naturally the prices are going to come down as the technology becomes more advanced and you've streamlined the manufacturing?

We took it down from 3 29 to around 129, I think in for the us.

So we almost cut to one third and you know, we wanted to democratize boating and especially that you can now actually. Think of buying electric boat for the same price as a combustion and boat.

Yeah, for sure. I love the way you think of the underwater world as one of your key stakeholders population there aren't, don't really have a good spokesperson, so they're relying on us to be better stewards of their world as a a lifetime scuba diver, I've had many, many.

Pleasant hours well below the waterline and just, I'm thoroughly enjoying that marine life in the marine world. And yet, I remember as a sailor, I used to be on board with some skippers who crushed up their beer cans and throw it overboard. And I remember I nearly got kicked off a boat one day for, you know, reprimanding, the skipper for, you know, for doing that.

And, Find that as a culture we are quite ignorant and of the marine world and tend to still treat it as a more of a dumping ground than anything else. So I really think the boating industry has done a lot to bring people to that space. And now I'm hoping with brands like Extra that we can educate.

People to be a little more mindful about the impact that they're having, and particularly with the exhaust fumes in the water. I mean, that's something that is never talked about, but it's an enormous amount of toxic load that it puts on, on the environment that's not even captured in any way in my mind.

So I'm, I'm a fan from the point of view that you see one of your stakeholders as the, uh, marine world generally. But tell me a little bit about, The sort of culture in your organization. You've clearly had an interesting past as an entrepreneur, and you've had the luxury, I you might say, saying, wow, I need to develop a brand that's really purposeful in protecting the world that I so enjoy.

So you've had a really good opportunity as an entrepreneur to do that. But tell us a little bit about the culture of Exor and how they've been able to wrap their arms around that as a group, as

a. From my personal view, I know that all life is coming from the water. That's where it all started. And if we don't take care.

It's not gonna be fun. And I can see that when I'm driving with my eggs, shore animals are coming up. You know, I, I have some amazing stories with dolphins, with big animal mannes and like also budge and elks and stuff are coming out of the votes. Like, what is that? You know, why are you not sound? Are you a friend of me?

It is really working. You know, the environment loves goats and I think that a lot of people for the future want to do good. We we, I mean, I usually say that companies that is not turning around and being sustainable within five years. We'll go bankrupt because who is paying their bills? Who's doing their sales?

It's the customer. And the customers are smart. They are not gonna shoot theirselves in the foot. So you know, if you don't turn around quickly, you will not survive. And a lot of the people that is working with us has a higher purpose that they want to really take it to the next level. And that has been.

Amazing that people understand that and are coming to us for that reason.

What sort of pushback do you get from the status quo? Like the big brands that are already occupying the space? How do they see you as a competitor and what, what sort of do you get from your value proposition?

Well, we haven't really had any backs, I will say, from any big brands.

They're like, yeah, let them play over there. And now it's like a different sound in the bell. But remember the first time in 2018 when I showed the boat, and of course I was there myself to, to, you know, see people's reactions. And it was actually like a handful of people who came up to. And told me how stupid I was.

You know, you can't mix electricity with water. That's never gonna work. . And I tried to explain to them as an engineer, you know, have you heard of IP certificates? You know, there is ways to keep electricity from the water. 2019, people started to ask, oh, we are thinking of an electric boat. What is your offer?

And. You know, 2020 and now 2020, they're really high. We're here to buy an electric boat, love exor. And now, you know, in Miami there is a whole electric pavilion in the best area of the show. So it's quite interesting. What's coming out of this week?

Is it similar to the way in which electric vehicles have kind of domino effect of, of, of, you know, there's the Teslas of this world and then suddenly every brand is.

Focus solely on their hybrid and their electric ranges. Is it something you expect to see the like of Yamaha and Suzuki and all of the big current motor boat manufacturers to start embracing, are they gonna offer an electric version and a, you know, a gas version, or is it still gonna remain a very niche.

If you look at the forecast, it's electrics that is really growing. There is still, of course, just selecting cars for some reasons that will do combustion. Onions. You know, a car is isolated. It's usually closed. A boat is usually open, so you always get the fumes in on the ride. If you get the fumes into a car.

When you've been to the supermarket that Saturday with your wife and the kids, it's cold. November, you're putting the kids and the wife in the car. You're starting it to get heated. and it's blowing the wrong direction, so the fumes are getting in. Your wife is not angry. She's gonna divorce you and you kill the kids when you do that in the boat, that happens every time the mom says.

Oh, I'm sorry. This is just a part

of the trip.

It's just a cup of boating on the water. Wanna be on the water? Suck it in kids. Yeah, .

And I never understood that. I'm like, okay, is this really part of the trip? Does it have to be like that? Or could it be better? And we sold that with electric boats, with the economics.

You know, electric Indians don't have oil and stuff and don't need as much service, so you're saving cost there. And in Sweden, the energy cost is very low compared to the petrol. So it's costing like 5% to drive it in in comparison.

I love the way you brought that story about the wife and the kids in, because that's exactly what it's like.

And yet we've accepted all of the byproducts of ice engines for years without really questioning them, you know? So I see what's ahead for you. I love your. Sunglass analogy, because for me, this is like coming out of steam engines into, you know, regular engines. It's just as transformative and there are so many things that I've seen are an improved customer journey in electric mobility in other areas, and I'm, I'm thrilled to see.

And here your version of what that's looking like going forward and your, you've obviously had plenty of experience at it, so your stories will be well shared. Conrad, you've been a, a joy as a guest and, uh, sharing your stories and we're really happy to have you as part of the Conscious Capitalism community because we look at sustainability and the future of our planet as being one of the main drivers of what we do.

So thank you. Is there anything you wanted to just throw in there as a, as a wrap up? We'd, we'd love to.

I'm very happy that you invited me so I can tell the story. And actually it's a lot of education, so the people that is getting the information, you shouldn't feel stupid. Just start to act because I was one of you and I had this big boats with big onions and stuff, but I didn't realize it's a lot about things that you don't think that you are harming before you actually get the statistics and seeing a different.

Absolutely. Conrad, it's been such a pleasure having you on The Curious Capitalist. Thank you so much for your time today. Don't forget to check out the beautiful boats. I'm not joking. You know, Sweden is famous for Volvos, but these boats are stunning. Check 'em out That's x Conrad, thank you so, so much.

We must chat again. By the way, I wanna know about your previous life with Marshall. I'm so intrigued. It's been a privilege. Thanks for your time today, guys. That'll be

another episode. Yes, . Thanks Conrad. Enjoy the show. Thank you. Take Kit.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to this episode of The Curious Capitalist.

If you would like to find out more about Conscious Capitalism or if you would like to join the local chapter, visit the website, Connecticut dot conscious The Curious Capitalist is available on all podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Spotify. If you have enjoyed listening to this episode, subscribe to and share this podcast today.

This podcast was created and produced by Red Rock Branding. Red Rock