TechCrunch is reporting, and our sources have confirmed, that the investors behind the Skully AR-1 helmet have ousted one of the company’s founders, Marcus Weller, along with his brother Mitch Weller. For those who don’t know, Marcus Weller was Skully’s CEO, while Mitch Weller served as the company’s Chief of Staff.
The departure of the Weller brothers comes after Skully continually missed its delivery deadlines with its first product, the Skully AR-1, which is a helmet with an integrated rear-facing camera, small computer system, and heads-up-display oculus.
The Skully AR-1 helmet debuted to much fanfare, but it soon became clear that the company’s leadership wasn’t up to the task on delivering the promises they were making to the public. Seemingly on a different page with their investors as well, Marcus and Mitch Weller were fired by the company’s Board of Directors.
It looks like Martin Fitcher, Skully’s current COO, will take over the reigns for the company, or what’s left of it, as its new CEO. Hopefully this means that Skully will finally get on the right path and begin delivery helmets to its plethora of early backers. We are not holding our breath, however.
From my own experience, I have found the approach from both Marcus and Mitch Weller to be incredibly off-putting and disingenuous. Both founders have been cagey about where Skully helmets are actually made, and have never seem capable of sticking to their promises on delivery.
For instance, at a preview event held at Piston & Chain in 2013, Marcus Weller announced to the room that Skully’s helmets were being made in the USA – a bold statement considering the relatively small number of motorcycle helmet manufacturers that actually have production here in the United States.
Internet rumors quickly swirled though that the helmets were in fact made in China, by the low-cost helmet manufacturer MHR Helmet, the same company that makes the LS2 helmet brand.
When I interviewed Mitch Weller on this very issue, he denied that MHR or LS2 were involved, despite the obvious external similarities.
Sources have since confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber that the helmets are indeed made by MHR Helmet (Skully’s own promo video seems to suggest this as well, showing a production facility with workers only of Asian descent), with some of the final assembly being done in the USA.
Our sources tell us much of the electronics are made in China as well, while the software development is primarily accomplished with a development team in India.
Where the goods are made is really the last of Skully’s problems though, as the company’s latest delay to market stems from design issues, with Skully not taking mass-production into account when it was developing its component design.
This has lead to only a handful of helmet making it into the hands of motorcyclists, with the preferential treatment seeming being given to VIPs, celebrities, and those willing to tout the helmet’s qualities on social media.
This comes back to Skully’s strong marketing veneer, which saw a flash of PR pushes, pandering to the tech media, and cagey approaches to the more critical motorcycle industry.
So far, Skully has raised almost $15 million between its two investment rounds and its Indiegogo campaign. Sources suggest that the company is now nearly out of cash, and it is questionable whether any orders, besides the handful that have been fulfilled, will make it into the hands of consumers.
It will take a considerable capital investment to make the Skully AR-1 viable for mass production, and then any helmet delivered won’t actually be bringing in revenue for the company, as the current wait-list consists almost entirely of pre-paid pre-orders. Those kind of situations almost never bode well for consumers.
It is perhaps too early to call things over for Skully, because it’s always possible an investor will breathe new life into the company, but the project would very much be starting-over from scratch, with already a lot of bad blood in the water. Time will tell.