A start-up folding kayaks into compact cases

One start-up is designing kayaks that fold up and fit in your closet.

"Over 120 million Americans live on coastlines, yet very few have a place to store their kayak," Roberto Gutierrez, chief commercial officer and co-founder at Oru Kayak, told CNBC.



Out to Sea

Folding Kayak
Source: Oru Kayak
Folding Kayak

So in October 2012 Gutierrez's co-founder, Anton Willis, an avid kayaker with limited storage space, developed a solution: Oru Kayak. "Utilizing the magic of origami, our kayaks go from box to boat in under five minutes," said Gutierrez.

Oru Kayak models are made from a single sheet of double-layered corrugated plastic, which collapses into a compact case and unfolds to form a rigid kayak structure. "The kayaks get their beautiful shape and their strength from the folds; no frame is required," Gutierrez told CNBC.

According to the start-up, Oru Kayaks are durable enough to surf six-foot waves and even handle some whitewater rapids.

Oru Kayaks can be purchased on the company's website in four different designs ranging from $1,275 to $2,475.





Diving Deeper

Oru Bay Kayak
Source: Oru Kayak
Oru Bay Kayak

Alicia Syrett, board member of New York Angels, wondered how Oru Kayak stood up against less expensive competitors selling kayaks that cost a few hundred dollars.

"More and more we see people investing, saving their money and putting it towards experiences, rather than just commodities and product," said Gutierrez, claiming that as a lifestyle product, Oru Kayak provides that unique experience.

When compared to other collapsible boats and kayaks on the market like Pakboats and Folbot, even though they cost as much as an Oru Kayak, Gutierrez said "we're way more simple to put together than any of them, " adding, "we blow them out of the water."

But David Wu, a venture capitalist at Maveron questioned the start-up's profitability.

Gutierrez said typical retailers of hard goods in this space such as REI and West Marine generally see 35 percent margins, whereas Oru Kayak's margins are twice that.

He said, the start-up has sold 7,000 kayaks to date, and has grown from $1 million to $3.8 million in revenue in the last two years.

Given the company's success, Axie Navas, senior gear editor for Outside Magazine, wondered if the start-up planned to expand its origami technology to other categories.

Gutierrez would not disclose specifics, but he confirmed the start-up planned to apply its technology to other hard goods. "[We'll be] expanding the kayak line, creating more affordable kayaks and stepping into new, but related markets, like camping," Gutierrez told CNBC.

The San Francisco-based start-up has raised $700k in funding from angel investors and Microventures.




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