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Scooter inventor explores new ideas

The microboard is a combination of snowboard and short ski swissinfo.ch

Five years after developing the micro mini scooter, Swiss inventor and businessman Wim Ouboter is busy looking for more commercial success.

This content was published on November 23, 2004 - 12:29

Ouboter’s latest creation is the microboard, a combination of snowboard and short ski, and he promises more surprises in a not-too-distant future.

The inventor’s radical rethink of the old-style scooter - which has since become a runaway success - owes more to his stomach than his brain.

While living in the Zurich suburbs, Ouboter found that the nearest snack shop open in the evenings was more than 20 minutes walk away.

“I realised I needed something quick and easy to use to get there and I thought why not use a scooter?” he told swissinfo.

What Ouboter had in mind was, in fact, a quick and easy mode of transportation for adults. He built his first steel prototype with inline skate wheels, but was soon making modifications.

“I came to understand that girls wouldn’t find a 30-year-old guy entering a bar with a scooter very cool,” he admitted. “That’s how I got the idea to make my scooter collapsible, so that you can actually put it into a regular backpack.”

Kids’ favourite

Ouboter says that the Micro Scooter was originally targeted at the adult market. “It wasn’t designed for children, but for adults to travel for short distances instead of taking the car.”

But while it was a hit with the over-20s, it was mainly youngsters that ensured the scooter’s success.

Kids everywhere latched on to it, despite its lack of elements considered perfectly normal on bicycles, such as brakes or a seat.

In Swiss schools, the scooter became such a phenomenon that teachers had to tell their pupils to leave them at home.

Today, the scooter still sells well and has morphed into a variety of new products. The latest version has two steering mechanisms.

Addicted

“Maybe I’m a little bit childish, but I always like to try out new things,” Ouboter told swissinfo.

“Once you have been successful with an idea you get addicted and you become more aggressive about trying out new things.”

The inventor usually builds a prototype from materials he has stored away. Once it is complete, he takes it home for his children aged eight and ten to test and asks them for their opinion.

But the prototype is only the first stage and there is still some way before sales can begin.

Affordable

“We have to see if the product can be produced at a reasonable price,” Ouboter said. “It can’t just be functional and a good design, but it must also be affordable.”

The inventor’s latest creation, the microboard, will take users off the beaten track and on to snowy slopes.

“My idea was to create a ski for people who have never been on the snow before,” explained Ouboter. “And the nice thing is, after one day of practise with our microboard, you can already head down the black slope.”

Despite moving from the street to the ski slopes, Ouboter isn’t short of ideas. He already has what he thinks is another ace up his sleeve.

“My idea has nothing to do with a scooter or a ski,” he revealed. “It’s an item that doesn’t have a two-year guarantee, but something that you might want to buy once a day.”

swissinfo

Key facts

Micro Mobility Systems was founded in 1996.
In 1999, the company launched its first product, the kickboard, which was soon followed by the micro skate scooter.
This scooter weighed just 2.7 kg.
The product range has since grown and includes items such as skateboards or the new microboard.

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