Hello! My name is Michael Cannavo and I am one of the co-founders and the chief marketing officer at Super73. We create stylized and unique electric motorbikes that don’t require a license or registration. Our goal is to provide adventure and a platform for creativity to people who are as unique and individual as our products. We have addressed the bike market in a way that no one had done before and as a result, have experienced growth in a market that had remained stylistically stagnant for years.
Our S series has been our most popular bike as it lends itself to customization and ultimate utility. With that being said, the newly released R series has shattered expectations and quickly become the bike we think will reshape the future of lightweight urban electric mobility. With well over 10,000 riders already in our community, our goal is to continue forward with rapid market expansion led by a constant evolution of our product roadmap. We cater to a millennial demographic that few electric bike companies have been able to serve and even fewer motorcycle companies have been able to attract. Transportation, vehicle ownership, and cost of living are all rapidly changing and we have found a comfortable home within the tumultuous current of regulations, politics, and evolving urban necessities.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship was never the goal when I set out to save my sanity. It was never to be rich, popular, or successful. All I wanted was freedom. Freedom was all that filled my mind while I was spinning signs on the side of the road in my hometown or making pizzas until 11:00 at night. In those moments, it felt like I wanted freedom more than I wanted to breathe.
Build your empire brick by brick starting at what is most immediately important and moving out from there.
My journey to Super73 is like every entrepreneur's in that there were detours, break downs, and endless potholes along the hardly paved and unmaintained road to success. When I made the decision to leave college, it was with complete awareness that I would have to work twice as hard as those with the benefits of their degree. Not having the connections, knowledge, or the small pieces of invaluable skill you collect from those around you in a college setting meant that networking, reading, communication, and self-promotion would have to be the tools I most frequently used.
Having made a few videos in high school, I figured content creation would be a good place to start. It was 2012 and the plane of social media was changing fast. Videos were being favored by the algorithms for the first time and companies were in dire need of young and creatively driven content creators to lead this new wave of social marketing. I grabbed a couple of my equally unsuccessful friends and we got to work creating a pitch. As we were all unestablished at the time, we had to maintain full-time jobs throughout this process. There were no extra paychecks or benefits for doing this. Just the relentless pursuit of freedom.
Our Idea: Scoop up as much equity in as many budding startups as possible by providing content creation and social management while highlighting the things that made young people care about brands. Tone-deaf companies seemed to be yelling at us in an attempt to sell us cheaply made products we didn’t need or care about with every app opened or video watched. What if there was a way to talk directly to consumers as a consumer?
Our Execution: We collected about a dozen local startups through this season. Unsurprisingly, none of these products were inherently special or groundbreaking. There were no unicorns hidden among the jerky subscription apps, sock companies following the road Stance were paving, or custom furniture builders. What there was, however, was one very special team of people working endlessly to keep a kick scooter company alive. There was something different about this team of people in Tustin, California.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
Like all entrepreneurship journeys, it was a winding and uncharted path. People would come and go, friends would be there one day and gone the next, and opportunities would vanish into thin air just as soon as they materialized. During this season, I never considered myself to be an entrepreneur because I felt that was a title held by those who had either proved themselves or 24-year-old guys from Newport Beach on Instagram with cheap suits and “the quickest way to put dollars in your pocket.” I wasn’t yet the first and wouldn’t allow myself to be the second. I just wanted to be free.
With financial struggles hitting my team too hard, I ended up losing each and every one of them to stable 9-5 jobs with promised weekly paychecks and breakroom lunches. One by one I had to have the “goodbye” conversation with them, wish them luck, and watch them give up on their attempt at freedom. Through this season, I grew closer with the team working on the electric scooters. I set up a desk in the mostly empty warehouse and spent my days learning how to build, assemble, and ship scooters. I stayed late with them every night pitching ideas, laughing at stupid jokes, or making ridiculous contraptions with the machinery sitting idle in the warehouse. We weren’t making money and we were barely making scooters. The scooters were 5 years ahead of their time and what we thought was a failed product was actually just something that consumers weren’t ready for yet.
Through the years, I watched the same thing happen to them that happened to my once ambitious team. People started dropping one at a time in an attempt to feed their families, pay bills, or simply have money to go out on the weekends. Our failure wasn’t a product of our effort. It was a “right product, wrong time” situation and we finally figured that out. The few people remaining were giving it everything we had. 15 hour days became so regular that anything shorter felt like we were cheating. Then we hit gold.
In an effort to make a few extra dollars to pay some outstanding bills, a couple of us put one of our favorite weekend creations on Kickstarter. It wasn’t much more than a retro mini-bike frame with an electric motor and oversized wheels but what it stood for was something that we would soon find to be revolutionary. It was a product that people had been waiting for in an industry that had no interest in delivering it. It was a bicycle that screamed at people in the same way a Ferrari on Melrose or an arm full of colorful tattoos on the beach would. It was self-expression through a product and a key to personal freedom.
Outside of my faith, freedom was all I was ever chasing in this world. It’s what all of us are chasing, and one of the oldest pursuits in human history. Whether it was the Jews enslaved in ancient Egypt or the employee looking out the window of their monotone office on a Wednesday at 3:00 pm. The desire for freedom comes in immeasurable variations on equally immeasurable levels. I believe that we were put on this earth to create and work. We are each unique, special, and creative and we’ve been given the chance to use those tools to showcase the creations that we are. I was never afraid of work. Since the day I dropped out of college, I knew my life would be full of work and I attacked it head-on. I worked harder than anyone around me and kept working when they were not. You have to work for your freedom. Freedom isn’t crossing days off a calendar while sitting on the beach. It’s using every day to create, inspire, and express; closing every night with the knowledge that you used every single minute of that day for the betterment of the community and the people around you.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The future is bright and Super73, while still young, is quickly grabbing remarkable market share. We are still a smaller company but the energy within these walls is like nothing I’ve been lucky to be around before. We have hired a team of passionate and dedicated workers to further our mission and continue where we are unable to. They pick us up when we are out of energy and fly in attack formation when a new task or mission is presented. We surround ourselves with good people willing to learn and conquer whatever comes their way. As a result, we have a culture of dedicated team members who each feel responsible for Super73’s success and hold a piece of it within their own identity.
We recently opened our European HQ in Amsterdam and have already seen huge growth. We project that it is well within the realm of possibilities that the European office will quickly overtake the US. Ideally by the end of 2021. While we aren’t able to talk openly about numbers in this extremely competitive market, I can share that we are already on track to more than triple our numbers this year over last. We are also looking at rapid expansion in our US offices with plans for more space, large scale team growth, roaming year-round Super73 pop-ups, and exciting new collaborations people would never expect.
By the end of 2020, you’ll see continued growth in our product lineup as well as expansion into exciting new unconquered territories. Our long term goal is to have people riding with Super73 no matter their age, background, or lifestyle. We want to provide a platform that allows for rider evolution and growth while maintaining our core values of innovation, customer service, and community. I would love to see Super73 grow beyond all of us and become something larger than the initial founders could have ever thought. Space is changing very quickly and big companies are looking to smaller players like us to set the trend. With our design team making up so much of what we do at Super73, we hope everyone is excited to learn about how much innovation we are going to turn out this year.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Aligning yourself with likeminded people has been one of the most important things we’ve learned on this journey. One cog that is missing in timing will affect the entire machine, cause unnecessary delays, ruin momentum, and shift all odds for success. Find those issues early and deal with them.
One of the most important tools I’ve utilized is social media. Social media has allowed us to connect with A-list celebrities and star athletes without having to go through seven levels of management. We quickly learned that as a startup, we had no money for ads, collabs, or royalties and instead had to become creative. One of our initial ideas was to create something unique, thoughtful, and special for influencers and simply send them a message with it. They are bombarded daily with requests from fans and brands alike. To catch their attention, you need to think differently. When we created a bike for Lil Nas X, we had no connections or relationships outside of simply being fans. We wanted to show our appreciation so we thoughtfully designed him a bike. Minutes after sending him the photo, he posted it to his page resulting in thousands of new followers hungry for a resolution. Within a week I was meeting Lil Nas X, riding bikes through LA with him, posting photos, and making jokes about pop culture. We created something that benefitted his life rather than takes from him. Everyone is always trying to take, but when you give thoughtfully, you stand out.
We’ve also learned to occasionally take the home run swing even when the odds are unfavorable. At the height of our startup struggles, we were contacted by someone from Will Smith’s camp saying that he wanted bikes in Miami. With no hard evidence of this being the truth, I got on a plane and flew across the country with two bikes. This saga resulted in multiple videos of Will Smith riding and talking about our brand. We exploded both in sales and socials as he became a friend of the company.
A never-ending woe is the shifting landscape of import regulations in an environment that seems to change week to week. Lithium-ion is still a relatively young material and because of the get-rich-quick companies, we’ve seen an increase in poorly manufactured battery packs and electric bikes. The issue here is that companies like Google and Amazon will lump all EV products together when something happens to a poorly constructed battery pack. An example: Amazon once removed all-electric bikes due to an issue found within one cheap folding bike. We had to pull all inventory, send it out for it to pass a new test, wait to receive the results, then repeat the submission process. We lost out on weeks of sales due to the negligence of one get-rich-quick opportunist.
When we look back on everything we’ve had to deal with, it seems like it would have been far easier to launch a hat company without 400 moving parts, lithium-ion cells, motors outputting thousands of watts of power, or rigorous import and export regulations. We could have probably made money faster, missed out on a lot of stress, and hopped on less last-minute cross-country flights, but that’s no way to build a legacy. We are here in an attempt to do what American motorcycles did in the ’60s. They built legacy brands that sold freedom to everyone no matter their position. That is what we are here to do. We want to give people a vehicle to bring them to adventure and freedom in the exact same way that we want to pursue it and I think Super73 is on the road to doing just that.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We utilize several different platforms depending on the department. For marketing, our most used platforms include the following: Shopify, Microsoft Office, Odoo, Zendesk, Hubsoft, BeProduct, CAD, SolidWorks, OnShape, Klaviyo, Facebook Business Manager, Google Adwords, Google Analytics, Photoshop, Lightroom, Premier, Illustrator, VSCO, Dropbox, Hootsuite, Preview, and Basecamp.
When advertising, we regularly use Shopify, to track our sales, Business Manager to run our Facebook and Instagram ads, Google Adwords to bid on keywords and run ads on Google and Google Analytics to properly track all of our website traffic. These tools are all infinitely important and require a lot of testing and adjusting daily.
When creating and distributing content, we use a plethora of tools as well. We’re lucky enough to have an internal content creation team that edits our photos/videos using the Adobe Suite, primarily Photoshop, Lightroom, Premier, and Illustrator. We house all of our photos on Dropbox so we can easily share files when necessary.
When posting our content on social media we use VSCO to make sure the photos have a uniform edit, Hootsuite to schedule all of our social media posts, and Premier to make sure the feed looks cohesive. Finally, our team utilizes Basecamp to complete all of our marketing campaigns and manage our tasks and time accordingly.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Books played a large part in the businessperson I am today. While I have always trusted my instincts and been quick to adapt, learn, and grow, books were a great accessory as I compensated for my lack of a degree in the very early days.
The following two books were the first ones I read when I was learning the fundamentals of business marketing and management.
Purple Cow by Seth Godin - Purple Cow is full of great entry-level marketing material. While basic in idea and execution, Seth Godin explains how and why it is so important to stand out in an oversaturated business world. Nothing he says is necessarily ground-breaking, but there are plenty of really great bits of advice that have stuck with me to this day.
Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson - While Rework is very specific to the software industry, it has great insight into starting your own company, the costs associated, and managing problems that arise. It feels very first person and covers a lot of personal experiences that I was able to identify with and learn from.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Social media has fooled us into thinking that everyone around us is finding success in the business right out of the gate. The best advice I can share is to build your empire brick by brick starting at what is most immediately important and moving out from there. Don’t be concerned about sharing your numbers and don’t be fooled by others sharing theirs. Stay your path and keep your eyes on your own paper. Don’t think you need to go to 15 different seminars and download a dozen different podcasts to learn the secrets of the industry. Don’t be fooled into thinking anyone has your answers. Learn what knowledge you can, be grateful for your mentors, and get to work.
We’ve seen a lot of people suffer from perfection paralysis. We’ve passed dozens of brands that spent too long in the R&D phase and missed out on the chance to be first to the market. Our ability to move, innovate, and launch products quickly have kept us at the top of the pile. We pride ourselves on designing in-house and not outsourcing things that our team can accomplish with an added level of care and personal touch. Our 2016 bikes were far from “perfect” but they were built with consideration, care, and the knowledge that this entire platform would constantly change throughout the years and our user base would grow with it. We have riders that are 3 or 4 bikes in, collectors, customizers, and dozens wearing Super73 tattoos proudly.
Where can we go to learn more?
Super73 has always been great about finding its way to the surface in an ocean of bikes attempting to do the same.
We recently made headlines when we covered our frame with a “cybertruck” shell and sent it off to YouTuber, Casey Neistat, for a review.
We caught the public’s eye early on by transforming two of our bikes into speeders from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
We also do a lot of work with creatives we love and making custom bikes always catches the attention of the biggest names in the industry. Post Malone was gifted a 24kt gold Super73 in this video:
Outside of viral projects, you can find us at our website and on all social media platforms as @Super73. You can find me @MichaelCannavo on Instagram
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