Sophi Horne Makes Waves In The Electric Boat Industry
By Rachel Ingram
Sophi Horne is quickly becoming one of the most influential women in yachting. The Norway-born Sweden-raised entrepreneur and designer is making waves with her industry-leading projects that are pushing the boundaries of electric boating. While still fairly young in the industry, Horne has already made a substantial mark as founder of SeaBird Technologies and head designer of the RaceBird, the race boat of electric powerboat championship E1 Series. She speaks to Forbes about her rollercoaster journey, the electric future of yachting, and being a woman in a man’s world.
Rachel Ingram: Going back to the start, what brought you into the nautical world and, eventually, design?
Sophie Horne: I come from a sailing family. My dad is an active sailor – he competed in sailing – and my mom sailed a lot, too, so I grew up on the water. Design came very easily to me. I started with branding and graphic design as a side hustle in school – I won a few awards in Norway at age 16/17 and at 18, I was hired by a megayacht company. My family didn’t think you could make a profession out of being creative, so I went back into banking, but I wasn’t happy, so I quit.
Ingram: What inspired you to set up SeaBird Technologies?
Horne: The story started with me having Lyme disease, which no one really knows about. SeaBird became an escape for me when I was lying in bed with computers, not seeing anyone, while on heavy medications and treatments.
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mind. Before starting SeaBird Technologies three years ago, I already had two other technology companies – one was a service platform trying to make boats more available for people like me. Eventually, I was trying to find brands with electric foil boats but I couldn’t find anyone with the same vision as me, so I thought I’d just do it myself. In the beginning, I never imagined I was going to be the one designing the boats.
Ingram: How did growing up in Sweden influence your journey?
Horne: Oslo is the main capital for electric cars. In the beginning, electric cars were quite bubbly and cute, and then I saw Formula E. Its Gen 2 models caught my eye – they made electric cars sleek and sexy. It inspired me to do this in the naval world as well. My mind started wondering how we could combine those two worlds and make something that comes in and shakes it up a little.
Ingram: How did you get involved with the E1 Series?
Horne: I went to a Formula E race in Marrakech to ask for a meeting with their development team and, eventually, Alejandro Agag (CEO of Extreme E, Chairman of Formula E and Chairman of E1 Series). I told him about the SeaBird and the science behind it. A few months later, he called me and said, “we’re going back up your SeaBird project.” Back then, the SeaBird for seven people, but in my portfolio, I had so many ideas and drawings, including some one-seaters.
We set up the SeaBird company inside the same office space as Formula E and Extreme E, so I found myself surrounded by racing people. During the pandemic, Rodi Basso (Co-Founder and CEO of E1 Series) and Alejandro had the brilliant idea to do a race in the water as well. So, they came back to me and and asked me to change my focus to race boats.
Ingram: Please tell us about the design of the RaceBird.
Horne: The RaceBird was designed hand-in-hand with building the E1 championship. We recreate and write our own rules. Normally, in speed boat racing, you see a straight line – it’s all about how fast can she go – but we’re trying to do more twists and turns and create shorter races. We’re very good at turning and I believe that’s key to out future – other foiling boats today have problems with this. Some people come to us and say, “you’re making race boats but you’re not that fast,” but it’s all about acceleration. I’m quite proud of what we’ve delivered in such a short timeframe.
Ingram: What’ve been your experiences of being a woman in the industry?
Horne: As you know, it’s a man’s world, especially in the marine industry. As a women, you need to find people who believe in you, respect you and let you do your thing without coming in and taking over. I spent a lot of time trying to find the right people to work with. Alejandro and Rodi believed in my vision and supported it, but they also stepped back. Four years later, I still have the same space and platform. I think that’s a big part of me being satisfied with where I am now.
Ingram: Do you think it’s important to have more diversity within the industry?
Horne: Yes, absolutely, 100%. I need to step up my game at SeaBird – at the moment the engineering team is only men, and I’m a little ashamed. It’s so important to have women to look up to. In my office 10 years ago, I didn’t a lot of women around me, but they’re super inspiring.
Ingram: Beyond the RaceBird, what is your key focus at SeaBird Technologies?
Horne: We’re doing a day cruiser and a tender, all based on the same design DNA as the RaceBird. In reality, the RaceBird is the little sister of the SeaBird. These are projects behind the scenes that I’ve been very occupied with.
Ingram: Looking to the future, what’s your ultimate ambition?
Horne: I have big dreams. I have so many designs that are all water related – I’m even thinking about floating islands. I also love sailboats. I’m doing electric motorboats now but one day I would love to do a big sailboat.
Photo Source: Ilja C Hendel