Belle Capital Pulls The Trigger; Invests Up To $500,000 In Electric Motorcycle Startup Current Motor

4/29/11Follow @xconomy

Belle Capital, a new Michigan-based angel fund that backs women-run companies, has made its first investment, as much as $500,000, in Current Motor, an electric motorcycle startup in Ann Arbor, MI.

Current Motor also raised another $200,000 from Belle Capital co-managing director Lauren Flanagan, the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, and former General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz.

Overall, the company is seeking $1.5 million. Flanagan, who also serves as Current Motor’s executive chair/acting CEO, told Xconomy that she expects to close the remaining $850,000 within 60 to 90 days.

It’s no accident Belle Capital, based in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, made its first local investment in an auto-related startup. Flanagan says the state possesses significant engineering talent, especially in electric vehicles and batteries.

“There’s a huge opportunity for serving an underserved market that needs capital,” Flanagan says. “I like to fish in waters other boats won’t. This is a terrific location. It’s a perfect place to do electric vehicles. Current Motors has extremely innovative technology.”

Founded by John Harding and Erik Kauppi, Current Motor has developed an electric motorcycle that can travel up to 65 mph with a range of up to 50 miles on a single four to six hour charge. With operating costs of about one cent a mile and an overall price tag of $6,500 to $8,500, Flanagan says Current Motor’s motorcycle will appeal to global customers wary of high gas prices.

“We think we are in the right place at the right time with the right product,” Flanagan says.

And the right investor. Lutz is legend in the auto industry, having served in top positions at GM, Ford, and Chrysler. At GM, Lutz championed electric cars, including the development of the Chevy Volt.

“Bob has been a terrific resource,” Flanagan says. “He has great knowledge and contacts. He is a huge believer in the inevitability of electric vehicles.”

Current Motor already faces a backlog in orders, she says. The new investments will help the company scale up production and hire engineers, as well as sales and marketing specialists.

The startup also needs a permanent CEO. Former president Peter Scott, who first presented Current Motor to investors at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium last year, left the company in January to “pursue other opportunities,” Flanagan says.

Belle Capital, which closed its first round of financing in March, hopes to eventually raise $25 million. The angel firm has two more Michigan deals in the works, one in life sciences and the other in information technology, Flanagan says.

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