Sophi Horne is quickly becoming one of the most influential women in yachting. The Norwegian-born Swedish entrepreneur and designer is making waves with her cutting-edge projects that push the boundaries of electric boating. Although still quite young in the industry, Horne has already made his mark as the founder of SeaBird Technologies and chief designer of the RaceBirdthe racing boat of the electric motor boat championship E1 series. She talks to Forbes about her roller coaster ride, the electric future of yachting and being a woman in a man’s world.
Going back to the beginning, what brought you into the world of boating and, ultimately, design?
I come from a family of sailors. My dad is an active sailor – he competed in sailing – and my mom sailed a lot too, so I grew up on the water. The design came to me very easily. I started with branding and graphic design as a secondary activity in school – I won a few awards in Norway when I was 16/17 and when I was 18 I was hired by a megayacht company. My family didn’t think you could make a job out of creativity, so I went back to banking, but I wasn’t happy, so I quit.
What prompted you to create SeaBird Technologies?
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 taking heavy medications and treatments.
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. 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 to people like me. Eventually I was trying to find brands with electric foil boats but couldn’t find anyone with the same vision as me, so I thought I’d do it myself. At first, I didn’t imagine that I was going to be the one designing the boats.
How did growing up in Sweden influence your career path?
Oslo is the main capital of electric cars. At first electric cars were quite bubbly and cute, then I saw Formula E. Its Gen 2 models caught my eye – they made electric cars look sleek and sexy. It inspired me to do it in the naval world as well. My mind started wondering how we could combine these two worlds and create something that comes along and shakes it up a bit.
How did you get involved in the E1 series?
I went to a Formula E race in Marrakech to ask to meet their development team and possibly Alejandro Agag (CEO of Extreme E, President of Formula E and President 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 to your SeaBird project”. At the time, the SeaBird for seven people, but in my portfolio I had so many ideas and drawings, including single-seaters.
We put the SeaBird company in 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 of racing in the water too. So they came back to me and asked me to focus on racing boats.
Please tell us about the design of the RaceBird.
The RaceBird was designed in parallel with the construction of the E1 championship. We recreate and write our own rules. Normally in fast boat races you see a straight line – it all depends on how fast it can go – but we try to do more turns and turns and create shorter races. We’re very good at cornering and I think that’s the key to our future – other foiling boats today have problems with that. Some people come up to us and say “you race boats but you’re not that fast”, but it’s all about the acceleration. I’m pretty proud of what we’ve achieved in such a short time.
What have been your experiences as a woman in the industry?
As you know, it’s a man’s world, especially in the maritime industry. As a woman, you need to find people who believe in you, respect you, and let you do your job without coming in to take 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 backed down. Four years later, I still have the same space and the same platform. I think that’s a big part of my satisfaction from where I am now.
Do you think it’s important to have more diversity within the industry?
Yes, absolutely, 100%. I need to step up my game at SeaBird – at the moment the engineering team is all male, and I’m a bit ashamed. It is so important that women admire. In my office 10 years ago, I didn’t have many women around me, but they are super inspiring.
Beyond RaceBird, what is your main objective at SeaBird Technologies?
We make 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 behind-the-scenes projects that kept me busy.
Looking to the future, what is your ultimate ambition?
I have big dreams. I have so many designs that are all water related – I’m even thinking of floating islands. I also like sailboats. I make electric motorboats now but one day I would like to make a big sailboat.