After a life in tech and world travel, Scott Ruck ’82 is floating the idea of a cleaner day on the water.
by Rachel Stowe Master
Scott Ruck started Ruckmarine Electric Sportboats LLC after a career in Silicon Valley. Photo courtesy of Scott Ruck
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Topics: Neeley School of Business
by Rachel Stowe Master
Scott Ruck ’82 was looking for an “interesting experience” when he decided to take a TCU study abroad semester in Vienna. The impact has been lifelong.
“Just that semester abroad with TCU was pretty significant throughout my career for opening the doors for international activity,” Ruck said. “A lot of what I ended up doing in my business career related to work overseas.”
The European experience helped Ruck land his first job with Cologne, Germany-based Leybold-Heraeus. The company planned to bring him to Germany for a new exchange program of sorts, but the program fell by the wayside during a reorganization, and Ruck headed to California to do sales and technical support work at Inficon Instruments, a Leybold subsidiary serving the semiconductor industry.
“Because both companies were German-owned, having that experience in Europe helped a lot,” he said.
As a sales engineer, Ruck traveled the globe and soon worked his way up to Asia/Pacific marketing manager and then product development manager at Inficon. “Pretty much everything we did was in Europe and Asia, so again that background always helped me to feel comfortable in those environments.”
Scott Ruck is an entrepreneur and new market developer for his own company, Ruckmarine. Photo courtesy of Scott Ruck
By 1999, Ruck was ready for a change. “I did a big career shift,” he said. “I went into what we now call Wi-Fi, but at the time it was a brand new technology.”
Ruck joined Proxim, a small Silicon Valley company, as product manager before being promoted to business development manager and then strategic accounts director. “I was tied into the growth of wireless. So all those things we take for granted today — wireless connectivity, Wi-Fi on cellphones — I was involved at the very beginning of all that.”
Again, Ruck’s study-abroad experience helped. “With Proxim I did a lot overseas, both Europe and Asia, including dealing with the press, so I was always comfortable with that.”
While trotting the globe and helping usher in new technologies was exciting, the heavy travel demands took a toll on time with his wife, Carolyn Davis Ruck ’82, and their three sons. “The kids were getting older, and there was too much traveling,” he recalled. “I said, ‘I’m done with the Silicon Valley thing,’ and went back to an interest of mine — boats.”
Ruck joined Berkeley, California-based OCSC Sailing, one of the largest sailing schools in the country, as club manager. He also taught sailing lessons and began tinkering with refurbishing classic speedboats from his childhood. “I grew up in Illinois, and we had a lake home in Wisconsin that we would go to every weekend. For as long as I can remember, we had boats,” he said, noting that he raced sailboats when he first moved to California.
Boat restoration blossomed into a business venture and Ruckmarine was founded in 2007. A couple of years later, he was struggling to get an old gas-powered motor to work when frustration turned into inspiration. “I had this thought that by the time I get this thing working, it’s probably going to be illegal because it pollutes so much,” he recalled. “I was just sitting there looking at it and thinking, ‘There’s got to be something else I can do with this. I wonder if I can convert it to electric.’ ”
The thought grew into a goal: “If I could convert this to electric and have enough power to pull a water skier, then I would be onto something.”
In 2010, after lot of trial and error, the old boat with the new motor was pulling a wakeboarder: “I have this little video clip of me pulling my oldest boy on a wakeboard behind it. That’s my little reminder of where it came from,” Ruck said. “I set a goal, and a year or so later, I achieved that goal. Once I did that, I convinced myself there might be potential for this and I started working on it full time.”
Ruck’s niche is electric sport boats — “the typical speedboats you would see on any lake around the country.” He hopes to establish Ruckmarine Electric Sportboats LLC, based in Truckee, California, as the top distributor of electric boats in America.
“Because all of this is brand new, I’m really developing the market,” Ruck said. “My business model has been partnering. So rather than take on employees or build things myself, what I’ve done is establish a network of partners.”
Beginning with Torqeedo, an electric motor manufacturer, from — where else? — Germany. “This is again where the overseas experience came into play,” Ruck said. “Through Torqeedo I partnered with several European boat builders.
Ruckmarine is ushering in a new era of clean, pollution-free recreational boating. Photo courtesy of Scott Ruck
“Basically, the market for electric boats is really just getting started in this country,” he said. “In Europe they’re way far ahead. So I’m bringing a lot of technology from Europe into the U.S. and promoting it.”
The biggest hurdle is awareness. “Most people don’t even know that this exists,” he said.
The second hurdle is application. “A big part of this is hands-on, face-to-face, personal interaction and demonstrating to them that it works, that it’s practical, that you can use it.”
In 2017, Ruckmarine imported, commissioned and delivered one of the first production electric sport boats in the U.S., ushering in a new era of clean, pollution-free recreational boating. “It was the first electric production boat that’s been on Lake Tahoe,” Ruck said. “That is significant because it wasn’t a prototype, experiment or concept boat.”
While Ruck ships electric boats all across the country, pristine Lake Tahoe is his home base for growing the U.S. electric boat market.
“It’s the perfect place for that because you have a lake that’s under a lot of environmental pressure to stay clear and clean, and you also have a fairly affluent customer base,” Ruck said. “These are people who can afford to buy a unique, fairly expensive boat imported from Europe.”
Ruck acknowledges that electric boats aren’t in the budget for everyone, but he said prices for electric are trending down while gas-powered is trending up. “It’s a little bit of a pay-me-now-or-pay-me-later proposition. The initial cost of the boat is higher for electric, but then you’re done. There’s basically no maintenance and there’s no fuel.
I set a goal, and a year or so later, I achieved that goal. Once I did that, I convinced myself there might be potential for this and I started working on it full time.Scott Ruck, owner, Ruckmarine Electric Sportboats LLC
“But you’re not doing it to save money,” he said. “You’re doing it to save the environment and because it’s quieter, it’s more peaceful, and it’s much more carefree to operate and maintain.”
These days, much of Ruck’s time is spent cruising potential clients across crystal-clear waters, attending boat shows and visiting boat builders in Europe. And he’s not complaining. “I enjoyed my corporate career, but it’s definitely more fun working with something I’ve loved since I was a little kid,” he said. “In addition to the challenges of introducing a completely new concept, the fact that it’s all related to boats is what really makes it fun to get up and go to work every day. I just love boats.”
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