PCH talks Jill Henderson, Co-Founder and Chief Communications Officer at Arx Pax, makers of the

Hendo Hoverboard

World's first real hoverboard

Arx Pax are the makers of the Hendo Hoverboard, a real life hoverboard. The company launched on Kickstarter, raising over $500,000. The company was founded by husband and wife team Jill and Greg Henderson. We sat down with Co-Founder and Chief Communications Officer Jill Henderson to discuss building a device from science fiction.

What’s the background of the Hendo Hoverboard?

Arx Pax is the creator of the Hendo Hoverboard. We wanted to showcase our Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA™) technology in a way that was relatable to the world. When we finally figured out how to hover, one of the first applications that came to my husband Greg’s mind was, of course, a hoverboard. We didn’t start the company with the aim of making hoverboards. Our focus was and is on the bigger vision: changing the way the world works, plays and lives with our technology. The hoverboard was a proof of concept which also demonstrated what was seemingly impossible is now possible. That’s how the Hendo Hoverboard came to be.

What was the initial interest in Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA) technology?

My husband Greg is a builder and an architect. He’s not a scientist, but for over 20 years he’s been obsessed with how to build better—to save people, property and communities in the event of a natural disaster. A couple of years ago his low tech 3-part foundation system that he had be designing and thinking about for years was patented. The great news is it can be used right now to help prevent disaster during Mother Nature’s bad days. That’s how and why Arx Pax started. Arx Pax is Latin for “Citadel of Peace.”

That epiphany moment when Greg started connecting the dots was when he was thinking about earthquakes and he asked himself, “If you can hover a 50,000 kilogram train, Maglev trains for example, why can’t you hover a house, or a piece of sensitive equipment, or servers?” He did his exhaustive research and found out there was no patent on hovering a stationary object with a dynamic payload. A Maglev train has a redundant set of tracks and wheels because it has to go 100 MPH before it can levitate.

I believe because Greg didn’t have the confines of a scientific background and education, he was able to be open to all possibilities. Being an outsider in any particular field can often be to one’s advantage because there are no boundaries to stifle your curiosity. This allowed Greg to think not only outside the box, but as we like to say, off the page.

How did your first hoverboard prototype come about?

I remember it vividly. I was in our kitchen, and Greg was at the kitchen table with a sheet of polycarbonate, and a repurposed hand tool that powered our first hover engine. He turned to me in complete awe and said, “Jill! I got it to hover! We can build a hoverboard!” We both got goose bumps. We knew showcasing this newly invented technology which Greg named Magnetic Field Architecture in a hoverboard would make the most sense because people would be able to understand it in this application.

How did you decide to come on board and help create this company?

We didn’t plan to start a company. It just started evolving, piece by piece, day by day. Then one day, it became obvious that our mission was dependent on building a team. It was Greg, Victor Espinoza and I as the founding team members. Victor’s an architect who Greg had originally hired to help with some of Greg’s building projects. We started moonlighting with Greg’s vision on how to build better. When this invention of hover technology reared its head, we grabbed on and were ignited to go deeper. I was watching the two of them build things from off-the-shelf components, using Wikipedia and Google for research and guidance. It was flipping crazy and inspiring. As soon as we realized the impact of MFA, we realized we had a responsibility to the world to take it as far as we could go.

We started slowly building the team. Greg and I put our entire life savings and heart and soul into Arx Pax because we know its true potential and how it will benefit humanity. I’ve always believed that it comes back to who you surround yourself with that makes the difference. We began to share our vision with those we respected, admired, trusted and cared about. We got them excited about the Arx Pax mission, but also had to deliver the hard truth, “We can’t pay you monetarily right now, but what we can offer you is an extraordinary and rare opportunity to be a pioneer of a revolutionary technology that will benefit the world.” The people who believed in it were as excited and passionate as we were. It’s pretty incredible to see how things fall into place when you are doing things for the right reasons. We’re so grateful for that.

“Being an outsider in any particular field can often be to one’s advantage because there are no boundaries to stifle your curiosity.”

What’s your background with Apple?

Apple was hands-down, one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. The beautiful thing about Apple is that when you work there, you are amongst the most creative, innovative, hilarious, quirky, driven, imaginative, and passionate people. To get caught in that current at a young age—I was 24 years old—was a gift. It set the bar for how I wanted to live my life in pursuing a career or a passion outside of work.

My Apple career was in marketing. I started in Recruiting and Staffing; then K–12 and Higher Education Marketing groups; then working with the Apple’s User Groups; and finally working in the eWorld group where I was an event marketing manager working with an amazing group of people.

Three things I’ll always remember about Apple that I continue to apply to my personal and professional life: 1) It’s not about the job. It’s about the people. 2) The power of branding. 3) Under promise, and over deliver. Apple kept it consistent, clean, and simple which made it memorable and powerful.

Tony Hawk tested out your product on camera. How did that collaboration come about?

After the launch of the Hendo hoverboard last October, the awesome Dave Carnie, a childhood friend of Tony Hawk’s as well as a well-known writer for many publications, reached out and said, “I’d love to come in, see the hoverboard and write about it. And I’m sure Tony would love to check out your hoverboard too.” Tony also had reached out to us on his own through social media to connect. I’ll tell you, Tony is the most down-to-earth, witty, real, and genuine person. You don’t always think you’ll get that from celebrities because you expect some of the stereotypes to be true: untouchable, aloof, and high maintenance. Tony was so personable, and generous. And since then, has become a part of our extended Arx Pax family, and we are excited for him to be a part of this extraordinary journey.

“I’ve always believed that it comes back to who you surround yourself with that makes the difference.”

How do you figure out manufacturing?

That’s a great question. We’re in the thick of figuring that out and making those key decisions—it’s a huge commitment. What I learn over and over is there’s never just one way to do things. We are investigating all the different options and the many routes to take. It’s imperative to take the necessary time to understand the true goals of your company, and what you want your ultimate outcome to be. I believe in mid-flight corrections, so don’t be afraid to learn as you go.

Have you experienced any challenges being a woman working in hardware?

How about just being a woman? I think it’s getting better and better for women, but I’ve definitely been in situations where it’s slapped me in the face with how far we still have to go. I have always had the confidence to stand my ground, and go toe-to-toe with anyone in order to be heard and hopefully understood. But in doing so, you then run into that challenge of being stereotypically perceived as too assertive, aggressive, or a bitch when the only thing you did was stand your ground and express your thoughts. In these situations, I am reminded by the power of saying less, and thinking more.

We have a wonderful team here at Arx Pax. I feel the women bring so much of the heart and soul to the company. Shauna Moran is one of our engineers whose focus is primarily on the controls of our hover engines. She’s a true Rocket Scientist from MIT and she blows me away everyday. Then we have Davida Ewan who’s our Research Scientist. She is just unbelievable with her diverse skill sets, and is a wonderful mom. We have Randi Feigin who is our Chief Commercial and Investment Officer, and also a wonderful mom. She worked on Wall Street, and has a breadth and depth of experience in the financial and operational world. She’s incredible! Then we have Sami Reed, who is our Office Manager. She’s the passionate, bossy-boots in the company who keeps us running efficiently and strong. I’m constantly wowed by these women, and love how they teach me something every day. We have a tremendous team of men and women who complement each other. That’s very important to our company—to have harmony and balance.

“It’s pretty incredible to see how things fall into place when you are doing things for the right reasons. ”

How important has your team been in bringing this product to life?

I think it’s important in any part of life to recognize and acknowledge those that have made a difference and who have made things possible. Greg always reminds the team that we are standing on the shoulders of giants. We could not be where we are today without all of those curious minds that led the way before us, along with our Arx Pax team, and our Friends and Family who have believed and invested in our company. It’s very humbling. If anyone wants to start something, it has to start with surrounding yourself with the right people in order to make a big difference. We are so grateful.

And you have Autumn, your intern, who is also your daughter. We’d love to ask her some questions. Autumn, why did you want to intern for the company?

Autumn: I have been keeping this company and the ideas that Greg and my mom have had under wraps since 2012—so since I was 11, which is a pretty difficult thing to do when you’re in fifth grade. But ever since they’ve been coming up with these brilliant ideas, it’s really intrigued me. I’ve always really interested in science and stuff like that, so it just seemed like a really exciting opportunity. I wanted to get in and see the company and learn as soon as I possibly could.

What’s your current state of mind?

My mind runneth over with raising teenagers, starting a company, along with a some hot flashes.

What is your idea of misery?

When my kids are not doing well in whatever capacity.

Where is your happy place?

I have lots of happy places! Being with my dogs; my kids; laughing with my girlfriends; trail running; eating chips and fresh guacamole; and spooning with my hubby every night.

What is your greatest fear?

Time running out and regret.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Raising two children who have huge hearts, curious minds and giving spirits.

Which talent would you most like to have?

To have been an Olympic athlete and a singer.

Which living person do you most admire?

My mom.

What’s your favorite quote?

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” -Jim Rohn

What is your greatest regret?

Not accepting and embracing myself sooner.

What do you consider the most over-rated virtue?

Honesty. If used carelessly, can cause more damage than good. Communicate with thoughtfulness. Bite your tongue.

What’s it like to work with your mom and get to see what she’s creating?

Autumn: It’s really amazing to be able to experience this first-hand. And I have to say, the way my mom parents really carries over into the way she runs the company. My mom is such a people person. People wouldn’t think of her as a boss—she’s more like a friend or a mother. But I definitely would say that she’s loved and she’s a great leader.

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