University of Vermont

Joe Bowman, '01

President of Ultra Motor enterprise

Joe Bowman, '01

Lined up at the stoplights, bikes often outnumber cars on Joe Bowman's five-mile commute to work from his London apartment. Bowman, '01, is among the two-wheeled converts on the street, but he stands out from the crowd on his Ultra Motor A2B, an electric bicycle that he not only rides but champions as president of Ultra Motor enterprise, the bike's parent company.

Bowman's beginnings were less than presidential — as part of the jam band Somah, Bowman and band mates quickly built a following in the New York area during the early '90s.

"Being involved in music early teaches you a lot of things," Bowman says. "Responsibility and discipline on the one hand, and it also lets you get all that young angst out of your system, so when you want to get serious you know the value of the education and how much the tuition costs."

Did you know ...

  • Vasily Shkondin's motor produces 35 percent more torque from the same amount of power.
  • Ultra Motor quickly sold more than 25,000 bikes in India.
  • As of spring 2009, the company had grown to 300 employees.
  • Ultra Motor's U.S. website

Somah relocated to Burlington in 1995. Not long after, the band members began to go their separate ways. When he enrolled at UVM, Bowman had thoughts of working internationally and quickly found his way to the study of Russian language and culture. Professor Kevin McKenna would prove to be a key mentor to Bowman.

Distinguishing himself in Russian language and business studies

"Joe always had the good, sound sense to realize that while he was especially fascinated by the Russian language and its culture, he still understood that he would have to ground his language interests in a sound, practical skill that would enable him to pursue a long career following his education at UVM," says McKenna. Together, they mapped out course schedules that mixed Russian language and literature with studies in business.

Post-UVM, Bowman moved to Moscow. In 2003 he and two partners established the first venture capital firm in Russia. The start-ups they would back included Ultra Motor, a two-wheeler powered with a hyper-efficient motor developed by Russian Vasily Shkondin in the 1970s.

Ultra Motor a business opportunity based on a basic idea that spiking energy costs and a rising awareness of climate change are creating a global shift in transportation. The car is no longer the one-stop shop.

Confirms Bowman: "The best companies are built on really simple ideas."