ISPO BRANDNEW is a platform for newcomers in the sports segment. For 15 years it has searched out the top 50 start-ups less than four years old, and has helped them in the sports market.
Text: Katrin Lörch
The list of former awardees that have successfully established themselves and even gone on to shape the sports market is long and includes Maloja, Nixon, Naish Kites, On, Alprausch and GoPro. For the 2016 edition the ISPO BRANDNEW jury looked into almost 400 submissions – one of whom might become the next big player.
The ISPO BRANDNEW Village is a popular exhibition area at theISPO MUNICH where the 50 top newcomers showcase their projects and ideas. Anyone visiting the Village in 2014 would not have missed theOVERALL WINNER: The ORU KAYAK might look like an over-sized architect’s bag but within five minutes it unfolds into a fully functional kayak. Those who saw the product were immediately taken by its unique function and design based on origami.
We spoke to Ardy Sobhani, ORU KAYAK’s CEO, about the last two years of the start-up and his experiences as an ISPO BRANDNEW awardee.
Ardy, you are part of this year’s ISPO BRANDNEW jury and therefore also looking for your successors. Do you still remember what you thought when coming to the ISPO two years ago?
Our booth at the 2014 ISPO BRANDNEW Village was an incredible experience. It was our very first time visiting ISPO MUNICH and we were truly blown away! When we first walked through the halls looking for our booth we couldn’t help thinking: wow, this is really huge! We were also stunned by the diversity–almost every corner of the international sports industry was represented well at ISPO.
What was your experience of the BRANDNEW VILLAGE?
The BRANDNEW VILLAGE was amazing. At the time our team was small and only two of us were able to make the show. Yet, from the beginning we had the impression that everyone knew who we were. That’s when we realized how much the BRANDNEW awardees benefit from ISPO’s communication strategy. The Village was the perfect spot for us, surrounded by likeminded, innovative, and ambitious start-ups. Many of them became our friends with whom we are still in touch. The support of the ISPO team is incredible. They made everything from accommodations to personal connections easy and convenient.
How did you feel after four tradeshow days and were you able to tie up precious contacts?
The four-day show passed like a whirlwind. By the end we were both tired and in a state of ecstasy. We had visited many booth parties–networking doesn’t stop after the tradeshow closes–had innumerable meetings, and collected loads of business cards. It was incredible how many people we met. The challenge then was to not lose sight of the big picture, to separate the important from the unimportant stuff, and to plan the next steps ahead. We felt great about the contacts we were able to make and continue to leverage those relationships today.
How are you doing today, almost two years later?
We have learnt and grown a lot over the last two years. Today we sell through major retailers in the U.S. like REI and West Marine, as well as numerous large retailers in Europe. Last year we opened our own European warehouse in Rotterdam, allowing us to better manage and fulfill products to the EU. This development was the result of hard work, a dedicated European Ops team, and almost continuous learning in the logistics sector. Our product line has expanded as well, with our 5th boat to be launched this spring. It’s been a long and windy road here, facing many of the challenges young start-ups run into, and we’re honored to have the opportunity to share this knowledge with new awardees.
Will you come back to ISPO and what are your plans for the future?
ISPO has been extremely useful for us–and I’m confident we’ll come back. At the moment we are working on new models and products, and are excited to share these with the ISPO community soon. We hope that ORU KAYAK will continue to inspire people to connect with the outdoors in a new way, regardless of where they live, if have a car, or if they’ve had the opportunity to paddle before.