Those in-the-know and on-the-prowl for innovative concepts and products from around the world head straight to the ispo show’s BrandNew award area. Each year for the last 11 years, the Munich-based show has sought out young companies that are pushing the edges of product development, be it in fitness, outdoor, wintersports, bike, board or general sports arenas.
Although there is only one overall winner and seven category winners, finalists are also allowed to take part in the pavilion too, which this year accounted for 45 companies at all levels of development (click here to see a Dec. 22, 2010, SNEWS® story with the winners). Yes, some have skyrocketed to retail stardom already, but many are showing their product for the first time anywhere, having entered only a concept. Yes, some are slick, but most are young, exuberant companies that create a new buzz -- and this may set them up for global success.
“I had no expectations” about exhibiting here, said Annie Wennergren, founder of Gococo, a new company with a line of colorful socks made from Cocona material out of Sweden that was a finalist. “I thought I might be standing here all alone for four days, but it’s been fantastic. If you want to look for new products, everybody knows to come here, and everybody is open-minded.”
Out of the United States came, for example, Nau (www.nau.com), winner of the style award, which is already strongly on the market after being acquired and restructured by Horny Toad more than twoyears ago. But it too will come away with some new retail and distributor relationships in other parts of the world, said CEO Gordon Seabury.
“It’s been tremendous, both as a way to meet new retailers and as a way to find out how well the brand is already known in the industry,” said Brian Thompson, Nau global director of sales. Seems the word on the street had already been out to go look at Nau, they both said.
ispo manages to stage nearly a show-within-a-show with the award area, with twice-daily fashion shows, theatrical improvisations and product demonstrations, not to mention a hopping bar scene, a younger and more cool feeling than some halls, and staff that waits on all the platform’s participants all day long.
“Winning a BrandNew award has been the best way to come into this market,” said Nate Alder, CEO of Klymit (www.klymit.com). Klymit won the summer hardware award for its growing line of sleeping pads (photo - right) and outerwear insulated with Argon air that can be pumped in or let out, depending on a user’s insulation needs.
As always, SNEWS snooped the area to find interesting highlights from among the 45, chosen this year from 282 applicants from 28 countries in eight categories (accessories, summer hardware, winter hardware, cycling, sportswear, style, fitness and social awareness). We’ve divided our finds, below, into four areas: outdoor/wintersports, fitness, run/bike and miscellaneous (we have translated Euro prices given us into USD for your comparison using a current currency exchange rate, but those prices are not necessarily what the product would sell for if it were in the United States):
So socks are a dime a dozen (we sound so jaded), but Gococo’s socks were indeed, as founder Wennergren said, “happy.” The bright colors popped off the stand and dragged you in. And the fit on the foot mannequins looked snug and ergonomic. As far as she knows, she is the only European-based manufacturer using Cocona in socks. Euro 11-17 (USD $15-$23) www.gococo.se/en/
At first glance, HeimPlanet’s tent called The Cave looks like a steel-reinforced geodesic structure. Then you get closer, reach out to touch it and you realize it’s made of air-filled tubes. Co-founder Stefan Clauss of Germany told us the company is not trying to be a smallest-of-small, light-and-fast backpacking tent but rather an easy-up, comfortable structure that still doesn’t weigh a ton. The team came up with the idea when they went camping and tried to put up their tent in the dark, deciding there had to be a better way. The entire structure deflates and packs into a small tote that in the end weighs about 5 kilograms (11+ pounds). The two- to three-person tent has one pump and each support arm has a separate chamber for safety and ease, he said. The tent stays attached to the inflated structure, so it goes up in one swoop. This first product, debuting at ispo, covers 5 square meters (53.8 square feet), is 125 cm high (4.1 feet) with an inner height of 102 centimeters (3.3 feet). All kinds of other features are in the Euro 500 product with an expected USD price of $670. Delivery is expected in May 2011. www.heimplanet.com
Recon Instruments of Canada, which won the accessories award,also isn’t totally new in North America since it unveiled itsgoggles with a GPS that provides datain real-time on the slopes. Know exactly how fast, how far or how long. Evaluate all the data later on your computer. At SIA, Recon announced a new line, now in partnership with Uvex, Briko and Alpina, called “Recon Ready” that it also showed at ispo, and will debut at the end of the year. Instead of goggles, like this year’s Zeal Optics partnership, which include the technology, companies will make models that can accommodate a Recon device and added on as desired. Click here to see a story in the Snow Show Daily, Day 3, “Goggles go space age.” (Click here for the online issue and go to page 41 to read the full article.)
Air is everywhere these days, so why not in snowshoes? Finalist Small Foot came from Bulgaria with its inflatable snowshoe concept to allow you take them anywhere as needed. The inflatable “frame” allows the user to float on the snow, the company said. We didn’t get a chance to talk to the folks there because they must have hightailed it out early, leaving the booth empty on the last day. But the website stated prices and details were still in the works. www.smallfoot.eu
Everybody wants in to the group-exercise arena, and there seems to be an endless supply of ideas. Here was Fit4Drums of Germany, standing behind what was reminiscent of a practice snare drum -- but tres cooler in its appearance -- you felt like a musician and you got a workout, too (photo - left). Made users smile, although we saw one conservative man roll his eyes and keep walking when he saw it. Yes, there is a silencer for those who want to drum at home and still be a good neighbor. The tops come off the stand and all stack neatly together with a club’s space constraints in mind. Euro 285 (USD $389). www.fit4drums.com
The boys at distributor Pullsh had a booth full of products since they distribute many (for example, PowerBlock), but they were for the WildSeile concept (“wild ropes”) of Germany. Not rocket science for sure, these are ropes of various thickness and lengths (Euro 80-150, USD $109-$204), you kinda whip around to get them wiggling and moving, which you have to control with your muscles and core. Fun stuff for boot camps. www.wildeseile.de
What category does a baseball hat with weights sewn into it fit? Tallabe (Tawl-uh-beh) looks like a simple baseball cap, but look inside and you find a lining of small chambers filled with about 700 grams (about 1.5 pounds) of copper pellets. Founder Helmut Freinecker from Germany said it was inspired by watching the Indians carry heavy baskets on their heads with a straight neck and balanced posture, and few cultural reports of backaches and headaches. It’s simply a feeling, he said, not a workout. Wear it just 10 minutes a day to remind yourself to keep your head up and back straight to feel more balanced and well. Turns out the doctor who developed the item wore it nearly all day, all four days, and told SNEWS he’s amazed. Normally, after shows he’s tired, tight and achy, but he told us when we saw him later in a different hall that he has had no aches and pains. Tallabe founders said the cap (Euro 100, USD $136) stimulates circulation and prompts muscle memory to keep you upright. “It’s not a new type of fitness gear,” he said, “it’s a new life feeling.” www.tallabe.com
OK, so the Thorax Trainer out of Denmark may still look a bit like a prototype still, and its name may sound a bit medical -- that’s what happens when a medical doctor is the CEO -- but the concept is interesting. It basically revolutionizes the entire concept of indoor cross-country ski trainers. With this, the feet don’t move (until you are more advanced); rather, the arms and poles you attach do, so you truly feel as if you are Nordic skiing in the classic style. Don’t question the workout’s intensity; your heart rate will go up, promise. And a computer tells you all the data you need from distance to speed to much more. CEO Ulrich Ghisler (the doctor) said it’s already making it into clubs in Scandinavia, and could be a good home trainer, but at Euro 4,400 (USD $6,000) it’s not inexpensive. www.thoraxtrainer.com
Airstreeem of Austria, winner of the fitness award, is actually a cycle trainer where you use your own road bike for indoor training. The look is sleek, aerodynamic and could make you feel like another Lance in a wind tunnel. www.airstreeem.com
Somnio is a new U.S.-based running shoe brand that is still seeking more attention, and according to co-founder Sean Sullivan, it got the attention it wanted at the BrandNew. In particular, for its “Nada” barefoot product, as well as for its customizable concept where users can basically choose their own shoes, selecting from three types of cushioning, three different footbeds and the level of desired pronation. Not only did he like the treatment at ispo, but felt that putting new companies together in one place creates a buzz and brings retailers and distributors to one spot as they search. “This is the place to come,” he said, noting the company is looking for distributors and will likely find what it wants. “Traffic is great,...and people who come here are serious.” www.somniorunning.com
360ball came fromSouth Africa with its “sport in a circle” concept, which is the first ball sport in history that allows competitive play in a small walled-in arena using a central point for the ball rebounding: Think racquetball or squash, but in a circle with all players hitting the ball off the concave circular center. The company says it is the first ball or racquet sport invented in Africa and the first new sport concept using a ball since 1950. It was the overall winner, but everybody was too busy playing to talk to us. www.360ball.net
Action Sports Toys is a bit of an exception in the BrandNew pavilion. Yes, the U.S. company is new, but in two years founder Mike Bellon told us it has already gone global. Kids and adults alike crowded around the tabletop skateboard arena with small ramps and rails to play with the realistic figures. They may be playthings, but you don’t just use your fingers on a small board to fake moves. You actually use a handle on the top of a figurine on a board, which is a bit like a puppet, to get it to crouch, jump and spin -- a way that allows users to visualize how they might do similar moves in real life. He has three models named after well-known champion skaters Steve Caballero, Bucky Lasek and Ryan Sheckler. “Playing with toys is all about imaging,” he said. Super cool are the helmet and cap accessories, so a user can wear the cap anyway he wants, and the plastic packaging comes off and is a mini-skateboard park, too. You have to see videos to get it. MSRP $19.99. www.actionsportstoys.com
Last but not least is the Swiss Room Box, shown for the first time anywhere here at ispo. Think a mix of Tinker Toys, Legos and maybe the sheet that transforms the kitchen table for kids into a cave. The unit fits like a set of storage boxes in the back of an SUV-type vehicle, then folds and unravels out to create everything you need for car camping -- including the kitchen sink! You have storage, a platform that goes over the backseat for a bed, a water heater and water storage, a prep table that folds out the back, a ring with a drape for a shower, a piece that transforms into a separate table and even origami-like chairs so you can kick back. If you don’t use the bed platform, it’ll fit into regular car trunks, too. Passers-by were fascinated as inventor Philippe Perakis showed it off. It took him one and a half years to work it out. “It was all for myself really,” he told SNEWS. “I am a climber and I was in the mountains a lot.” Seems he wanted to bring the house with him. “The buzz has been huge,” he said, noting his YouTube video had more than 150,000 views since he put it up in November. It’s red -- playing off the Swiss flag, as well as the Swiss Army knife (not included) -- and folds out with everything you need. Check out the videos to really get it. www.swissroombox.com
To see more about the award for new entrepreneurs, click here.